Savita. Anita. Lalita. Pancham. Chitralekha. Sona. Vijyanti. Damini. Chhathiya. Manti. Their names may not ring a bell for music aficionados but they have a fan following of their own. Not in any busy metropolis but in the sleepy villages of Bihar, where they perform at functions.
None of them grew up dreaming of joining a girl band, and certainly not after getting married and having children. Especially since they come from the most disadvantaged of all castes, the Mahadalits, who are not supposed to imagine themselves performing anything but the role assigned by a heartless, hidebound society.
Things were different before music came into their lives. Sitting alone in her thatched hut in Dhibra village, Danapur, Savita Devi would worry about how to meet the education expenses of her three kids. Even though she worked as a farm labourer alongside her husband, the couple did not make enough money to fulfill the basic needs of the family. The anxiety took a toll on her.
Then came that memorable rainy evening in August 2013, when the 38-year-old Mahadalit woman was approached by the head of an NGO Nari Gunjan Sanstha (NGS), Sudha Varghese.
“I have an idea that would help you to transform not only your life but other womenfolk of the Ravidas caste too,” she said. Varghese’s words were a harbinger of good news for Savita Devi and other women of the village.