After My Garden Grows: A tribute to Kanyashree Scheme

After My Garden Grows: A tribute to Kanyashree Scheme

August 14, 2015

The West Bengal Government’s Kanyashree Scheme has drawn praises from across the world; and it has inspired a film as well. American director Megan Mylan, whose documentary, Smile Pinki (2008) won an Oscar, shot another one in 2014 about a beneficiary of the Kanyashree Scheme.

After My Garden Grows showcases 16-year-old Monika Barman, and is shot in a small village in the district of Cooch Behar. She is one of the lakhs of beneficiaries of the Kanyashree Scheme, aimed at giving power to the women of rural Bengal. The documentary has won praises at film festivals across the globe. Mylan said she read about the 16-year-old in an article and was stunned by her resolve.

The ten-minute documentary premiered at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Its Indian premiere was at the 2014 Kolkata International Film Festival, where it also won an award. It is produced by Principe Productions.

Megan Mylan (indianexpress.com)


Heralding a social change

The documentary touches deeply-ingrained traditions like dowry and antiquated customs in rural Bengal and takes note of the fact that the present generation is coming out of the cocoon. Such sensitive issues are making headlines everywhere and striving for equal space alongside more ‘important’ issues such as shortage of drinking water, farmers’ dilemmas in agriculture, insurgency and so on and so forth.

Monika works to develop her family's own garden on a plot of land, where she grows vegetables and helps her father earn by selling them at the local market. She is shown discussing the perils of an early marriage with peers and village elders and asking everyone around not to get their daughters married at an early age. Thus not only is Monika growing food for the family, but through this, is also sowing the seeds of her independence. She may be staying in a small village but is tech-savvy enough to watch Tollywood films on her smartphone. 

Monika (2nd from left), with her sister Kanika and her nephew, along with Megan and Aamir Khan, at the film’s release in Mumbai (rediff.com)


The rural environment of six years back when shooting Smile Pinki has moved on with time, according to the Oscar-winning director. Astounded to see how daughters are now considered as assets to their families and provided with education and opportunities to aid their families and elders in domestic businesses, the director speaks of times when the scenario with respect to women was quite different. This is the present generation of women in Bengal, who are setting an example nationally as well as internationally.

Both Monika and her elder sister, Kanika, who got married and had a child at the age of 17, have been beneficiaries of Kanyashree. They are now helping other girls like them, making them aware that they shouldn't be getting married before 18.

A noble effort

Megan, in this context, has complemented the Kanyasree Scheme instituted by the West Bengal Government, a project which accords a supreme place to the woman of a household. 

Megan Mylan has been congratulated by the Minister for Women and Child Development and Social Welfare, Shashi Panja, for having handled the gender issue so sensitively. The minister has assured Megan that After My Garden Grows will definitely be used by the State Government to promote its rural schemes, and thus bring about effective and positive changes in the rural mindset.

This short film on a young girl's fight to avert marriage and help her family make ends meet has drawn appreciation from several critics.


Click below to see the documentary








Lead Image: hulu.com


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