Tag Archives: threads of humanity

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‘Freedom to Dream’ @ Aadharshila Home

“I want to complete my education and become a big man one day” – Participant, Aadharshila Home

“I have always wanted to help people and with my work, I’ve managed to fulfill that dream” – Member, Child Welfare Committee

Be it the young, or the younger, everyone dreams. Our dreams connect us to our innocence and light, that makes us one with our being.

The Foundation, on August 25, 2017, conducted a Capacity Building workshop at the Delhi Judicial Academy for members of Child Welfare Committee, Juvenile Justice Board and organisations that work in the sphere of Juvenile Law. A small and engaging performance by the boys from the Adharshila Observation Home titled ‘Khwaabon ke Par’, was followed by an Art activity that engaged all stakeholders on one platform and share their dreams with each other.
A magical afternoon turned surreal because of the interactions that helped everyone understand and empathize with one another. It also promised to bring back the same innocence within all participants that helped them remember their lifelong dreams and aspirations. As our country completes 70 glorious years of its independence, we hope to continue our work with ‘Youth at Risk’ and find ways to connect the young ones with their light, their humility and their passion.
We would thanGauri Saxena, Mona Sharma and Pankaj Gupta for making this event possible.  We would also like to thank our guest facilitators Bani MalhotraTavishi Krishna and Ankita Dasgupta for their contribution towards the workshops!
Picture Credits- Aarushi
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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

“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

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

 

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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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.