On a cold wintry morning of Makar Sankrant, as the city of Jaipur woke up to a Festival of Kite flying, 47 young people made their way to a basement in Jayshree Periwal High School, to begin a journey that explored their sense of Identity and Self Esteem over the next 10 days.
For the 8th consecutive year, The Yuva Ekta Foundation in association with Teamwork Arts, took forward its program on Social Justice and Equity, integrating rural youth in Rajasthan with their more privileged urban counter parts, through a six day theater workshop on the theme ‘Finding Me ‘ – a search for identity, a search for self.
The workshops began on January 15th at Jayshree Periwal High School, where a bunch of 47 vibrant teenagers interacted with each other for the first time. The participants came from places in Rajasthan as far off as Lakshmangarh, Abu Road, Kumbhalgarh and homes on the outskirts of Jaipur, to share space, energy and experiences with privileged young people from prestigious public and IB schools in Jaipur.
Some had left their villages for the first time and were wide eyed in a big city like Jaipur. Pooja Kumari, Nisha, Reena and Raveena from Doosra Dashak on Abu Road were elated that they did not have to walk miles to fill water before they left for school and were now soaking in stories they would take back home to share!
For Barkha, Devesh, Sai, Radhika and Simran, students of Jayshree Periwal High School, this was a slice of life jumping straight out of their geography books! Well heeled and well travelled, it was a reality check for them to come to terms with the fact that despite all the technological advancements they are familiar with in our metropolitan cities, there are still large chunks of our country where inequity and social injustice are rampant.
What followed was 6 days of exploration and expansion where, with brutal honesty, we explored issues of peer pressure, bullying, body image and all forms of discrimination. The focus was on according dignity and respect to the ‘other’, no matter how different they are from you.
The sharing between the young participants went beyond names and addresses, into dreams and aspirations, the similarities surprising those present, that despite such diverse backgrounds, they were so tuned into each other. Each one was encouraged to speak and to share without fear. What evolved was an interactive performance- ‘Finding Me- Meri Pehchaan’.
Our performances started on 21st January at SJ Public School and before we knew it, we’d covered over 8 schools in all – Seedling Public School, Rukmani Birla Modern High School, Sadhu Vasvani Public School, DAV Sr. Sec. Public School, Gyan Vihar Public School, Jayshree Periwal High School and MGD Girls’ School.
The audience response was instant, painfully honest. Students broke down, expressed their fears, accepted their mistakes, apologized for bullying others publically and wrote to us expressing their gratitude and humility.
On 24th January, ‘Finding Me’ was performed in Bandhali Dhani, Khonagoria Gaon District Community Grounds. Moving from schools into a community felt like a seamless transition, marking a learning curve in this journey. Our interaction with this audience, primarily a conservative Muslim community, was a little more special, 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 and surroundings, by being more progressive in their outlook.
On 25th January, after performing in 9 Schools and 1 community, the play was presented at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival Grounds. It was invigorating for the participants to perform in front of an eclectic mix of people from different cultures, different backgrounds. The audience enthusiasm reinforced the universality of the issues that the play presented.
‘Finding Me’ has been finding places where it has been leaving its mark. Through our Outreach we have interacted with more than 2500 individuals, including school students, teachers, community members and JLF visitors. Responses to our workshop and performances continue to reach us.
- Jayshree Periwal High School
- Jayshree Periwal International School
- Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School
- Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya
- Rukmini Birla Modern High School
- Digantar, Jaipur
- Doosra Dashak, Lakshmangarh & Alwar
- Jan Chetna Sansthan, Abu Road
- Buniyad Sansthan, Kumbhalgarh