Tag Archives: Yuva ekta

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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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Presenting ‘Bargad Ki Chaaon Mein – In the shade of the Banyan’

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The Yuva Ekta Foundation has been selected to represent India at the National Theatre of Scotland’s first worldwide programme of participatory performing arts- Home/Away

This project culminates in a festival of performance for a public audience, including a symposium for the international participatory arts community, and will take place in Glasgow, Scotland in October this year.

While we are still in the process of raising funds for this project, we have already started rehearsals for the play ‘Bargad ki chhaon mein – In the shade of the banyan’. For the Foundation this is an organic extension of our work at the Aadharshila Juvenile Remand home, since many of the inmates we have worked with have their homes in Jahangirpuri. 

Introducing the final cast for our play ‘Bargad Ki Chaaon Mein – In the shade of the Banyan’ which is inspired by life in Jahangirpuri – a resettlement colony in North Delhi. Rehearsals have begun in full swing.

Top row (left to right): Amber Sahni, Gayatri Sharma, Prateek Kapoor, Khursheed Ali, Varun, and Shivam Khanna

Bottom row (left to right): Amitabh Acharya, Harmanpreet Kaur, Keshav Sadhna, Puneet Sikka, Rajesh Gandhi, and Pankaj

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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PLAYBACK THEATRE Workshop with Brian Tasker

The Yuva Ekta Foundation recently organised a three-day theatre workshop on the technique of PLAYBACK THEATRE, conducted by our guest facilitator Brian Tasker. Participants included actors and musicians from diverse backgrounds and organisations.

It was a great learning experience for all of us, and we aspire to set up Yuva Ekta Playback Theatre Group, which will be an integral part of our Community Outreach project at Jahangirpuri.

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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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Finding me – Jaipur Diaries

The finding me workshop has been one of the most amazing things that I have ever experienced. This has truly changed the way I look at life drastically.

Ten days ago, when I entered the workshop, I did not believe in the fact that we, the youth, had the power of affecting and influencing people and encouraging them to be the better people that they are. This workshop has made me aware that people of my age face all kinds of problems. That mine are not the most important. That I am not the only one. It has taught me that everyone in this world, no matter what their caste, creed, color, shape, size; are the same. That we all think alike and experience the same things.

When we set out to spread this message to the youth, the feeling was wonderful. I realized that helping someone else overcome their flaws or plain accepting themselves and others as they are, is the best thing one can do.

I have realized that we, the youth, can make a great impact on the world, to make it a better place for you and for me.

- Simran Jain from Jayshree Periwal High School was one of the participants of the Youth Outreach workshop at Jaipur Literature Festival 2016

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Finding Me – Jaipur Diaries

A new experience is always a delight but I must say that this one was the best. The 6 days I spent at the workshop were a great step to find myself and  it made me aware about social problems and made me more confident and also I was able to understand that one person is enough to change things.

Being a part if this programme changed my perspective towards others and myself. I usually set prejudices for people but now I am beginning to realize that we can never judge a person without knowing him or her. Also, I realized that the most important thing in life is knowing who you are and accepting yourself with all your flaws.
 

When we interacted with students from different schools , we realized that many students were able to relate their lives with the scenes of our play and they said that we inspired them. This comment made me understand the power that we, the young generation possess and if we are determined we can definitely change all the ill practices around us and make the world a better place.

- Malya Sharma is from Rulmani Birla Modern High School and she was one of the 47 participants of our Youth Outreach workshops at Jaipur Literature Festival, 2016 

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FINDING ME: Youth Outreach Workshops @ JLF 2016, 15th – 25th Jan 2016.

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.

Participating Schools:

  1. Jayshree Periwal High School
  2. Jayshree Periwal International School
  3. Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School
  4. Sawai Man Singh Vidyalaya
  5. Rukmini Birla Modern High School

Participating NGOs:

  1. Digantar, Jaipur
  2. Doosra Dashak, Lakshmangarh & Alwar
  3. Jan Chetna Sansthan, Abu Road
  4. Buniyad Sansthan, Kumbhalgarh
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