| The puppet show in progress at Darrang |
Guwahati, April 5: They may hang precariously from strings but puppets are doing a handsome job in rural Assam of infusing fun into dry healthcare advice.
So much so that puppets are the National Rural Health Mission’s new best friend.
The idea is simple — the health mission taps the local puppetry artistes, weaves a story around some crucial healthcare information and then puts up a show.
Interestingly, these puppets speak the local dialect.
The entertainment and the recognisable dialect have made these healthcare puppetry shows a huge hit with the audience, particularly kids.
One such puppet show was held at Durgagaon village under Jaljali block in Darrang district on March 22.
District media expert of the NRHM, Darrang, Rubul Das, said the show, put up by the Kalaigaon-based Kalaguru Cultural Institute, titled Moi Nayika Hobo Bisaru, was accepted well by the audience.
The puppetry artistes juxtaposed imageries from nature and shadows, with handheld puppets and body puppets, to tell a story about a girl who dreams of becoming an actress.
Directed by Dhiren Deka and written by Ritul Bhagawati, the story goes on to show how the girl’s mother, an Asha worker, explains to her the importance of consuming food rich in iron, which is very important for good health and a beautiful body.
The NRHM is also organising puppet shows in Bodo and Tiwa, besides Assamese.
The exercise has also provided much-needed encouragement to the local artistes, since puppetry is now considered a dying art.
Apart from Darrang, puppet shows are also held at Morigaon and Baksa districts.
“We held puppet shows in Tiwa and Assamese at Junbeel Mela in Morigaon district in January this year to spread awareness about malaria and other vector-borne diseases like diarrhoea, importance of sanitation and hygiene,” said Meraj Ahmed of the NRHM, Morigaon.
The show was by local puppetry group Pancharatna.
Shows in Bodo, by a local group called Dehani Bwswn Dinthifung Mwswkha Theatre, have been staged in different parts of Baksa district last year.
“We had got a very good response from the people in Baksa district. At some places, over 800 people, including children and women, came to watch the puppet shows,” said Jharna Brahma of NRHM, Baksa.
The stories of the puppet shows, which were held at interior places in the district such as Betbari, Tamulpur were related to health issues of mother and child, including immunisation and benefits of breastfeeding.
Puppet shows, however, are not a regular part of the NRHM awareness drive, since puppetry artistes are not found in all parts of the state.
But wherever available, the mission takes their help to spread awareness about health issues.