Of domestic drudgery, hard labour and more at 7

Rita Dhital


Shiba, a young girl of the Tharu community celebrates Maghi very happily with her family. But once the festival is over, she is sent to the city for a year in contract to work as a domestic help. At an age of playing and going to school, she is made to work from early morning till late night. This makes a deep psychological impression in the mind of the young girl. She feels herself belittled everyday rather than thriving and growing. Unable to cope with the physical and psychological burden, she finally collapses one day.

This is the common fate of most young Tharu girls whose parents send them to work in faraway cities. Aarohan is presenting this issue in the form of an improvisational play ‘Kamlari’, in which the rescued girls themselves have participated with Gurukul artists under the direction of Sunil Pokharel. Fourteen of these girls of age group 14-17 received a ten-day training for this play. The play will be performed at Sama Theatre, Gurukul, Old Baneshwor at 5:30 pm till April 21. Kamlari is a major problem in the western Terai, especially in Tharu community, where daughters are given in contract to landlords from Kathmandu, Pokhara, Butwal and even to households in India for a paltry amount of money or foodgrain. This practice is driven in part by poverty. Many of these families are extremely poor and own little or no land. So this becomes a source for their income. All these things are fixed on the day of Maghi - the major festival of the Tharu community in Nepal. Though many things have been done to put an end to this practice, it still exists. From cities like Nepalgunj, Butwal, Pokhara and Kathmandu, people go in search of girls to work as domestic help. ‘Kamlari’ is an improvisation during rehearsal with no written script. The girls themselves are dramatising their own problems. Poet Shrawan Mukarung’s piece has added to the intensity of the play. He says, “I wrote this poem after seeing the rehearsal. Now I feel I have been able to capture the feelings of the play and Pokharel has perfectly incorporated it into the play”.

“We decided to work with the Kamlari Group of Deukhuri, Dang, with an aim to discourage people employing underage girls as domestic helpers, to fight against this practice and to create awareness in buyers and brokers of Kamlaris,” says Pokharel. “We asked them to show how they celebrate their festival and then did a little editing,” says director Pokharel humbly. But one could see his artistic vision throughout the play. The director’s thoughts, Kamlari’s feelings, and artistes’ performance coincide perfectly, making a powerful impression on the audiences.