Category Archives: Blog

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The Compassionate Gaze

Last year we began our journey of moving deeper within urban slums and communities in Delhi. Our work with ‘Juveniles in Conflict with Law’ had taken us to a different spectrum of urban life in the city. But it is always important to go back to places that have equipped us to take the next step in the field of Social Arts.

The Adharshila Observation Home for Boys has been that space. It is an area where urbanisation, migration and the law interact at complex levels. The recently amended ‘Juvenile Justice Act’ (2015) has changed the discourse on crime and punishment for years to come. The merits and demerits of the act continue to be heavily debated.

As one of the tenets of punishment, we strongly believe in the power of reformation and the ability of legal institutions to engender change. The Observation Home in Kingsway Camp has been one such institution where this transformation is being realized. All our visits to the home so far have increaseed fatith in our own work and the role Expressive Arts can play in the process of self-learning and self-growth.

This experience has been incredibly satisfying. Although we have been working in the Observation Home for the better part of the decade, the connection with the children this time is special. We started working with a group of 15 inmates in the first week of May towards a workshop that will culminate in a performance at the Delhi Judicial Academy. We are exploring the idea of ‘Dreams, Delinquency and Destitution’ in the context of ‘Youth at Risk’. The time spent so far has also revealed a lot that needs to go in working towards the issue of mental health and diverting public opinion towards a more compassionate gaze.

We started our workshops by introducing the children to basic theatre warm-ups and creative exercises before slowly moving on to ‘childhood dreams and aspirations’. Once we got to this playful core, the task ahead become easier and smoother. Participants shared their stories, circumstances, future goals, inhibitions and restrictions that have shaped their lives today. We also explored enabling oneself to overcome these barriers and look for respect where it matters the most: to the Self.

This connection of course, comes with its own set of challenges and precautions. We do not believe in any hierarchy and genuinely consider this process to be a mutual one.

Expressive Arts is a tool that allows one to go beyond the defined realm of conversation and thought and make room for a deeper probe into issues of identity formation, that the youth struggle with today.

Working at the Home only strengthens our resolve in the core vision of the Foundation, that of equity and social justice. We do hope that this time spent can only pave way for more work in the future that is centred on the idea of healing and empowerment.

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Home-Away Diaries

“Only connect!” – E.M. Forster

In times when building walls is being noisily celebrated, art silently labours in creating bridges. It is one of the most satisfying labour one can experience. Theatre being the most hybrid form of expression unearths a world of perspectives and possibilities. It thus has the ability to ignite hope and spirit amongst people, come what may.
My journey with The Yuva Ekta Foundation- working on our play “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein” (In The Shade of the Banyan) – has helped me grow both as a performer as well as an individual. Reflecting on the entire process of collectively creating this production- from stimulating rounds of auditions, the overwhelming visit to Jahangirpuri (of which the stories we attempt to portray), the number of innovative workshops and the consistent rehearsals- I cannot help but share my absolute delight at being challenged on each step!

One might think of oneself as a performer/ individual of a certain measurable capacity. Then of course there’s the typical “scope for improvement” remark that follows one throughout. But never have I “witnessed” the breaking of limits we set on ourselves like I experienced at The Home Away Festival at The National Theatre of Scotland. Our play totally had a life of its own on the day of the performance! The characters came alive on stage like never before. Was it the energy of the space? The audience? The months of hard work everyone had put in? Yes, yes, and yes. But above all, I think, it was because we all actually believed in the infinity of our potential (both of our play and as individuals) that it became the highlight of the entire journey.

Meeting theatre enthusiasts from across the globe, sharing performances and practices, exploring the breathtaking beauty of landscapes miles and miles away, and bringing back home new friendships and such warm memories is something I will cherish forever.

A big Thank you to our dear director Puneeta Roy, The Yuva Ekta Foundation, Dilip sir and Gilles, Simon Sharkey, The National Theatre of Scotland, and all my fellow cast members of “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein”.

-Harmanpreet Kaur plays the character ‘Anju’ in the play ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein’ that was showcased at National Theatre of Scotland’s Home Away Festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Home-Away Diaries

एक पिंजड़े में जो चिड़िया थी, ये उसकी कहानी है.
जिसके लिए पिंजड़ा ही दुनिया थी
वही सबसे खूबसूरत
वही सबसे गमगीन भी
आसमान के तारे गिने चुने
और मुट्ठी भर ज़मीं ही
रोज़ के दानो का स्वाद
और सुनना बस अपनी ही आवाज़
सिमित थी सिमटी थी पिंजड़े में दुनिया
वो दुनिया जिसे उसने अपना बना लिया था
उस के पर उस पार जाना चाहते तो थे
पर सोच के परे सोचे कैसे
पिंजड़े को तोड़े कैसे
फिर एक दिन कोई आया
दरवाज़ा खोला और चिड़िया को बताया
की चल उड़ चले साथ कही
दुनिया के उस छोर तक
पर फैला सके दम भर के अपने पुरे ज़ोर तक
हिम्मत करी काफिला उड़ चला
आसमान में बढ़ चला
चटाने देखि, पानी देखा
आंधी देखि ,तूफ़ान देखा
सूरज करीब आते देखा
अँधेरा दूर जाते देखा
चिड़ियाओं का बड़ा झुण्ड देखा
कभी रास्ता साफ़ ,कभी धुंद देखा
समझ आया की दुनिया वो रुका पिंजड़ा नहीं
बल्कि पूरी एक रवानी है
एक पिंजड़े में जो चिड़िया थी, ये उसकी कहानी है.

Penning down the experience of travelling to Glasgow is like reliving the moments again but this time with a realization of all the learning’s and knowledge that I have gained during the trip. I have been practicing theatre in Delhi from the past five years but it was for the first time that I have worked with Yuva Ekta Foundation. YEF gave me not only wings to fly abroad but also the very first opportunity to showcase my talent on any international platform. I have travelled across the country many times but trip to Glasgow was my first abroad trip.
This trip was very unique for me because in this trip I experienced many things for the first time, such as flight, ferry, island. Though I enjoyed this trip a lot but what I disliked the most is the food. I missed the Indian food like anything. Thanks to Gurudwara, Glasgow which fulfilled my hunger.
Glasgow is a beautiful, cleanliest and organized city situated on the bank of river Clyde. During this trip I have experienced the difference between two entirely different cultures, culture of East and West. Though here in India we have the city of Tahzeeb however, I witnessed the culture of THANK YOU, the disciplines on roads, there in Glasgow. The patience they have in their lifestyle, the smile they wear on their faces and the will of listening to others; contribute to the beauty of Glasgow as well as Scotland.
I shared my room with the most humorous, spontaneous and happy go lucky kind of person – Rajesh Gandhi ji. In him I found not only a friend but a big brother.
The most relaxing part of this journey was my teammates who by the passage of time has become like family. The best element of family is that family supports, understands and stand by you, whatever comes your way. The family enjoys even the dumbest joke cracked by you because they understand your humor as well as for them you are the priority. This does not mean that family is fake or artificial, it is that they want you to realize that whatever the world think of you but this is a place where your voice will be heard.
Last but not the least, for me this journey would not have been possible without certain people and one of them is Puneeta Roy madam. I thank her and Dilip Shanker Sir for selecting me for the role of Roop Singh.
Thank you all the teammates. I enjoyed the company of all of you.

-Varun played the character ‘Roop Singh’ in the play ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein’ which was performed at the Home Away Festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Home-Away Diaries

I have always found it difficult to describe my experiences through words and when the experiences are worthwhile, humongous, beautiful, full of life and positivism, refreshing (well, actually I ran out of objectives), then it makes it even more difficult.

To be honest it was a magical journey. From the auditions till the day we performed at the TRAMWAY on 9th of October, 2016. Never thought that this journey would become an experience of a lifetime. This was my first international trip and I am quite confident about the fact this is just the beginning.

The whole rehearsal process was so enriching, enlightening and informative. All of us were meeting and working for the first time and during the entire process of working professionally how we became family. I learnt so many things and most importantly how to apply those in work. I personally felt growing and evolving as an actor, as well as a person. The approach of our director (Puneeta ma’am) is fabulous; she always allowed each of us to get out of our limits and pushed us for that extra mile. When your director allows you to do that, you actually grow as an actor. She is always like a mother figure to me since Day 1. When you have a bunch of talented people working alongside you quite naturally you challenge your limitations and push yourself.

Meeting so many people from diverse cultures, knowing their culture, talking to them, discussing art and various other things with them increases your craving for more. We all were strangers to each other when we met but we blended in a short span of time. Well, that is exactly what Theatre is all about. Met a bunch of young American group from Chicago and after watching them perform on stage with their music instruments I got inspired heavily. I have decided to learn a music instrument (Ukulele). As an actor I felt that I should have known how to play an instrument. I wish that the festival continued for a few more days.

As I sign off I would say one thing that before the festival commenced I was a different individual and after the festival I am a different person altogether. Thank you The Yuva Ekta Foundation for choosing me and giving an opportunity to learn and perform.

-Amitabh Acharya played the characters  ‘Ashrafi’ and ‘Munim ji’ in the play ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein’. Amitabh is a professional actor and is currently acting in Kingdom of Dreams productions ‘Jhumroo’ and ‘Zangoora’.

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Home-Away Diaries

“बरगद की छांव”, मुझे इस इसकी छाओं में आने का मौका तब मिला जब मैं पहली बार ऑडिशन देने गया,पहले राउंड ऑडिशन के बाद जब मुझे राजन के करैक्टर का ऑडिशन करने के लिए बोला गया तो मैं सोचने लगा की ये कैरेक्टर तो बहोत बेहतरीन है, कई सारे एक्टर्स आये थे ऑडिशन के लिए और मैं इसे करना चाहता था, तो ऑडिशन भी हुआ और मुझे ये करैक्टर करने का मौका भी मिला। फिर 29 जून को हम लोगों को जहांगीर पूरी c ब्लॉक में बुलाया गया ताकि सारे एक्टर्स उस माहौल को समझ पाएं जिस तरह के एरिया की ये कहानी है,और जिस तरह के करैक्टर हम सब करने वाले थे, मुझे इस चीज ने बहोत हेल्प की राजन के करैक्टर को बनाने में। इसी दिन पूरी टीम से मुलाक़ात भी हुई, फिर बरगद की छाओं में की कहानी को जिवंत करने की कोशिश शुरू हुई, और इस प्लेय को बनाते बनाते कुछ अंजान लोग एक परिवार में तब्दील हो गए,और देखते ही देखते 9 सितम्बर यानि वो दिन आ गया जब हमें अपना पहला शो  जुविनाइल होम किंग्सवे कैंप में करना था, यहाँ शो करने का अनुभव बहोत ही बेहतरीन रहा, वहां के बच्चे राजन के कैरेक्टर से ज़्यादा कनेक्ट कर पा रहे थे क्योंकि राजन उनमें से ही एक था, उस दिन राजन को जी कर एक एक्टर के रूप में मुझे बहोत मज़ा आया, राजन के कैरेक्टर को करते हुए मुझे और गहराई से ये समझ आया की कई बार गलत संगत, गलत डिसीजन, और कई बार बिना गलती के भी बच्चों को बहोत बड़ी कीमत चुकानी पड़ती है।

16 सितम्बर को हमने वसंत वैली में शो किया, जो की एक इनडोर ऑडिटोरियम में हुआ यहाँ प्लेय का करने का अनुवभ भी अलग था क्योंकि की यहाँ हमारी ऑडियंस अलग थी ,जगह अलग थी।

स्कॉटलैंड

2014 में युवा एकता के साथ ही मैं शून्य से शिखर नाम का प्लेय करने आया था, और 2016 में बरगद की छाओं में।

यहाँ कई सारे ग्रुप्स आये हुए थे उनकी वर्कशॉप अटेंड की और उनके शो देखे, ये जो एक्सपीरिएंस मुझे यहाँ मिला उसको शब्दों में बयान करना मुश्किल है,किसी भी वर्कशॉप में मैं अंजान लोगों से बड़ी आसानी से कनेक्ट हो जाता था जैसे उनको बहोत पहले से जनता हूँ, मेरे ख्याल से ये ही थिएटर का पॉवर है।

9 अक्टूबर जिसका हम सबको बहोत इंतज़ार था वो दिन भी आ ही गया, ये प्लेय इसी दिन के लिए तैयार किया गया था, शो के दौरान मैंने महसूस किया कि सब लोग एक्टिंग नहीं कर रहे थे सब के सब उन किरदारों को जी रहे थे,उस दिन कुछ मैजिक सा हुआ था, सबने बहोत उम्दा काम किया था, शो के बाद लोगो से बात हुई लोग पर्सनली आ कर स्टोरी के बारे में, किरदारों के बारे में, परफॉरमेंस के बारे में बात कर रहे थे, इससे मुझे ये समझ आया की लोग बरगद की छांव में प्लेय से कनेक्ट हो पाए थे, इस बात का क्रेडिट मेरे हिसाब से  सबसे ज़्यादा हमारे शो की डायरेक्टर पुनीता रॉय मैम को जाता है, जिन्होंने इतनी रियल और बेहतरीन स्टोरी लिखी और साथ ही साथ सारे एक्टर्स को पूरा मौका दिया अपने किरदारों के साथ जस्टिस करने का । और फिर क्रेडिड जाता है हमारी पूरी टीम को,जिन्होंने इस शो को बनाने के लिए बहोत मेहनत की।

मुझे भी इस प्लेय के दौरान अपने किरदार राजन को बनाने के लिए बहोत काम करने का मौका मिला,मैं कई दिनों से कुछ ऐसा काम करना चाहता था, मैं ग्लास्गो ट्रिप के दौरान अपनी टीम को और गहराई से जान पाया, मैंने ये भी महसूस किया कि जब आपके आस पास पॉजिटिव लोग होते हैं तो हम भी पॉजिटिव होते चले जाते हैं और हमारा काम भी बेहतर होता चला जाता  है, मेरी तो पूरी टीम ही पॉजिटिव लोगो से भरी हुई है, मैं अपनी पूरी टीम को थैंक यू कहना चाहता हूँ, मैं National Theater Of Scotland को भी थैंक यू कहना चाहता हूँ जिन्होंने इतना प्यारा, इतना शानदार Home Away फेस्टिवल ऑर्गनाइज किया ।

इस ट्रिप के दौरान मैं घुमा भी और नेचर को थोड़ा और जाना भी, नई नई जगह और लोगो को देख कर लगा की दुनिया में बहोत कुछ है एक्स्प्लोर करने को।

ओवरऑल मुझे एक ऐसा एक्सपीरियंस मिला जो मेरे लिए बहोत अनमोल है, ये मुझे हमेशा याद रहेगा, इस शो का हिस्सा बन कर मैं बहोत लकी फील कर रहा ह और आगे हमे और भी शो करने हैं उसके लिए भी मैं उस्सहित हूँ, इसके लिए युवा एकता फाउंडेशन का जितना भी थैंक किया जाये काम होगा।

Thank you The Yuva Ekta Foundation, Puneeta Maam, Dilip Sir, Mrinalini ma’am and Gilles sir for the opportunity

-Pankaj Gupta plays the character of ‘Rajan’ in ‘Bargad ki Chhaon Mein’, the play that was performed in Glasgow, Scotland as part of Home/Away Festival.

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Home-Away Diaries

“The ‘Home/Away’ journey which felt like home”

“Life is like a box of chocolates.. You never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump movie)
What other line can I use to describe the serendipity and sheer good luck of coming across the news of “Home/Away” project’s auditions, while aimlessly jumping from one Facebook page to another on an idle afternoon in June this year :-). Who could have thought that such a lazy activity of passing time would lead me to the auditions at the office of Yuva Ekta Foundation (YEF), and then to my first international theater project… to my first ever trip to a foreign land (YESS, it was !)… a chance to meet, interact, do workshops, share thoughts & make connections with theater artistes of different nations..  and above all, to make friends with a bunch of gems of people… PHEW ! Now I totally believe in what is know as the ‘Butterfly Effect’ !!

” I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” (Godfather movie)
What other line can I use to describe that moment when – after three gruelling rounds of auditions- the YEF team finally informed me that I was selected as a member of the ensemble cast, who would go to Scotland to proudly represent our country India on such a reputed platform (National Theater of Scotland), in the midst of artistes from across the globe ! It truly was an offer one could not refuse.. All other ‘pulls-&-pushes’ and ‘if’s-&-but’s’ of life took a back-seat.. I didn’t blink an eye before committing myself to it and jumping headling into this golden opportunity of a lifetime !

“I’m the king of the world !” (Titanic)
What other line can I use to describe the exhilaration, excitement, euphoria and joy of getting up on each morning of those ‘rehearsal-days’, which held a promise of me becoming a slightly better artiste (and person) by learning something new at the end of each of that day.. And all credit for that goes to Puneeta Roy and her team, our mentor Mr. Dilip Shankar, and equally to each of my fellow cast-members too (in their own unique ways)..

“I’ll be back !” (Terminator movie)
What other line can I use to describe the sheer desire and hope to stay connected with the YEF team & its future projects (wherever I could find a place).. to work again (and again) with the mad, crazy bunch of our cast-members.. and of course, to continue with and take forward the journey of “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein”, our cherished project, at as many platforms as possible !
” It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” (a phrase from the classic ‘A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens)
What other line can I use to describe 2016 – this crazy, roller coaster of a year which it has been for me, personally & professionally…
And without delving any further into the ‘why’s-&-what’s’ of the worst of times, I say it with absolute surety that coming across the “Home/Away” international project and becoming a part of the YEF team was DEFINITELY the ‘BEST of Times” for me this year !!
Here’s my warmest and most heartfelt THANKS to the Yuva Ekta Foundation team for giving me not only an opportunity of a lifetime, but surely and definitely a ‘life-changing’ one as well for me, in many ways :-)

P.S.-
It happened five months back, but seems like yesterday when the first audition took place at the YEF office..
” Once upon a time.. in a galaxy far, far away..” (Star Wars) 

-Prateek Kapoor plays ‘Pratap’ in the play ‘Bargad ki Chhaon Mein’ which was performed at National Theatre of Scotland’s Home/Away festival in Glasgow, Scotland.

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Home-Away Diaries

Working as the Creative Partner between National Theatre of Scotland and Yuva Ekta allowed me the unique position to visit rehearsals and performances of the production. From the early rehearsals I attended it was apparent that the work being created and presented was of a high standard with care being taken not only to find the most appropriate performers but also creative collaborators to tell this important story.

I was lucky to meet the head teachers of the some of the schools who were familiar with Yuva Ekta and their work. They were incredibly excited and supportive of the story being told and the voices being heard within this production. The cast were incredibly sensitive to doing justice to the material and where these stories had generated from. A great deal of the rehearsal process was used to find and play the truth of the situations and were expertly led by Puneeta Roy. A great deal of time and effort was put into creating a quality production that would speak to audience, regardless of language.

Watching the show happen in Vasant Valley School prior to the Glasgow production was incredibly exciting. Hearing the audience applaud, laugh, gasp and finally stunned in silence was a powerful experience. The silence soon turned to excitement as the young audience crowded Puneeta, the director and the cast to ask more questions about the process and the material. For many, this was an introduction to a new understanding of how some people in their city live. The play translated so well as part of the Home/Away festival. The character led and political story brought a slice of New Delhi to Glasgow but drew many comparisons to discussions and social issues relevant worldwide today. The humour and tragedy of the story translated (apparently) effortlessly. The huge amount of work taken out by the cast and creative team produced an exceptional performance showcasing the many talents that where on and off stage.

- Fraser MacLeod is Creative Learning Coordinator, National Theatre of Scotland. Fraser was Creative from NTS who visited us during our Development Process in July and came back for our Home Performance in September.

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Director’s Note

“Didi (sister), will you bring me a Tulsi (basil) plant on your next visit? The Tulsi is sacred; I will put it in my mandir (temple).”

This is the summer of 2009. We are at the Observation Home for Boys at Kingsway Camp, Delhi, surrounded by 25 juvenile offenders who have come to attend my Remedial Drama workshop. We are discussing dreams and aspirations and as the boys share their stories, Rahul asks me for a basil plant.

Robbery, Murder, Rape, Extortion – their crimes are brutal.                Each boy feels falsely implicated, believes that the system is working against him. Most come from dysfunctional families, have no Role Models, no Heroes who can inspire them to find a way out of the horrific entanglement of drugs, alcohol and crime.

Our challenge is to make them aware of their choices in every situation, choices that will empower rather than debilitate them. We begin using the tools of Theatre and Expressive Arts and every few months a new intervention convinces me of the possibilities of a new start to these young lives.

This is the space from where our play “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein” is born. Questioning the ever-widening chasm between the marginalized and the privileged, demanding accountability from a society that aspires more for Mercs and Mobiles rather than a qualitative education for all.

We have begun to work at a resettlement slum close by where many juveniles live and as I try to understand complex migration issues, I sometimes falter, grow weary. And then I remember my first conversation with Rahul, seven years ago.

“Rahul, tell me then, where does your God reside?”                                           “In the temple that is within my heart!” he answers.                                       “And when you pick up a knife to kill, where does your God go?” I ask. “Didi, the doors of my temple were open long before and my God has left me. I am still waiting for him to return!”

The Banyan is a healing tree, with a loving, protective aura that embraces all with its grace.  Our play attempts to re-create this magical, expansive space in which everyone is welcome.

- Puneeta Roy, Managing Trustee – The Yuva Ekta Foundation, is Writer and Director for the play- ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- In the shade of the Banyan’ which will be travelling to Glasgow, Scotland in early October as part of National Theatre of Scotland’s project HOME AWAY.

Intern’s Diary: An hour in Jahangirpuri

On Thursday last week, I had the honour of receiving a personal tour of the notoriously infamous Jahangirpuri. It was built in the 1970s as a resettlement colony for the countless immigrants that had swarmed into the capital city in search for jobs and a better life. However, the unfortunate truth was that the capital could seldom offer many of them even a roof over their head.

Today, this colony, which was built with the aim of providing these people with a better, sheltered life has turned into a place infested with serious drug, crime and waste management problems.

The most obvious instance of the trash problem is the huge waste dump that exists behind the colony. The backyard of the colony is a massive space filled with garbage from all around the city, and while it has some serious health and hygiene implications, it is one of the ways in which many of the people in Jahangirpuri make a living. There are a lot of of recycling units around the colony, which employ young boys to search through the waste dump and gather recyclables such as thermocol, plastic or paper. This is not only good for the environment but also for the society as it promotes societal awareness and monetary support for many of the families living there who do not really have better alternatives for their basic income. IMG_0790However, the boys that work in this field, colloquially known as the “kabaddiwaalas” are infamous for their bad behaviours, notably drug addiction, as they tend to spend the little money they earn on drugs or get easily involved in the gang trade. Moreover, working in such unhygienic conditions is hazardous to their health as they could attain all sorts of diseases from the constant exposure to waste and garbage, as well as get physically harmed in the process. For example, it is very common for them to get cut by broken shards of glass.

The other issue with garbage and waste in this part of town is the sewage system. The sewage canals are not covered and so there are obvious issues with this such as the flooding of this nasty water in the rainy season. Moreover, the potent smell doesn’t help the case. However, what shocked me more was that the sewage pumping station in the area would pump the sewage and dump the junk they pumped onto the banks of the sewage canals, which meant that the streets would be covered in this nasty-smelling, unhygienic sewage disposal, with no means of any sort of cleaning process. Their job was to pump it out, and so they would do just that, and leave it there to stink up, and contaminate the colony that thousands lived in.

We then visited the school, and I was surprised to know that each of the 12 original blocks has its own government school. There were a few things that pleasantly surprised me regarding these. We visited the D-block government school for girls and boys. While the school was not co-ed, both girls and boys learned in the same building. The system had been organized in such a way that the girls’ school ended at 1 pm, and the boys’ school started at 1.30 pm. Thus two schools were running in the same building.

We first visited the principal of the girls’ school. While I didn’t speak to her much, I was pleasantly surprised to have met a special educator who taught disability children in the school. I was taken aback by the fact that a government school offered such facilities to their students, especially when education is free-for-all until the age of 14 in India. She further explained that the system employs these educators as an extra help to their students who spend their days in regular classes with the other students, and are given special attention by these educators outside of the classroom. This impressed me to the core, it was like a breath of fresh air. As a psychology student I study about the importance of a system that identifies and understands the need for special attention for children with disabilities, and I left that day with a much needed faith in our education system. However, we didn’t have much time to discuss the system through which they identify the kids with disabilities, and the training that special educators undergo. This is something I’d like to research further. Also, it is important to note that I only had a preliminary conversation with her which only allowed me to know that there is a system in place for disabled kids, I wasn’t however able to assess the efficiency of the implementation of said system, which is also something I would like to further research.

We then met the principal of the boys’ school, and I was quite impressed by him. He shared a similar passion for education to me, and seemed to understand the importance of a holistic education in India. We didn’t have a long conversation, however from what I heard, the education minister frequented the government schools in the area to see how they were running. This again pleasantly surprised me. He also explained that the theatre workshops that the Yuva Ekta foundation was conducting in the school were really helping the students, and that enabling more emphasis on non-academic learning was is an important part of their learning. I can also assert, with full confidence, that his favorite word was ‘congenial.’

All-in-all, my visit to Jahangirpuri was filled with surprises. I expected to be surrounded by a slum, however I was surrounded by numerous flocks of girls in school uniform walking back home. At the expense of sounding like a typical, oblivious NRI, to be able to see so many girls receiving an education in a country like India really made my heart proud. While there is a serious concern in this place when it comes to drugs and crime and poverty, I honestly think that raising awareness and promoting education will really help the society take a leap forward into bettering their own lives. it is important to remember that rather than giving them help and aid, we must give them the resources to improve their own lives, the power to help themselves. I feel honored to have walked through the streets of Jahangirpuri, and more that that, I felt proud that despite the conditions some of those people live in, they still strive to improve on themselves.

Kaviya Garg is a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, currently pursuing a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Linguistics. Her passion in life, other than food and travelling of course, is education. She wants to help create a more holistic education system that provides enough emphasis on the importance teacher education and awareness as well as just the students.

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Experiences with Papier Theatre

My introduction to Papier Theatre – and how I Survived!

Raju, Matia, Sonu… unforgettable characters spring forth from the pages of Shyamal Kumar Pramanik’s short story “Survival”, to share their gnawing hunger and degrading struggle to survive. Not an unfamiliar “Dalit” story. Yet they come home with me every night.

I have signed up for a Papier Theatre workshop for 3 weeks mid March, not actually being a puppeteer! From making documentaries, corporate films and Television programs for 20 years, I had gone back to my first love Theatre and was enjoying exploring its power as a tool to communicate and empower. At the core of it all was the consuming fire of storytelling, and as I realized, the greater the skill of the teller, the more magical the story.

“Alain Lecucq and Nargis Majd are Master Puppeteers, who will be focusing on the dramaturgy of the story, on the “What”, “Why” and “to Whom” you want to communicate with. You would enjoy it”. Anurupa’s words have me hooked!

I send in my application, get an acceptance and for the next 3 weeks, starting 14th March, I jump into my car at 8am and zip down the highway from Gurgaon, to make it on time for the 9:30 workshops at the Crafts Museum. This means no morning walks or exercise but such is my enthusiasm, that everything else is put on hold for 3 weeks. Of course I will pay the price of excruciating cervical pain once we go back to our “normal” lives, but I am so much richer for the experience!

It is an enchanting 3 weeks of stepping into a fairy tale world of make believe and watching it come alive! Starting with making simple paper stages and stories from personal experiences, we are exposed to some mind boggling videos of shows that Alain has done as well some of the most creative and innovative ones from across the world. I remember crawling back to the workshop space feeling most disheartened and almost embarrassed about what we had presented on the first day. The Bar of Excellence has suddenly gone so high, we have not even made our first baby steps!

Alain and Nargis are amazing as they alternate between being teachers, parents, guides and friends, adding to the warm bonhomie that has developed within the group. Starting with 11 participants, 9 of us complete the course, exploring 4 different stories through completely different formats.

My team mate Binitesh and me choose to work on Pramanik’s story “Survival”and spend the first few days diving deep into the themes and sub themes that the story opens up for us. Out of the 5 to 6 strands that seem to flow through the story, we have to crystallise our thoughts to choose one Central idea that will be our touchstone for all the creatives thereafter.

Wading through the complexities the story throws up for each one of us, we struggle to define that simple connecting thread, little realizing how important this will be, in keeping our entire presentation true to our central theme.

As I put pencil to paper and start allowing the story to flow into the storyboard, it comes alive in a way I have not experienced before – so simply and so quickly. I am Raju, fighting against the bitter cold, to feed and protect my wife and son – Matia and Sonu. It is my mother who has died an excruciating death while my father watches helpless in the famine, and I am determined this will not be the fate of my child.

Bini and me discuss, argue, agree, work together, reflect individually, share our thoughts and arrive at a consensus most times. It is fascinating to see a baby being crafted by two completely different individuals, drawn to a common theme, and to see it evolve from paper sketches into human characters as we draw and colour and fix them to cardboard sliders with “spines” glued to their backs.

Our little wooden stage is built by a carpenter simultaneously and as backdrop after backdrop slides into its slot on our stage, the characters or “paper puppets” glide on to share their tale of desperation and sheer grit to stay alive. At our final presentation at the India International Center, we add the magic of sound effects and focussed lighting and I am told that the effect is quite mesmerising. “Where would we be taking this show from here” is a question I am asked by many members of the audience.

Yes, where indeed would I be taking the show? Bini has gone back to Mumbai to teaching at his Film Institute, but I do have Raju and Matia and Sonu with me, who sit in my office room and look at me questioningly everyday! I owe it to them, to Alain and Nargis, to Ranjana and Anurupa, to our wonderful group who worked together and to Bini and me, to keep them alive and introduce them to all those out there who want to receive them.

Ah, the forest beckons and I promise we shall all walk through it again – soon!

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Puneeta Roy is Managing Trustee at the Yuva Ekta Foundation