By Anup Sharma
Almost 70 dwarves, ranging from one-and-a-half feet to three feet in height, across Assam will soon have a place to live in with dignity and comfort, with a theatre actor setting up a village with houses adapted to their stature.
Pabitra Rabha, a National School of Drama (NSD) graduate and a theatre personality of the state, is setting up the special home for these short people in Jalah village near Tangla in lower Assam's Udalguri district, about 90 km away from the state's main city of Guwahati.
"I have got four bighas of land for the project 'Amar Gaon', meaning our village in Assamese. We are now working on the designs of houses for the people. The houses in the village will be designed in a way so that the 'little people' can live in comfortably in the houses," said Rabha said.
"It is difficult for them to live in normal houses due to their physical stature. But at the same time the houses should not be too small as that can again affect the psyche of these people."
Amar Gaon will include houses, a centre for their professional training and skill development and a place for rehearsals as well as other aspects of their lives.
"There are about 70 such people in various districts of Assam. It took me four years to find out the total population of these people. At present eight of them are working with us. We are planning to accommodate at least 30 of them in Amar Gaon initially," said Rabha who also runs a theatre group called Dapon.
Dapon is the only all-dwarves theatre group in India, he claimed, while adding that Amar Gaon will be the first such project for dwarves in the entire country.
Rabha, who had carried out a survey across Assam to find out the population of dwarves across Assam in 2008, has also been trying to add dignity to their lives by engaging these people in theatre.
In 2010, he staged a play titled "Kinu Kou" (What can I say?) engaging them at Guwahati's Rabindra Bhavan. The play, which was all about the angst of these people and the stigma they face, drew huge applause.
"I was very curious about the lifestyle of these people. When I started the survey, my interest increased and I realised that they are the same people like us. I wanted to prove that physical height does not matter in conquering the world," said Rabha, adding that each of the participants in his play has the talent and the determination to achieve any given target.
Rabha had organised a theatre workshop for the dwarves before taking them to the stage after imparting basic training on various aspects of acting.
"Earlier, while most of these people remained indoors due to their physical stature, a few of them had worked in circuses as clowns. There was no dignity in their job as clowns and their self- esteem was hurt like anything," he said adding that the staging of the play had given them much- needed confidence.
Rabha admitted that it was very difficult for him to convince these people and their guardians to be part of the project. But he did not give up.
He also rued the attitude of the state government to the project, noting a little assistance would have been of great help.
"However, there is no response from the state government over the project. We are now planning to approach the central government to seek some financial help to complete the Amar Gaon," he said.