Tag Archives: juveniles in conflict with law

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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

 

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Community Theatre Workshops in Jahangir Puri

The Yuva Ekta Foundation conducted a 2 week-long theatre workshop with students of Govt. Co Ed. Senior Secondary School, K Block, Jahangir Puri. These workshops were conducted in the month of May, and mark the beginning of the second phase of our Community Outreach Project in the area. The Foundation has been trying to build a community base since July 2015, and these workshops were a marvellous experience.

We worked with 80 students from school in 2 batches for girls and boys separately. The workshops culminated in 2 distinct interactive performances that covered everyday issues in Jahangir Puri and their link with larger socio-economic problems. These performances were then showcased to the parents of the participants on 28th May, 2016. What followed was an intense discussion on relevant community issues which were portrayed and discussed through the use of Playback Theatre, by facilitators from The Foundation.

We would like to thank The Directorate of Education for granting us permission to conduct these workshops. We would also like to thank the school staff for helping us throughout this project.

We are on-course to build a network of community members. A pilot project that started with a group of 25 women, now includes more than 200 families.

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A search for Dignity

Slums and Urban Villages have been an ongoing fancy of Social Sciences globally, particularly due to the acute problems of ‘Urbansiation’ they represent. Methodologies and conceptual paradigms have evolved over the years. There has been a steady rise among policy makers, activists and academicians alike, to focus on the idea of community growth and development. To be able to understand politics and social setup in a city like Delhi, requires us now more than ever, to get a firm grip on local political activities in various hinterlands of the city.

Jahangir Puri is one such area, forged carefully on lines of migration, region, religion, caste and class. A perfect microcosm for anyone who goes with the intention of ‘studying’ or ‘understanding’ the ‘other side of urbanisation’. However, we have to be careful not to romanticize our opinion on Jahangir Puri.

The Yuva Ekta Foundation has been trying to build in-roads into the area to start a ‘Community Theatre Program’. This project is a logical extension of our work at the Sewa Kutir Complex, Kingsway Camp, wherein we worked with ‘Juveniles in Conflict with Law’ for the past 5 years. Jahangir Puri has an inglorious reputation for being the bedrock of crime in the city.

Addressing issues specifically related to ‘Youth at Risk’ is a mammoth task. For this purpose, we have decided to take up one specific location in the city and start implementing a few of our ideas.

We have so far been able to fight innumerable barriers present either within ourselves as human beings and activists, or outside of our immediate control, in our ‘system’ (as we like to call it). At the first level, these barriers present us with unending questions about life ‘on the fringes’ and conditions, we in our offices aren’t used to. We begin to accept these questions not as challenges, but enriching experiences, which need to be looked at practically. Thus start our community visits, where we spend hours each day, going to people’s homes and trying to look at their problems empathetically. Most of our own beliefs are shattered for good; breaking inhibitions and creating ground for further work.

At the second level these barriers present us with institutional problems. How do we convince people to be a part of our project? What do we tell them? Are people willing to experiment with ‘Expressive Arts’? Where do we start our workshops? Of course the situation is out of control. Slowly and steadily however the pieces start falling into place. We are able to get people on board as we share our intent with them.

Here we are today, 2 months into the project, rounding up our first phase. Up to now, we have been able to get across to a little more than 60 families, each of whom has shared their ideas as to why they want to join this program. Each household has a story, each captivating enough for us to go keep going back and strengthening our connection.

Our Community Theatre Project is an experiment in ‘Community Centered Expressive Arts’. The idea is to make individuals more aware and involved in their life and surroundings. The challenge for us would be to address critical concerns in people’s lives through techniques like theatre, crafts, dance, music, up-cycling and more. We believe that through this medium, we will also be able to provide a reason for the residents of Jahangir Puri, to come together as one single unit, which can assert its rights and demands, collectively.

In this rather relentless exercise, we hope that as a Foundation, we can learn and grow manifold. The idea is not to impose our views and opinions on residents. We aren’t going there with the intention to ‘help the inferior’ in any possible way. Any inclination to think likewise is foolhardy. We, as facilitators, want to simply share, learn, expand and grow.

We start our second phase in the month of May. Schools are shut, the heat is on, but so is the intensity. We have invited all community stakeholders to participate. The group would be a pulsating unit cutting across age, gender, region, caste and religion. We simply cant wait to get back out there.

- Rijul Kataria works as a Research Coordinator with The Yuva Ekta Foundation.

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Theater and Art Workshop at Aadharshila Juvenile Remand Home

In December 2015, the Yuva Ekta Foundation in association with Action Aid facilitated a week- long theater workshop at the Aadharshila observation home for boys. Working with a core group of 40 juveniles, we sought to evoke a sense of dignity and self respect in the boys we were working with, even as we created an opportunity for them to share their stories, so that they could step back and reflect on why they slipped into crime, and henceforth make responsible choices.

We started our workshops with ice-breaking workshops, wherein we connected with the boys using a variety of Theater Games and Physical/Vocal Warm-ups. With the help of activities like ‘Mirror Exercise’, we focused on forming connections within the boys using eye contact.

Once we had established a comfort level with the boys, we used Art and Creative Writing to share their stories and important people in their circles of influence, including their friends, families and society at large.

Our one-week project  culminated in a small performance for all inmates at the home, Honorable Justice Rajiv Shakdher, JJB Magistrate Mr. Vishal Singh, Ms. Sehjo Singh from Action Aid, representatives from CII Foundation, TDH and Delhi Legal service Authority.

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Community Theatre Workshops

We have been working at the Juvenile Observation Homes in the Sewa Kutir Complex, Kingsway Camp, for 6 years now. Through a number of Theatre and Art workshops we have broken ground with several young inmates, empathised with their heart breaking stories and hoped that the seeds being sown would bear fruit soon, hopefully guiding them towards a more meaningful future.

However we realised that our time with them at the home is too short – barely a month before they are released on bail. What is to be done for a long term impact?

We have to go to the Source – to their homes and work with their families. We begin to find ways to penetrate into this community. It took over 3 months of networking, of following different leads, some which end up as dead ends! But slowly, we start making our connections. We focussed on the women, the mothers of the boys we have worked with in the Observation Home. Regular visits to their houses to explain our intent, started building trust and bit by bit, the pieces started falling into place.

The workshops were held in a small hall in a boisterous government school as the women respond and turned up out of curiosity. Some brought their daughters and together we pushed boundaries as the community space grew into one of warmth and laughter!

The workshops were a delightful experience of sharing stories and lightening their burden as we introduced them to basic concepts of theatre and role play!

Day 1: Ice breaking, introductions. Getting to know each other’s names and backgrounds and speaking about the issues they deal with everyday in Jahangirpuri

Day 2: Art and writing, starting with their names and symbols of things they like, to introduce themselves in a deeper manner. Then we broke into a group of women talking about their childhood and the difference they feel in themselves today. The children’s group drew and spoke about the images of the ‘Jahagirpuri of their Dreams”

Day 3: We started with some movement work, loosening up and connecting with each other deeper. The mirror exercise, connecting with finger tips and back supporting exercise were very intense experiences for the women, one of them even broke down on receiving such unconditional love and warmth. Then each group did a role play on scenes they see inside their homes.

Day 4: We worked more on movement through a dance exercise, which continued into a story telling exercise. We then created role plays in groups- the women worked on expressing anger and issues of substance abuse as a theme and the children chose socially relevant issues like cleanliness and violence against women.

Day 5: Being the last day, we worked more on physical movement through another dance exercise and did a waste recycling workshop using newspapers to make pens. We wrapped up with a creative visualisation and feedback session, vowing to meet again in the near future. They took back the pens as a souvenir from the workshops.

These past few days have been quite a revelation and we haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg as we have just begun to connect with these amazing women and their children! It is almost difficult to believe that such a workshop was possible in Jahangir Puri, the very same resettlement colony that always seemed so fraught with tension and fear. We intend to take forward this work that we have begun in Jahangir Puri over the past few months.

 

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Theater and Dance workshops at Aadharshila Home

The Yuva Ekta Foundation facilitated Expressive Arts based workshops with the Juveniles at the Adharshila Observation Home for boys in Kingsway Camp. The boys underwent a 15-days long intensive THEATRE and DANCE workshops, exploring their dreams and aspirations, and to understand better the circumstances these boys come from and the role and responsibility of society in shaping them.

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Dreams and Transformations

Theatre workshops at the Adharshila home under the umbrella of Threads of Humanity.
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Tucked away in North Delhi’s Kingsway Camp is the Seva Kutir complex that houses (among other spaces) an observation home for juvenile’s under trial as well as a detoxification centre for juvenile addicts. The complex is as green and clean as it is militarized with high walls, flood lights, barbed wire, broken glass atop the walls and unforgivingly reinforced metal doors that require Herculean strength to budge. It is hard to enter a space like the observation home without preconceived notions about the incarcerated minors who are temporarily staying there. However, the children effortlessly destroy each and every such notion in a matter of minutes.
Avik Roy and I began our ‘Theatre Workshop’ for the children in the observation home on the 4th of September 2014. Our plan was to have a fluid plan. We wanted to gradually get to know some of the boys as well assess how exactly to go about introducing these young accused boys to the world of theatre. My biggest fear while initiating this process was that the boys would probably scoff at a theatre workshop being held in a halfway house where they do not expect to be lodged for more than a few weeks at most. Majority of the boys expect to be out in a matter of days. We decided that fast paced and energetic games would be the best way to grab their attention and luckily we weren’t entirely wrong. With the legendary ‘Dog and the Bone’ we began a relationship that altered our worldview forever. It is difficult to precisely document all that we felt and observed in the daily 2 hours we spent (and continue to spend) with the boys. Instead, it would be easier to describe some of the things we encountered that were radically different from the expectations that we harboured upon entering the observation home.
Most of our expectations of jail are informed by a great deal of popular culture representation that is fed to us on television and film. The reality of Aadharshila is very different. The children are not cooped into cells but instead have large shared dorms along with well maintained sports fields and courtyards. It is of extreme importance that we remember at all times that these children are not convicts but simply accused of crimes. Many of them are no different from the way we were when we were kids. Even though most of them are school dropouts, their levels of awareness are no less than any child exposed to the same media.
The first few days of the workshop were haphazard because the children (and the two of us) remained entirely unsure about what we were doing. The boys were hesitant and were not particularly interested in the introspective aspects of the games. Some of them would stay for the games they enjoyed and then utilize extremely creative excuses to vamoose at the very point something serious or sombre was being discussed. By day 4 our heads began to droop, two boys broke into a fight and things started were looking stagnant and progress seemed almost impossible. We then realized that we needed to spice things up and start getting the kids to get a sense of acting, character, narrative arc and other simple concepts of theatre. We finally settled on the most trusted group, who showed an initiative to be a part of this process. Some started to get excited at the prospect of performing a play.
We would have preferred if the play had been scripted and written by the children based on their own stories. We had gotten them to share, draw and write about themselves but it remained impossible to get them to create a fiction work, and so we had to take the scripting upon ourselves. The boys thoroughly enjoyed portraying the story of a poor boy who falls into drug addiction and subsequent petty crime which lands him in jail. The performance was cathartic in a way we least expected. The boys had their fellow inmates roaring with laughter and completely immersed in the play. They cheered the boys playing drug addicts but suddenly became pensive and quiet when our young protagonist spoke about his dreams and aspirations. The play ended with each boy telling the audience their name, and what they will be when they return to the world outside.
There has been so much injustice, anger, resentment and frustration that these boys are often lost about how to channelize their emotions. They blame the system, they blame poverty and often just simply do not want to come to terms with their own faults. Our aim was to instill hope and a sense of achievement that could help these teenagers break out of the trap of blaming circumstances and taking control of their own destiny, even if against the odds. It was not just the play, but the entire experience of getting to know these boys that was transformative for all of us involved.
- Shaman Marya is a Law Fac graduate, deeply interested in film making, who has been associated with Yuva Ekta earlier during the 2008 Summer Programme and is now a volunteer with us.