Tears of joy rolled down their wrinkled cheeks as they hugged one another, reliving old memories and cracking jokes at Mela Dhiyan Daa (fair of the village daughters) on Sunday at Saddoheri, their ancestral village that they had left decades ago after their wedding.
They were together now, more than 200 of them, all daughters of this village and now residents of over 150 different villages after marriage.
Many meeting others for the first time after marriage, they were in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s, having grandchildren.
Their ‘bhabhis’ (brothers’ wives in the village) gave them shelter with a ‘phulkari’ as they walked towards the stage that was managed by the village girls. Men had no say here as it was an all-woman event organised by village girls only.
The event is the second of its kind after the first such fair dedicated to the daughters of the village was organised earlier in February at Lubana village, also near Nabha.
This time, Saddoheri was the venue where the village women had organised the fair, witnessing the young girls welcome their ‘buas’ (father’s sisters) or grown-up women honouring their nanads (husband’s sisters) with a badge inscribing their name and the name of the village where they now lived after marriage.
Charanjit Kaur, a 21-year-old graduate girl from Lubana village, had initiated the drive to organise such events, highlighting the importance of women.
“We talk about women empowerment, and simply announce the name of a woman for the post of a panch or sarpanch reserved for a woman in a village panchayat, without realising the role of women in bringing up society at large,” said Charanjit, as she reached Saddoheri, to cheer up her colleagues from ‘Awaz-e-Jag Janani’, that means the voice of those who give birth to the world. Kuldeep Kaur, 27, from Patiala, wiped her tears with her dupatta as she looked for her childhood friends. “My brother had left the village many years ago, and I am here with my son after reading about the event in a paper,” she said.
It was also a big day for a male villager as his three sisters, two daughters and seven cousins comprised the gathering.
Not that easy
Saddoheri sarpanch Mohan Singh was earlier skeptical about the event, looking at the resistance posed by the village elders a fortnight ago. But the village girls were adamant, looking at its success at Lubana village, and the same elders were all in the ‘pandal’, though a few still being critical of the girls managing the stage and dancing to the tunes of Punjabi folk songs and performing gidda.
Amrit Kaur, a postgraduate in English literature, talked about drug addiction and eve teasing.
They also resolved to host the next such fair on October 2, at Dhuhi village, where the sarpanch was reportedly adamant against the wave that has caught people’s attention in the Nabha block.