Tag Archives: youth workshops

Selection 3

‘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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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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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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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

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.