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Performing Panika Gunjanharu: Echoes of Water

On two very rainy monsoon days at the beginning of June 2016 Jeewan Jal participants performed the play that we had written and devised with the help of Rajukumar Pudasaini one of the top theatre directors in Nepal.

We spent a couple of days brainstorming and thinking about the name: Should it be in Newari or Nepali? Should the name centre on Maya or on water? How does the name then translate into English for younger audiences? The group decided that the most poetic name was Panika Gunjanharu: Echoes of Water. We took another three days deliberating which construction was grammatically correct.

Researchers from Patan hospital Oxford Clinical Research Unit and local Newar women helped us develop the story and we wove in characters and elements from other conversations we had had with local residents, Non governmental organisations working with water and other organisations trying to manage water in Patan. The team devised the performance with the help of Rajkumar, learnt their lines, rehearsed solidly for two weeks and made their own props and costumes.

Around 100 people attended the two performances which took place in a hall in Banglamukhi temple complex in central Patan. Here is a glimpse of what went on.

Some Images from the process and performance

Rehearsals: Maya falls into the River Bagmati

Participants making the Makar costume from an old motorbike helmet

Some props were borrowed from Patan hospital.

Participants visiting Banglamukhi temple to decide if it is an appropriate venue for the performance.

First performance at Banglamukhi Temple.

Maya is a dutiful daughter and a research nurse. She is preparing food for a family celebration to welcome her twin brother home from his studies in India. It is also the time of Sithi Nakha festival during which Newar communities clean the water sources and wells.

Dr Abhilasha identifies the disease as a new strain of Typhoid that is resistant to the drugs the hospital has to offer.

Maya's Brother Makendra falls ill and is taken to the hospital

Maya travels back in time and meets the River Goddess Bagmati whilst she is still clean and healthy. She gives Maya a Medicinal Plant and asks that Maya saves her from the big industries and sewerage pollution that she sees in her future.

The Makar meets Maya at the Stone Spout and tries to help her solve the mystery of the new illness that has broken out in Patan. He suggests that it is all the solid waste.

Maya realises that her father's business of drilling bore holes is not helping the problem as it is depleting the water table and water from the broken sewerage system is flowing in to replace the cleaner water. She shows her father some of the research that she has done. He is not amused.

You can read the storyline and see a graphic novel of the story in this blog post.

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