Documentary channel

Teenage girls, football and freedom in documentary ‘Under the Open Sky’

Kicking around a ball never seemed like a better idea in a film about gender and access to public spaces.

It is always heartwarming to see young girls playing a sport, any sport, in a public space. It’s especially more heart-warming when the girls are from Mumbra, routinely described as a Muslim ghetto, and hardly the kind of place that would allow girls in their early teens to shake off their veils and run around a field for a 90-minute football game.

Miracles happen or, as the documentary Under the Open Sky shows, can be manufactured. Egged on by the advocacy of non-governmental organisation Parcham (named after a line in a Majaz Lakhnawi poem), several residents of the Mumbai suburb agreed to send their daughters for weekly football sessions. With Parcham’s sustained efforts and the enthusiasm of the locals, the ground became a laboratory for a much-needed social experiment in allowing women to gain access public spaces and run about freely, just like men do.

The documentary is a collaboration between the School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and Parcham, and it falls firmly in the NGO showcase category. Yet, Under the Open Sky, directed by Faiz Ullah, Shilpa Phadke (who has co-authored the book Why Loiter?) and Nikhil Titus, transcends its need to highlight Parcham’s campaign. The 35-minute film makes several important points about the lack of access of middle- and working-class girls from all faiths and communities to grounds, parks and other open spaces. Under the Open Sky happens to be about Muslim girls, but it is also the story of any community group.

The film underscores the need for constant negotiation – with parents, the girls themselves, local municipal authorities, even the local boys who regarded the ground as their territory. Once on the ground, the girls need to be coaxed into being freer with their bodies and their lungs. As one of the coaches interviewed in the film points out, girls are taught to be submissive and dainty. They are constantly being told to rein themselves in. Under the Open Sky is proof that they actually need to be set free.

Play
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Decoding the symbolic threads and badges of one of India’s oldest cavalry units

The untold story of The President’s Bodyguard.

The national emblem of India; an open parachute and crossed lances – this triad of symbols representing the nation, excellence in training and valor respectively are held together by an elite title in the Indian army – The President’s Bodyguard (PBG).

The PBG badge is worn by one of the oldest cavalry units in the India army. In 1773, Governor Warren Hastings, former Governor General of India, handpicked 50 troopers. Before independence, this unit was referred to by many titles including Troops of Horse Guards and Governor General’s Body Guards (GGBG). In 1950, the unit was named The President’s Bodyguard and can be seen embroidered in the curved maroon shoulder titles on their current uniforms.

The President’s Bodyguard’s uniform adorns itself with proud colours and symbols of its 245 year-old-legacy. Dating back to 1980, the ceremonial uniform consists of a bright red long coat with gold girdles and white breeches, a blue and gold ceremonial turban with a distinctive fan and Napoleon Boots with spurs. Each member of the mounted unit carries a special 3-meter-long bamboo cavalry lance, decorated by a red and white pennant. A sheathed cavalry sabre is carried in in the side of the saddle of each trooper.

While common perception is that the PBG mainly have ceremonial duties such as that of being the President’s escort during Republic Day parade, the fact is that the members of the PBG are highly trained. Handpicked by the President’s Secretariat from mainstream armored regiments, the unit assigns a task force regularly for Siachen and UN peace keeping operations. Moreover, the cavalry members are trained combat parachutists – thus decorating the PBG uniform with a scarlet Para Wings badge that signifies that these troopers are a part of the airborne battalion of the India Army.

Since their foundation, the President’s Guard has won many battle honors. In 1811, they won their first battle honor ‘Java’. In 1824, they sailed over Kalla Pani for the first Burmese War and earned the second battle honour ‘Ava’. The battle of Maharajapore in 1843 won them their third battle honor. Consequently, the PBG fought in the main battles of the First Sikh War and earned four battle honours. Post-independence, the PBG served the country in the 1962 Indo-China war and the 1965 Indo-Pak war.

The PBG, one of the senior most regiments of the Indian Army, is a unique unit. While the uniform is befitting of its traditional and ceremonial role, the badges that augment those threads, tell the story of its impressive history and victories.

How have they managed to maintain their customs for more than 2 centuries? A National Geographic exclusive captures the PBG’s untold story. The documentary series showcases the discipline that goes into making the ceremonial protectors of the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces.

Play

The National Geographic exclusive is a landmark in television and is being celebrated by the #untoldstory contest. The contest will give 5 lucky winners an exclusive pass to the pre-screening of the documentary with the Hon’ble President of India at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. You can also nominate someone you think deserves to be a part of the screening. Follow #UntoldStory on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to participate.

This article was produced by Scroll marketing team on behalf of National Geographic and not by the Scroll editorial team.