By Neha Kirpal
A powerful new play on the subject of post-partum depression (PPD) has put the spotlight on a subject that many new mothers face around the world. Called Baby’s Blues, the play deals with the issue in a sensitive way, bringing to light not only the woman’s own physical, mental and emotional challenges, but also the indifference and ridicule she faces from society at large.
The story is about an Indian couple, living in the US, who have just had a baby. This is followed by the protagonist Susan (played to perfection by Dilnaz Irani) slipping into a strange depression, hallucinating and interacting with imaginary characters, while having dangerous, even suicidal, thoughts.
Reportedly, one in seven women is a victim of PPD. It occurs due to several reasons, including sleeplessness, the body’s hormonal changes, anxieties and apprehensions that come with new motherhood.
Several women find themselves helpless and confused when faced with the challenge of becoming a mother for the first time. In many cases, they have little help at hand and also resent the fact that they are confined to their homes.
Directed by Ila Arun and KK Raina, the play is written by American playwright Tammy Ryan, based on her personal experience of suffering from PPD. “We are always looking for new scripts, particularly women-oriented plays. We chanced upon this one that deals with a subject that is crucial to women, but is usually swept under the carpet by most families due to ignorance and social taboos,” said Ila, who along with her theatre group, Surnai Theatre and Folk Arts Foundation, routinely portrays different aspects of women from various strata of society.
“The story works at several levels, the real and the imaginary, spanning medical theories from the 19th century to the present day on postpartum psychosis,” added the play’s co-director KK Raina.
The makers of Baby’s Blues hope that the play brings about more awareness and acceptance about PPD—a reality that many people don’t even know about. “It is important that its symptoms be recognised and treated with prompt medical attention and family support, as the mother’s emotional health can directly influence that of the child,” adds psychiatrist Dr Anjali Chhabria.
Previously, Surnai has adapted and performed for Indian audiences several thought-provoking European plays that focus on relevant social issues, particularly the status of women in society. Many of them have been plays by Henrik Ibsen, which have strong women as protagonists. In most cases, the creators were moved by what they found—women all over the world are struggling to find their own voice and live life according to their own terms.
The Foundation, established in 2015, focuses on folk theatre, puppetry and traditional storytelling, and aims to reach out to both urban as well as rural audiences. It is committed to empower women in various ways, such as the survival of the girl child, her literacy, health as well as mitigating the problems of child marriage and the ill-treatment of widows.
For this, they are also planning workshops in rural schools with teachers and students so that they can carry on with these efforts independently. Their team will also help to evaluate these programmes periodically.