In Mithila’s villages, a woman leaving her home is always sent off with Doobdhan — a fistful of grass and rice, symbolising fertility and abundance.
Ketki, a professor from Delhi, is visiting the village that she left as a 15-year-old bride. Her brother, who also now lives in a large town, is holding a thread ceremony for his grandsons in the village. Eager to relive the sights, sounds and traditions that she had experienced as a child in the village on the banks of the Kosi, Ketki is excited about the visit.
But she is disappointed; the village has changed; the sister-in-law has gifts for her, but Ketki misses the traditions that seem to have faded away. She decides to return to Delhi. When she leaves, there is no one to give her Doobdhan.
Ketki’s mother had died after giving birth to her, and she thinks about Sabujani, the Muslim bangle-seller who used to pamper her. “Is she alive?” Ketki wonders.
She finds Sabujani outside her house and the two hug. “The motherless child; you are the daughter of the village,” says Sabujani.
When it is time to leave, Ketki asks Sabujani to bless her with Doobdhan. Sabujani is now a widow and she knows that widows are forbidden by tradition to take part in auspicious ceremonies. But Ketki is adamant. “I will only accept Doobdhan from you,” she says. “You are as stubborn as when you were when a child,” says Sabujani, who blesses Ketki with Doobdhan.
When a three-member cast performed the Hindi play at the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Arts Festival on Saturday, many members of the audience were left teary-eyed.
Sahitya Academy Award-winning Hindi-Maithil writer Usha Kiran Khan wrote Doobdhan in the 1970s. Her daughter, Kanupriya Pandit, who runs the Malad-based theatre group Killol Kala Academy, adapted the story for the play.
“Culture and traditions are preserved by elders; religion does not matter,” said Pandit, who played the role of the senior Ketki in the drama.