Tag Archives: art workshops

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Staging a Miracle

We just wrapped up our two-week Intensive Expressive Arts Workshops at Aadharshila Home for ‘Juveniles in Conflict With Law’, Kingsway Camp. The play that emerged out of these workshops, ‘Aadharshila mein ek din- A day in Aadharshila‘  was performed for the members of Delhi Judicial Academy, Juvenile Justice Board and Child Welfare Committee.

Organised by Delhi Judicial Academy, this presentation was showcased at a seminar on ‘Capacity Building for Other Stakeholders’ and our theme was ‘Understanding Childhood- Dreams, Delinquency and Destitution‘.

This truly was an unforgettable experience for us as well as the boys, who got a chance to perform on stage and share their dreams with the audience present.

Click on the link below to access the Report-

Aadharshila Expressive Arts Workshop Report

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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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Expressive Arts in the Pink City

Our tryst with Expressive Arts over the last 10 years has unraveled some amazing experiences. Amongst our varied ventures, our sessions at the Jaipur Literature Festival continue to remind us about the change and impact Expressive Arts can create, even in a short span of time.

This year, as JLF celebrates a decade of its existence, our long standing association with The Festival put us in Jayshree Periwal High School with 54 students from various social spheres. What started off as a theatre and arts workshop of January 9, 2017, became a special program by the end of January 23. There were a few, notably novel processes this time: Until now, our group comprised students from 5 privileged Private Schools from Jaipur and 5 NGO participants from rural parts of Rajasthan. But, for the first ever time, we invited participants from Madhya Pradesh as we looked to expand the scope of our Outreach Program at The Festival.  Secondly, in order to break the polarity and binary created by Private Schools from Jaipur and NGO’s across Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, we partnered with the ICICI Foundation to put us in touch with 2 government schools in the city. This made possible for participants to explore a diversity of experiences which was an enriching experience for us as well.

The workshops spanned across a period of 8 days, where a focus was laid on basic tools of theatre and creative writing along with spaces to discuss our theme for this year, ‘Freedom to Dream’. It was tied in to The Festival’s theme this year which celebrated ‘70 years of India’s Independence’. Years of progress and development has left us with unresolved issues that we struggle with, in our current times. An effort was made, not only to classify these issues but also discuss them with our participants through the course of the workshops. The results were eye opening.

Hesitant at first and slightly confused, our participants, albeit slowly focussed on their lives to discover social and cultural norms around them that restrict their choices, ambitions, aspirations and their ‘Freedom to Dream’. More importantly however, they spoke about the need for collective strength and unity that is required to break these barriers. Within this, our participants envisaged a country, a nation that allows everyone an equal chance to dream, express themselves and an equal opportunity for success.

What started off as an exercise in self exploration turned into a larger vision that more than answering the questions we posed, left us with more unanswered questions about circumstances that people live with. This also meant that lots of myths and stereotypes were broken, ideas were exchanged and challenges were recognised. Our work, which aims specifically at bridging the gap between privileged and marginalised, was effective in breaking the perceived rural-urban divide that stemmed in the beginning of the workshops. We also discovered the need to pertinently highlight other factors such as caste and gender when we discuss something as precarious as ‘Freedom to Dream’.

An integral part of our Outreach Program is the display of an interactive performance that develops through the workshops. It binds stories with personal narratives of our participants to bring relevant ideas that have emerged in the days preceding the performances. For us, performing is never an end goal but a process within itself. Not only does this give a chance to our participants to explore themselves, it also gives a chance to audience members to raise their concerns. The sharing has been and always will be mutual. After all, the audience too, are school students and community members who belong to the age group our participants come from. Many of our participants told us how the workshops and performances were a cathartic experience, and the fact that it helped so many others open up was magical for them.

Our performance ‘Freedom to Dream: Sapnon Ki Udaan’ has reached out to more than 3000 vibrant minds in Jaipur. Travelling from from schools to communities and making its way to the festival grounds; it helped create a space that is inclusive and accepting.

We would like to thank Teamwork Arts for giving us this opportunity and Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2017 for providing us with a chance to connect with young minds across the country. A special mention goes out to Pratham Books and ICICI Foundation for helping us co-create and expand this platform.

A Report on The Outreach Program will be ready for public perusal soon. We will be putting up a link on the website and our social media page for anyone interested in knowing about this more.

Thank you for always believing in us and being with us! Watch out this space for more.

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10 Years of Youth Outreach @ Jaipur Literature Festival

The largest free Literary Festival in the world, the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival is one of the most exciting, stimulating platforms for an egalitarian exchange of books and ideas, bringing together some of the greatest thinkers and writers from across the world! From Nobel Laureates, Man Booker prize winners to local language writers and debut novelists, the magical lure of the festival attracts audiences from different parts of the world every year.

A highlight of the demographic population that JLF attracts is the large number of young people who throng to the festival grounds, thirsting to receive from some of the best literary and political minds! Keeping this in focus and hugely aware of their intent to give back to the city that plays host to them, Teamwork Arts – the organizers of JLF, run a Youth Outreach program every year, parallel to the festival.

The Yuva Ekta Foundation, a not for profit Trust working at the intersection of Youth and Governance, has been facilitating the Outreach program for 10 years now. With a core Vision of Equity and Social Justice, the Outreach program seeks to integrate Rural youth in Rajasthan with their more privileged Urban counter parts, thereby creating opportunities of mutual learning and creative exchange.

Each year a new theme is chosen, and using the Social Arts as a medium, the participants are encouraged to explore and ideate with young people from different realities with whom they will spend the next 10 days, thereby providing further food for thought.

The Outreach began with the launch of JLF in 2008, with the theme ‘Hands on Habitat’  -  a conservation program that aimed to preserve and protect the natural resources of country, with the intent to secure a sustainable future for its citizens. This program empowered a new generation of individuals to clean up and care for designated areas, to protect and improve their natural reserves.

In 2009, the Outreach focused on ‘iPartner Citizenship’ Workshops, where the Foundation connected with a group of 50 young people from private and government schools as well as NGO institutions.Spread over two days, these workshops ignited the spark of social connect within the participants and encouraged them to actively participate in community issues, as equal partners.

The Year 2010 focused on ‘Being Human’, where amidst the color and glitter of the Festival 60 young people came together for 6 days, to share, learn and sensitize each other, as they explored different facets of Humanism.

_dsc0300Dilip Simeon, a firm believer in the Gandhian principle of non violence, shared his journey as young political activist, who committed to the Naxal cause in the early 70’s because he believed in their ideology of fighting for the rights of the landless labour. The debate was further enhanced through the presentation given by Ornit Shani and Frederik Gauteng from Jerusalem, on the Palestine Israel conflict. The highlight for this year was a one hour session with renowned Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, who shared his experiences on racial discrimination as a young student in London, and how it inspired him writing “Telephone Conversation”.

2011 carried forward the theme ‘Being Human’, wherein the focus was on ‘Building Bridges’ between people from vastly different walks of life and the workshops ended up making each individual connect with the lost little persons within themselves.

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Along with the workshops exploring the theme using theatre and the Arts, the participants got a chance to interact with Gulzar Saab, Alex Belloss, Mrinal Pandey, Prasoon Joshi, Javed Akhtar, and Sudheesh Pachauri in their sessions.

Our theme for 2012 was ‘Democracy Dialogues’ . Through role plays and other games, this platform saw a diverse youth group express their differing ideas on how they understood democracy and its relevance in their lives. This became an opportunity to share and learn as the rural youth talked about engaging with the Panchayat and other rural democratic institutions while the urban youth drew upon their school education to talk from a national perspective.

dsc02122The Outreach programs were conducted within the Festival grounds, in a venue specifically marked for Young Adults. This year, the venue was christened “SAMVAD” – a place for discussion and dialogue.

SAMVAD also became an exhibition space for photographer Kulwant Roy’s work between 1940 and 1960, with images captured the formative period of Indian democracy. Curated by Aditya Arya of the India Photo Archive, the exhibits focused on the leaders of the Indian national movement and their engagement with the people.

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Participants also attended sessions in Samvad with renowned personalities; prominent among them were Gulzar and Prasoon Joshi, who discussed the role of imagination in the age of television  and a panel discussion on Dissent and Democracy led by Tarun Tejpal, Dayamani Barla, Ayesha Jalal, Aruna Roy and Sunil Khilnani .

The theme for 2013 was ‘Myself, My World- a Search for Identity’, a quest for exploring a sense of self as well as the circles of influence that impact our lives every day.

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This was one year in which we included web registrations into our group of Young Adults and our numbers swelled to a challenging 80 participants!

Divided into groups, they explored issues of Self with relation to their Family, Community and the World, using tools of Music, Theatre, Art and Creative Writing. Each group worked with a new tool everyday leaving behind an abundance of Creative Expression!

2014 focused on ‘Freedom of Expression’. Changing our format for the workshops this year, we met our participants six days prior to the festival at Jayshree Periwal High School, when 60 young people made their way to a basement, to begin a journey that explored the finer nuances of Freedom of Expression. They came from places in Rajasthan as far off as Baran, Abu Road, Bikaner and homes on the outskirts of the city, to share experiences with privileged young people from prestigious public and IB schools in Jaipur.

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These workshops were a reality check for the school participants to come to terms with the fact that bonded labour was still prevalent in our country. That despite the technological advancements they were familiar with in our metropolitan cities, there are large chunks of our country where inequity and social injustice are rampant.

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‘Azadi ki Udaan’- our first street play evolved through intensive group work and was performed at the festival grounds for a wide audience.

 

img_2477The activities towards integration continued during the 5 days of the Jaipur Literature Festival, through one hour long Art workshops every morning, during which the participants further developed the theme of Freedom of Expression.

img_2592This year saw an interesting line up of speakers at the FORD SAMVAD tent ‐ from Master photographer Dayanita Singh to dancer and choreographer Astad Deboo, creative thinkers and story tellers Anita Roy, Jerry Pinto, Paro Anand and Anand Neelakantan, the amazing mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, the inimitable Prasoon Joshi and Sufi Gospel singer, Sonam Kalra added to an enriching experience.

_mg_8472 In 2015, we explored the theme ‘Gender Justice’ using theatre. Once again we met our participants six days prior to the festival at the Jayshree Periwal High School, to explore issues of Gender Stereotypes through role plays and creating scenarios. The participants shared personal experiences of discrimination they had personally faced and together explored possible solutions.

img_5198Six days of work culminated in a street play titled ‘Naya Nazariya – Moving towards a New Perspective on Gender Justice!’ that was performed at the Diggi Palace grounds for festival audience.

The theme for 2016 was ‘Finding Me’, where we explored everyday situations, complex relationships and attempted to understand the identity crises young people everywhere face.

thumb_img_0049_1024Using role plays and scenarios, the participants shared the challenges that they face on daily basis. The school groups from Jaipur presented scenarios that focused on issues like bullying, peer pressure, the choice of subject streams like Science, Commerce and the Humanities, in Senior School. These were interspersed with slices of life from the village children, who spoke about how most decisions are taken for them by their parents, about the conservative mind set still prevalent in their society including the discrimination between girls and boys.

thumb_img_1904_1024This was another year of Firsts! The play that evolved during these 6 intense days titled ‘Finding me – Meri Pehchaan’ was then performed in 8 schools across Jaipur, during the days of the Festival. At the post performance interactive sessions, it was amazing to see how deeply the audience connected with us and was inspired to share their stories honestly, many speaking up publicly for the first time!

thumb_img_1652_1024The play was also performed at Bandhali Dhani, Khonagoria Gaon District Community Grounds. Our interaction with this audience, primarily a conservative Muslim community was a bit more intimate. Hesitant at first, young people and parents from the community shared their feelings with us about the need to bring about change in their lives by being more progressive in their outlook.

img_2666The play was also presented at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival Grounds The audience enthusiasm reinforced the universality of the issues that the play addressed.

We are back in Jaipur this year with the theme “Freedom to Dream”.  As we plan ahead for our workshops commencing on 10th January, the last 9 years have left us with heartwarming memories of young girls like Foranta Devi from Tilionia, who stayed bashful and shy in her ghunghat for the first 3 days of the workshop, but on the final day was on stage, singing confidently about the importance of educating girls in her village.

A sentiment echoed by the Muslim girls from Digantar fiercely narrating their ongoing struggle with their families and community, seeking permission to continue their studies beyond Class 8, an eye opener for many present.

Walls of Rural/ Urban, Privileged/ Marginalized dissolving, perceptions changing about the “other” as they break boundaries, reject stereo types, even raise their own aspirations listening to their peers – it has been a fascinating learning for all of us as we shared their journeys and connected them to each other through love and trust. As one young student sums it up for us – “If there’s anything better than being loved, it is loving!”

 

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Paper Puppet Theatre and Storytelling @ Kahaani Jaipur 2016

The Yuva Ekta Foundation has been associated with the Kahaani Festival in various capacities for the past few editions – as Artists, Line Producers as well as Programming Consultants.

The Kahaani Festival’s second edition for this year was recently held at the Jayshree Periwal International School, Jaipur on 5th & 6th December. This time we  participated as Artists and had a wonderful interaction with children of different age groups through both our performances.

‘Stars in his Eyes’ is a simple story for  4-8 year olds, about a poor orphan ‘Moti’ whose village is destroyed in a Flood. Displaced and ignored by all, kind and gentle Moti finds solace in the stars, and forms strong connections with many of them, the brightest being Naintara.. He also longs to be befriended by one of the smart school children he sees everyday, who walk past him without a second glance! Eventually it is his friendship with Naintara that saves this small town from a disastrous flood and Moti emerges a Hero.  

‘Stars in his Eyes’ also works as a parable intended to sensitize privileged young children towards their less fortunate peers, as well as re-connect them with the infinite wisdom of Nature.

We also performed a Paper Puppet performance titled ‘Survival’ which narrates the story of a poor Dalit family struggling to find food and survive the exploitation they have suffered at the hands of Rich farmers. Even the Rats seem to have a better life! 

Targeted at 11 year olds and above, ‘Survival’ captures one night in the lives of the landless labourer Raju, his wife Matia and son Sonu. Just as they discover some grain in a rat hole, they realise the hole is also home to a poisonous snake, who has found warmth in this hole. Is Raju desperate enough to dare death and take on the snake? Can the snake be pushed away from his refuge? Who wins in this clash of Wills?

A gripping story told through the magic of Paper Puppets, our 12- minute performance was followed by a workshop where the participants were given cut-outs of various characters and as groups, they created short stories that were performed for everyone. Some of these performances dealt with issues like Bullying in  school and Gender Bias in  Sports.

 

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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।

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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.

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Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- Home Performances

What an extraordinary journey it has been for all of us since we embarked on our Bargad project!

It was mid June when our auditions began. Selecting a cast of 13 was a daunting task but we have been fortunate to have assembled a group of actors who connected with our vision for the play, and contributed their energy and love.

Two and a half months of intense rehearsal included visits to the slum re-settlement colony that formed our inspiration for the play. Come September and we were ready to test the waters with home audiences.

9th September. The first port of call was the Juvenile Remand Home in North Delhi, where we began our Expressive Arts work 7 years ago. We were especially keen to see their response since some of the characters in the play were drawn straight from our experiences in the home.

150 young boys from the ages 16 – 18 years along with their welfare officers, the Superintendent of the Home as well as the Principal Magistrate formed our audience.

Their response  was overwhelming. As we opened up the session for feedback and discussion with the boys, they stood up and shared how closely they could identify with the play. They particularly  related to Rajan, one of the characters in the play who is a repeat offender and is caught in the web of crime from a young age. In fact , in every scene of his performance, Rajan’s entry was met by cheers from the crowd! We also received encouraging feedback from the staff at the Home.

16th September. A week later. We took the show to Vasant Valley School, an elite up market institution, whose students did not have much exposure to the world of juveniles or crime.

As the lights faded out at the end of the performance, there was complete silence in the hall. The students looked in an absolute state of shock after the play. It was an alien universe for them, and the characters’ reality very different from their reality. As they started to leave the hall, we were suddenly surrounded by a group of 35 – 40 students and teachers, with innumerable questions about  the characters, stories and scenarios that were part of the performance. Some of them were very keen to volunteer with us and visit the Juvenile Remand Home.

Both shows left us with a sense of satisfaction as well as urgency – to reach out to more audiences, to go deeper into our characters, to explore these realities more and more.

We are now packed for Glasgow and are looking forward to our show on the 9th of October. When we return home, we will reach out to more diverse communities and use this as a platform to initiate constructive discussions.

Photo Credits- The Yuva Ekta Foundation, Subhadra Kamath and Trina Shankar