Updated 18 Feb, 2019

I had never thought a classic Bulleh Shah Kafi can be dramatised with such philosophical depth that it highlights all aspects of women exploitation while following all the elements of drama.

This was stated by Amina Zahoor, a student of BS Political Science while watching a play with more than 500 of her college fellows in the Palm Garden of Govt Post Graduate.

The 80-minute long Punjabi play, Chog Kusambha De (Petal Picking of Safflowers) was performed by Sangat, Lahore. The play was written by Najm Hosain Syed and directed by Huma Safdar. The students of BS and master’s programmes watched the play enthusiastically along the college faculty and civil rights activists.

Before the start of the play, Huma Safdar introduced its theme to the audience. The play is a story of women who picked petals of Kasumbha or Kasumbi (safflowers) in 17th century. It is said the red flower petals were used to colour clothes worn by the Mughals and other elite of the time.

The play highlighted the exploitation of the petal-picking women by the three classes associated with the Mughal Empire and the king, including Muqadam, Patwari (revenue collector) and Arhtees (traders). The labour women used to work in the safflower fields, owned by the state, to sell in the market. The play also shows the plight of the female agricultural labourers due to exploitation and low wages as they faced heavy taxes imposed by the state.

The play was part of week-long cultural celebrations being organised in anticipation of the International Mother Language Day in the city.

The celebrations are being jointly organised by the Comsats University, Sahiwal Arts Council, Gillani Welfare Organisation, Awaz Society, Aaketa Welfare Society, Cultural & History Society, Government Post Graduate College, Sahiwal, Insan Dost Association and Sujag.

Shafqat Hussain, Shamsa, Huma Safder, Sarah Hashim, Arooj Aurangzeb, Kanwal Abbas, Farah Nadeem, Aliya and Niha performed in the play. Shafqat Husain also sang the Kafi of Bulleh Shah. Students also asked questions at end of the play.

Samiya Khan, Pakistan national hockey team player, Shahzad Rafiq, principal Imamia College, Bilal Bajwa, deputy director Colleges, Mirza Moeen, Prof Imran Kamyana, Prof Abid, Rana Akram and Prof Shabbir Saqib were also among the audience.

Originally published in Dawn, February 18th, 2019