LAHORE: The Ajoka Theatre staged a play ‘Kaala Mainda Bhes’ based on the true story of a Sindhi woman who was exchanged for an ox, at Lahore Arts Council on Monday. 

Written by Shahid Nadeem and directed by Madeeha Gauhar, the story revolves around the survival of Thar women who are easily exchanged to resolve local issues in underdeveloped areas of Pakistan. Locally this swap is known as 'Wata Sata'.

The play exposes so-called spiritual leader locally known as ‘Pir’ who has a hold on water resources and control over people’s life.

‘Kaala Mainda Bhes’ is inspired from a real incident in a Sindh village where a woman was swapped with an ox. The aridity of the desert is juxtaposed against the barrenness of the protagonist Sundri and water against fertility.

The cast of the play includes Naseem Abbas as Opra, Usman Raaj as Allah Wassaya, Sohail Tariq as Peeran Dita, Nayab Faiza as Sundri, Anam Zaheer as Sohni, Qaiser khan as Gaaman, Zeeshan Haider as Rukka, Usman Chaudhry as Pir Khooi Shah, Usman Zia as Madhani Shah, Shujaat Haider as Dholan Shah, Zainab Ahsan as Reshman and Mishal Niaz as Maasi. 

The play presented a composite paradigm of rural Pakistan. The reality of deprivation, mystery, lack of basic amenities and the immoral exploitation by the venerated was presented with no holds barred. The custom of 'Wata Sata' used reprehensibly to exchange women with the inherent women for an ox is only too eloquently underlined. The play is not just a tale of woe. The individual and community problems have been woven with the inherent resilience of celebration and the affirmation of life. The play received a standing ovation from the audience.

Talking to The Nation, Director Madeeha Gauhar said: "We always neglect many issues of poor people living in our country. In the play we have not tried to replicate Swaang but borrowed elements from it to enrich our production. We have staged the play free for the audience so that the message could reach out to a good number of people.The play portrayed a small village of the Cholistan desert and ‘Pir’ controlled over it."

"The play is not just a sorry story. It’s a tribute to the resilience and determination of people there, which is presented in the colourful and entertaining style of Swaang theatre, the most ancient form of theatre in Punjab. It also celebrates the rich and dynamic culture of South Punjab with dazzling costumes and delightful songs," she said.