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Chutney music: A story of women empowerment

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the symbol of the genre suggests celebration of female body

BY MEGHA SHARMA

This video is an analysis of the Trinidadian Chutney music by Dr. Kumar Mahabir. He has a YouTube channel with his name, where he focuses on the Indo-Caribbean relations. He is an eminent anthropologist and a professor at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. It was uploaded on 6th of July in 2012. It is interesting to note how this music with its origins in a Hindu wedding ceremony of cooking night. The dance was triggered by the labour class women of the place. Chutney is an Indian delicacy, used-as a side dish in most of the Indian households. it is a mixture of various spices, also known as a pickle. The Music is native to Trinidad and is a hypnotic, explosive, fast-tempo one with simple refrain verse (repeating the signature line) with Hindi lyrics.

It was performed by women mainly, though now it is a male dominant space. The women, who used to perform it, gave it a private space and involved in erotic dances. While the ceremony was going on, no man was allowed to enter the space. Today, the genre has been reinvented and one has different variations in it with Chutney soca (a Trinidadian style music), Chutney parang (Trinidadian folk music performed at Christmas), Chutney gospel (ethics), etc.

a still from the Chutney soca dance
a still from the Chutney soca dance

The researcher has done a study of some chutney songs which here I would discuss. Down the ages, one has seen how women have been looked as a property by women. They are possessions and an entity of the private sphere. Thus a release from the longish submission is always impossible. However, this genre of Music, a dominant working of Trinidadian females, comes across as a crucial step towards self- development.

The Dance and Music performed in it, as Dr Kumar observes, gives them liberty to perform. This liberty is inclusive of a celebration of their body, which is unthinkable within the public space they are devoid of. Today, the performances have increased and found a great excursion of women in the public domain. In 1960’s, when the feminist movement was at its peak, this traditional genre broke out and opened up ways for these women artists. These artists were disdained in the initial years (Alice Jan and Champa Devi being the first of them), and were regarded as immoral.

In the later years, the dancing and singing was made much available to the women of Trinidad. The performances brought profitable amount for them. The lines between the private and the public sphere are now blurred and it is seen how the exposure is given to the women who stand aside with men. They perform, dance, sing and even register their own subjection before the audience. The songs are their verbal accounting of denial of submission and being restricted to a private space.

The research further moves giving details of the outreach of this genre. Not only literature, but media, social media and even renowned music accounts include celebrate their existence. Therefore, one sees how a minor feminine genre has achieved greater names in and about the world.

(Megha is a student at the University of Delhi. She is pursuing her masters and has done her studies in german language.) GMAIL- loveme2010.ms@gmail.com

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Sikkim Holds Exceptionally Steady And Silent Progress In Improving The Lives Of Ordinary People

Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India - and the world.

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Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women's empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence. Pixabay

Everyone knows that Sikkim is a small extraordinarily picturesque mountainous state tucked away in the Himalayas in the northeast of India. That indeed it is. Even today, there are only around 650,000 people living in the state. However, much less known about Sikkim to the rest of India – and also the world – is the exceptionally steady and silent progress in improving the lives of ordinary people that the state has recorded over the past two decades.

How did Sikkim achieve this? The obvious answer is that Sikkim, like many countries in the world, has ensured that policies that promote economic opportunities go hand-in-hand with policies that ensure an equitable expansion of health, education, nutrition and essential basic social services.

Less obvious is the critical role of political leadership in ensuring improvements in the lives of people. Ensuring that the additional tax revenues from economic growth are invested in expanding human capabilities does not happen automatically. Chief Minister Pawan Chamling – the longest serving Chief Minister of any Indian state – has prioritized investments in health, education and infrastructure like no other political leader has. After all, ensuring adequate funds for the social sectors is as much a function of the funds available as it is of making it a political priority. Very few political leaders in India and elsewhere recognize the importance of investing in people as Chamling does.

What goes even more unnoticed is the role that women have played in Sikkim’s development success. Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country. The Sikkim Human Development Report revealed that the state had the best gender parity performance among the northeastern states, with female labour force participation at 40 per cent, much higher than the national average of around 26 per cent. In recent times, with the support of the state, they have played an active role in various spheres of life.

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Traditionally women have enjoyed greater freedom in Sikkim than in many other parts of the country.Pixabay

Sikkim’s women have exercised leadership by taking advantage of the available educational and development opportunities. This is revealed by the progress on multiple indicators from NFHS 3 to NFHS 4 recorded by Sikkim. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 4), 41 per cent women in the state have 10 or more years of schooling – much better than the country’s average of 36 per cent. Only 15 per cent women, age 20-24 years, were married before age of 18 years as against the national average of 27 per cent. There are only 3 per cent teenage pregnancies in the state placing Sikkim as the best among the northeastern states. The infant mortality rate in the state is 30 against national average of 34. Sikkim has improved its performance with regard to safe delivery remarkably by 43 per cent points from NFHS 3 to 97 per cent in NFHS 4, the best in northeastern states.

Sikkim, along with Meghalaya, occupies the top two positions in the best performing region of Northeast on women’s empowerment index comprising of participation of women in household decisions, ownership of land, cell phones and bank account, and instances of spousal violence.

Women in Sikkim are more empowered to take decisions than women in other parts of the country. According to NFHS-4, in 2015-16, 85 per cent women have the freedom of movement, including to market, health facility and places outside the village or community compared to national average. Almost all (95 per cent) of currently married women in Sikkim participate in household decisions as against national average of 84 per cent. Nearly 80 per cent women in the state have mobile phones for personal use against 46 per cent at the national level. Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) of women in Sikkim – as against just over half 953 per cent) of women across India – have a bank or savings account that they themselves operate. Only 3 per cent ever married women have ever experience spousal violence as against 29 percent nationally – the lowest across Indian states.

Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Equally worrisome is the sharp decline in total fertility rate (TFR) – 1.2 in 2015-16 – which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. This sharp decline in TFR might have also contributed to the worsening of the female-to-male ratio at birth from 984 in 205-06 to 809 in 2015-16.

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Sikkim has, however, many things to worry about. This includes creating jobs for its young people within the state, improving the quality of education, protecting residents from natural disasters, expanding infrastructure and so on. Pixabay

The reduced TFR is not good news as it may result in an age-structural transformation wherein Sikkim, like Kerala, will have to address the challenges of an aging population. This could get manifested in the short supply of workers as well as a further decline in the sex ratio. With shrinking active labour force, Sikkim’s economy could experience loss in economic output and possibly a decline in income levels. There could also be an increase in the elderly dependency ratio and morbidity levels on account of a rise in non-communicable diseases. Sikkim will have to mobilize the resources needed to extend financial support of the elderly and make provisions to address, in particular, their health care needs. It will also have to deal with the challenge of declining fertility rates.

Also Read: Millennium City Is Witnessing Rise In Illegal Trade Of Marijuana

These challenges may not come as a surprise to the political leadership in Sikkim. They should not given how well Chief Minister Chamling and the executive are connected the people. Given the track record, it may be safe to predict that Sikkim might be the first Indian state to offer solutions to the rest of India – and the world. (IANS)