File photo of Qutb Minar, the 'victory tower' that forms part of the Qutb complex. (Photo Credit: Unesco)
For the first time, entry will be free for all women visiting monuments under the ASI across the country on International Women's Day on Sunday, the culture ministry said. According to an order issued by the ministry, on March 8, no fee will be charged from women visitors at all the monuments under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The move comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will hand over his social media accounts to women on Sunday. "In our country, women are worshipped from much before the International Women's Day was conceived. In our culture, women have the status of goddesses since ancient times. This is a great initiative," Culture Minister Prahlad Patel said on Saturday.
Earlier, the minister had announced the creation of baby-feeding rooms at all centrally-protected monuments. Meanwhile, in the mountain village of Seem, women recently celebrated a rare, maybe first day out with movies, makeup, momos and a little bit of madness on the agenda. Away from daily chores in their fields and homes, about 300 women from villages around Nainital district got together last fortnight to tick items off their bucket list, realising long harboured wishes -- mundane for their more affluent counterparts perhaps but a simple luxury for them.
So, as the sun shone down, a grassy expanse ringed by mountains turned into a mini fairground with beauty parlours, food tents, fun games, a stand-up comic act and, the topping on the proverbial cake, an inflatable, air-conditioned movie theatre. The 'Khushi Ka Ek Din' came free for the women, including more than 40 'saas-bahu' pairs.
"We went to different villages and asked the women what would they like to do. Many said they would like to watch a movie in the theatre because they have never been in one before, some said they want to eat junk food, others said 'makeup at a beauty parlour'... And this is how we got our list," said Pankaj Wadhwa, the founder of Udhyam, an organisation working in the villages of Uttarakhand to promote entrepreneurship. "Also, we wanted more daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law to be part of the event. Like we hear in metro cities, there is no love lost between the two in villages also. To lure them, we promised them a saree each if they come together," he told PTI.
It started around 10 am and went on till sunset. Tents were put up and a carpet rolled out for the women -- old and young -- dressed in their best for the one-of-its kind free and women exclusive event. Each visitor was given a pass, which besides having coupons for different activities also had a number that later won one of them an LED TV during the lucky draw. Among those was 41-year-old Madhuri Devi, who hopped between game stalls, playing coin in a bucket and tin can alley, winning prizes and getting her hair done.
Devki Devi, 60, a homemaker, had different priorities -- 'chola bhatura', momos and later a plate of chow mein. "Humne pehli baar aisa kuch dekha hai (This is the first time we are seeing something like this). All this is new to me. My parents live in Seem and my in-laws stay in Nainital. I have never gone anywhere else," said Kamala Devi. "Being here today I feel as if I travelled to a different state or country altogether. Thank you," said an emotional Kamla, who didn't remember her correct age. The day also witnessed a stand-up act by Uttarakhand's very own star comedian Pawan Pahadi who brought the house down with his amusing and relatable unplugged observations of 'life in the hills'.
During his chit-chat session with 'saas-bahu' duos in the audience, he asked them questions about each other -- 'what is the one thing that they hate about each other' or ?who loves the other more and why', leading to applause and many laughs. The women were also treated to Irrfan Khan-starrer "Karwaan" in a giant made-up theatre equipped with a full-size screen, surround sound and air-conditioning.
"The last movie I saw in theatre was in 1991 and that is before I was married. Of course, I am elated that I am watching one now. That said, I would have enjoyed more if it was Ajay Devgan's movie," said 40-year-old Prema Khati, an anganwadi worker. According to Wadhwa, the objective of the 'Khushi Ka Ek Din' event was to give women a fun day where they could do what they want without worrying about their household chores, agriculture work or their often "good for nothing alcoholic husbands".
"This one was just a test balloon. We would like to go big and have a hundred such 'Khushi Ka Ek Dins' in future in a hundred different villages here. But then for that we would need sponsors. Our fingers are crossed," he added. Launched in 2017, Udhyam works to stem the flow of youth of the region into the plains and to assist and encourage them to set up businesses and enterprises of their own, where they can employ others while earning a living. In the next five years, it aims to create over 1,000 jobs through 400 entrepreneurs.