Debunking myths and taboos through Ganeshotsav

Actors at the Gosavipura Mandal in the play about sex education. Photographs by Sanket Wankhade

Sex education is still a taboo subject in most parts of India. While everyone rejoices in the celebrations of Ganeshotsav, the Gosavipura Mandal in Somwar Peth has taken it upon itself to educate the masses, who come to seek Bappa’s blessings, about sex education, through an engaging play.

Vishal Sonopant Konde
Vishal Sonopant Konde

A festival which brings people together from all walks of life is being utilised by Ganapati mandals across the city to spread some messages. Some use the mandals to spread historical knowledge or instil patriotism among the crowd. But, there are few that intend to portray the harsh reality of society demonstrated through interactive plays. Gosavipura Sarvajanik Ganesh Mandal is one such example where efforts have been taken to make the public aware as well as supplement them with solutions to these issues. “In the initial years, the theme of our plays for Ganeshotsav would be based on historical events. We realised since we make up the society, it is us who should be doing something good for it. Therefore, we decided that our plays would carry social messages,” explains Vishal Sonopant Konde, the chief secretary of the mandal.

A topic which is almost never spoken about in society is being displayed on a stage at a crowded street of the city. After an in depth discussion about the theme to be chosen this year, the members decided to highlight the importance of sex education and the perils of receiving wrong information. Konde goes on to emphasise the importance of this. “There is complete lack of knowledge in our society. Small kids cannot understand the difference between a good and a bad touch, also youngsters try getting information about sex via the internet or mobile phones which is not reliable.” Adding to this, he says: “Teenagers are not well-informed. This is because they come from orthodox families where there is no discussion. Therefore, the responsibility lies with schools to impart right education on sex which is essential in today’s time.” The initiative draws from the recent rising cases of gruesome rape that we read every day in newspapers.

vrunda-sathe
Vrunda Sathe

The play is divided into three different parts. Each part gives the audience an insight to the ignorance when comes to sex education at various places like an educational institution, a household and urban spaces like bars and pubs. Vrunda Sathe, the writer and director of the play, says that the festival is a time where people from different economic backgrounds come together and the message of the play is able to reach to the core. “We prepared the play within a month. It took a lot of research as the message has to be simplified. We live in a time where we have the police, the army and many facilities but women still aren’t safe and respected. I have been writing plays for the festival since 10 years but this is the first time a mandal has approached me to write a script on the subject of sex education. It is a very serious and sensitive topic,” she states.

At the end, the play invokes suggestions as one of the actors breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience whether or not sex education is important. “At this point, so many people raise their hands and say that it is important to have this subject taught in schools compulsorily,” says Sathe.

Prashant Mate
Prashant Mate

Konde also speaks about a negative reaction that happened during the play, “We saw an educated family taking their two daughters away. They didn’t allow them to watch the play.” Prashant Mate, President of the mandal, tells us about the decision making process, “When we held the first meeting with the director of the play, we knew this is a topic that no one in Pune has ever covered. Therefore, we all needed to be courageous and give our best.”

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