My first encounter with the Drama in Education Jams- Dikshant Sharma

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I came to know about DiE jams through a post published on Facebook.
It sounded quite interesting for it came across as a free, open space to brainstorm and explore endless possibilities.
A space to use and explore drama as an educational tool through various methods and activities, was naturally inviting.
The session turned out to be no less than expected. It was a fusion of several energisers, creative drama exercises and reflections; carried out by every individual present.
Since everyone had acquired and adopted the art in their own unique way, the possibilities to explore, and ideas generated in a single session were remarkably impressive.
To sum it up, it was an open, liberal space where one could engage with smart and like-minded individuals in order to create a methodology, thereby, applying theatre to education.
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मैं और मेरी mentor.. By Jasmine

मेरी mentor गायत्री है ! मुझे उनके साथ बात करना और time बिताना बहुत अच्छा लगता है | मैं अपनी सारी बातें उनसे share करती हूँ और गायत्री सब सुनती है | वो तो मेरी मजाकिया हरकतों को भी झेल लेती है!

ज़िन्दगी में कभी कभी मैं बहुत ज्यादा अकेला feel करती हूँ और किसी को बता भी नहीं पाती | कभी-कभी बहुत सारी कठिनाईयां आ जाती है जिसका मैं सामना नहीं कर पाती या मेरे किसी दोस्त की परेशानी मुझे परेशानी दे रही होती है या फिर पढ़ाई में कुछ problem होती है | मैं हमेशा चाहती थी के ऐसा कोई इंसान हो जिसको मैं बिना घबराये ये सब बता सकूँ | अब गायत्री मेरी mentor है तो उनसे बात करके feelings share कर सकती हूँ और कई बातों का solution भी निकाल सकती हूँ |

इन सब चीज़ों के अलावा गायत्री और मैं बहुत कुछ साथ में भी कर सकते है और आगे चल कर करेंगे | मैं गायत्री से नए-नए पकवान और English सीखना चाहती हूँ | मैं चाहती हूँ के गायत्री dance सीखे और मुझे भी सिखाये | और हम कई दिन साथ में गाना भी गायें !

मैं चाहती हूँ के गायत्री जैसी है हमेशा वैसी ही रहे, कभी न बदले | हमेशा मेरी एक दोस्त की तरह रहे | कभी-कभी मुझ पर गुस्सा भी हो तो मुझे अच्छा लगेगा ! I love you गायत्री !

My Journey as a Mentor By Gayathri Sreedharan

It’s been a little less than a year since I first became acquainted with Aagaaz. It took me very little discussion/discovery before I asked to be part of the mentoring programme. My relatively brief experience mentoring two young women from Aagaaz’s fold has dealt me a few life lessons already. Above all, this – ‘mentoring’ a young person of an impressionable age, from a less privileged, minority background is much, much tougher than it looks to be. It’s not unlike backseat parenting; you have to do more than just consider, but actually measure every word and action, and be ready to be questioned, have your belief system challenged at the most unlikely times.

For starters, when I was assigned my first mentee (I’ve had two since January), I started our relationship with the [arrogant] assumption that, as my mentee, I needed to teach or coach the young woman concerned. The power dynamic was established in my mind even before I had met her. In our first meeting, I asked her for the things she needed help with, and she reluctantly trotted out answers about a school subject or two that she may need help passing. I imagined helping the young woman study on a weekly basis would give us time and regularity, and in so doing, help establish trust and intimacy.

But it was evident that my mentee found our sessions boring, and forced. I’ve always enjoyed a spontaneous connection with children and adolescents, if I say so myself. For the first time in many years, I found myself scrambling to look and sound interesting, for some faux ‘with it’ element that might engage her, but with little success.

Funnily enough, I didn’t face such a block with children her age in the drama classes I co-teach over weekends in Rajouri Garden and Civil Lines. When spontaneous chatter fails, I sometimes resort (shamelessly, or maybe not so much) to infantilization, giving funny and just wrong answers when necessary, and sticking to certain failsafe topics such as the latest movies, what’s wrong with this public figure or the other, current affairs and general knowledge. The teenagers I work with there take pride in being up to date on the latest facts. I’ve rarely received a silent stare or Mona Lisa-esque smile in return. The power dynamic exists, but that infantilization trick allows me to turn tables for a bit, or just until somebody crosses a line, which is when I drop pretences and take on a sharper tone. It’s not an uncommon story.

But with my mentees at Aagaaz, it’s been a learning experience precisely because these children already know so much about the real world. Despite my limited interactions, I suspect they know much more about the kind of performance that would truly demand attention and respect. It’s this realization that has brought me to re-examine the very definition of mentoring, and indeed teaching – indeed, the question, what gives me the authority, the presumption that based solely on my age I can truly mentor someone?

The ice wall unbroken with the first, I found a slightly more organic and genuine start with another young woman. Following my mother’s unexpected demise in August, she has offered me more support than I have for her, which has further demolished any notions I might have had about the process of ‘mentoring’. Perhaps it’s a more symbiotic relationship than I previously imagined.

My engagement with Aagaaz By Naveen Sharma

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Aagaaz – a ball of positivity and love, is a beautifully knitted environment by Sanyukta Saha, showering love and positivity to the world of these amazing kids and whosoever comes to this place. My association with Aagaaz wasn’t a planned one. It all started with my six-day journey to Kolkata for Raavan Aaya. I hadn’t seen the play, nor had I met the group earlier. So, directly working on the play and getting the shows done in an unknown city was a humongous responsibility. I was quite worried initially but the nervousness faded away, thanks to the wonderful group. The Kolkata leg went well and gave some great experiences.

After the Kolkata event, I wasn’t sure about my association with the group again. San wasn’t in town and four performances were around the corner. ‘Duniya Sabki’ was a part of the ‘’Not In My Name’ campaign, ‘Raavan Aaya’ had a performance in Gurgaon, and URBAN TURBAN was a part of ‘Jashn-e-Aman’ festival.

‘Duniya Sabki’ performance went well and elicited a  good response. Next, was ” ‘Raavan Aaya’ performance in Gurgaon. Since we had worked earlier on this, I expected the execution to be easier this time and did not anticipate newer challenges like – ‘Recasting’. Some of the actors weren’t available and we had limited time due to exams. We had three days, two hours each day to get things sorted. The show went well with positive feedback and some amazing food to our treat. The next show in line was ‘Urban Turban’. Since it was work in progress, nerves were different. The day was full of surprises. First, the unexpected rain and then the performance space. Nagma, Nagina and Jasmine brilliantly managed the last-minute adjustments and put up a powerful performance. It was simply beautiful to see such efficiency and talent. The conversation after the performance with the viewers added a lot to the play, surely beneficial for the team.

The major difference observed this time was in the way the kids took major responsibility and worked so efficiently. Aagaaz is a constant now and my eternal source of energy. I am sure I will visit Aagaaz more often and will reciprocate the energy that they instilled in me.

Nafrat ke Khilaaf, Aagaaz ki Awaaz! By Sakhi Upadhyaya

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On the 10th of September, Aagaaz headed out to rediscover an old production – performing ‘Duniya Sabki’ at the Nafrat ke Khilaf, Humaari Awaaz event in Lodhi Garden.

After two hours of rehearsal, rehashing dialogues and sharing Biryani, the team left Nizamuddin. We decided we would walk to Lodhi Garden – it was right in the neighbourhood, and we could talk amongst ourselves in our comfortable group of 15. “Log dekhenge kya?”,“Logon ko kaise bulaayein, ya shuru kardein?” were our immediate conversation-starters. It was a different kind of anxious, mixed with the unique wonderment that accompanies every performance. However, this was our own personal (and maybe ‘political’?) intervention in a public space – confronting picnic-goers and Sunday relaxers at the Lodhi Garden with a play that was so dear to us.

So what was this ‘event’ about? Over the past month, thousands of people collected in “citizen protests” across the country, to publicly condemn the violence of ‘hate’ perpetrated against Muslims, Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups. Gradually, each subsequent ‘protest’ became a realization of collective harmony, reflected in the music and poetry that filled the streets wherever #NotInMyName registered a presence. Another such exercise was to take place in Delhi, in 100 localities all over the city. We thus found ourselves at Lodhi Gardens with two volunteers from #NotinmyName and banners that announced, “Nafrat ke Khilaaf, Humaari Aawaaz / Say No to Hatred”.

“Who does this land belong to if not all of us?”, seemed an appropriate question to ask on a lazy Sunday evening in the backdrop of a magnificent tomb, surrounded by families out for a respite, teenagers frolicking around, and ‘grown-ups’ on their day off. We were accompanied by our friends from the Kutumb Theatre Group, who filled the makeshift performance area with the humming of their guitars and the rhythm of their voices. The sun was about to set, and just like that, we had taken our final bow as well. We breathed a sigh of relief that a substantial crowd had gathered. Thank God!

We decided to walk back to Nizamuddin. After a quick check of all our possessions, we left the space just as we had found it. Just like that, our impromptu performance had come to an end. No stage, no lights, no predefined ‘audience’, but ‘Duniya Sabki’ had discovered a new form of itself, one that existed in the minds of those who stopped and looked at a group of young adults telling a story in a public park, even if for a little while. Maybe they had the time to read the banner as well?

Cooperative Games with Manish Kataria By Nishant Paul

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To keep adding dimensions to our approach towards creation of the Unlearning Uncentered space in Khirki, it’s important for us to keep looking outwards at more methods of facilitation and the different spaces that already exist. We started the process last month and invited Manish, our friend and a facilitator for cooperative games, to play with us for a two-day workshop at C-5!

It became a day’s workshop eventually due to some reasons. We still had copious amounts of learning and fun in that one day! Along with the Unlearning Uncentered facilitators, the youth club members also attended the workshop. Manish has an arsenal of games which focuses on cooperation rather than competition. In the 5 games that Manish shared with us, we could see the very subtle elements of cooperation woven into them, mostly later, by reflection. We already knew some games and had played them multiple times but their different versions surprised all of us. The games stirred a different kind of energy in us.

One of Manish’s favourite games, ‘Who’s Goofy?’, has become our favourite too; it has stayed with all of us and we keep playing it at every opportunity!

We also wanted to have Manish come over to the Unlearning Uncentered space and share some cooperative games with the little children but that couldn’t happen unfortunately. We hope to be able to incorporate the elements of what we have learnt in the workshop in our own ways in the Unlearning Uncentered space

Nizamuddin के facilitators! by Devika

As we had mentioned in our last newsletter, the core group from Nizamuddin has given rise to 6 aspiring facilitators who are on a year long apprenticeship journey that will train them to lead workshops and sessions of various kinds. They are getting exposure to drama facilitation,  interacting with children learning spaces and understanding methods of conducting conversations around sexual health and body. This is an exciting time for all of us!

The kids have all grown up,
One day Sanyukta realised.
Now two of them were in college,
And our work had maximized.
We had to think of livelihoods, so
Their passions weren’t compromised.
They’d like to be facilitators!
An apprenticeship was devised.
Saddam, Ismail, Muzammil,
First the eldest were finalised.
Then Nagina’s, Jasmine’s and Shahid’s,
Energies were also utilized.
Theatre, Darpan, Unlearning Uncentred,
Were the areas categorized.
And last but not the least!
A special stipend was formalised.

Here is what some of 2 of them have to say about their experience: (translated from Hindi)

I enjoy the process of facilitation, yet sometimes when I have to experiment with something new- I feel nervous and afraid making mistakes. It’s, of course, easier to guide someone to do something that I am good at and feel confident about. I’ve also noticed that while working with the core group. I rarely feel this nervousness. This is probably because I’ve been with them for many years.”-Saddam

“When I started facilitation, I had no idea what to do. Then I tried to remember all the things
I had learnt in theatre that would be easy enough for the children to pick up. This actually helped me recall everything I had done. In addition to that, I also came to terms with my own ability and capacity to teach others how to understand and learn. I tried to think of ways to connect their lives to theatre. I wanted them to think about the episodes and incidents in their lives that could be expressed using this art form. So, I thought of activities that could help them express their inner feelings and personal stories.”- Shahid

We will come back to you with more stories and developments from their apprenticeship journeys!

A mind-washing experience By Himani Haswani

   

Himani, our extremely committed & artistic volunteer, came to know about Aagaaz through iVolunteer and has been an important part of Unlearning Uncentred since the very first day that we started meeting the children in Khirki. Himani shares here with us her reflections on the experience in designing and facilitating Unlearning Uncentred and her forever evolving relationship with the children!

Initially, when I met the children, I had just heard about them dubbed as “The Tonga-walas”.  So the comparison here starts with identity being the first factor of comparison between me and the children. My perception of the children’s identity changed as time passed by and we built our relationships as their fellow playmates. On the other side, my identity experienced a change too. Earlier, I was just Himani, a distant facilitator trying to form a relationship with the children. Now, when I see the children looking for me or playing with me, I get a sense of acceptance from them as if I am one of them.

Being a facilitator at Aagaaz, I have seen multiple aspects of my character change as well as the children’s. And I’d like to share those here!

The way I used to think earlier about a session or lesson plans was based on pure imagination and anticipation without any sense of reality. There was a false sense of certainty about the execution of everything exactly as planned in mind. But with enough experience now, I’ve learnt multiple valuable lessons like making plans in accordance with energy levels of the children, etc.  I hope to incorporate all of them while executing our sessions plans. Session planning and execution require a lot of work and thought than what I had expected. With constant experience, I’m able to develop my skills and approach, and look at the whole undertaking in a new, informed light.

There’s an evident transformation in my approach in terms of my actions, reactions and perspective. I have started using the loudness feature of my voice, which reflects my newfound confidence to articulate my thoughts more comprehensively. I have also learnt about the subjectivity in relation to what’s wrong and what’s right. We all are different, a common realisation that has been amplified in my experience. There is a positive change in the children’s behaviour too for they seem to call the shots for their own learning when we leave them free to explore. ‘Activities’ have a new meaning in their lives now. Boundless experimentation, learning and development are achievable, it seems.

 On a whole, I have experienced a lot of good mind-washing and have enjoyed it thoroughly. 🙂

Without Himani with us at Unlearning Uncentred, there wouldn’t have been a lot of activities and motivation that eventually came our way during all these months!

Unlearning Uncentred- अब तक का सफ़र| By Nishant Paul

     

It has almost been seven months since we started meeting the children who live near the Jamun Wala Park in Khirki and make it the happening place that it is. Without them, the park would only look green but not ‘happy-green’! We have met each other at least 30-32 times (for sessions) and are now aware of each others’ idiosyncrasies. We see glimpses of trust in our relationships now, which has been the foundation as well as the result of the ‘work’ that we have done.

When we started working (thanks to KHOJ), we began with a very basic premise that focuses on the psycho-social aspect of working with children. From our own experiences and the wisdom floating around, we have known that majority of the existing learning spaces (be it schools, home or even society in general) are stifling any free movement in children’s minds and actions for they merely cater to the ‘wants’ of the world. We wished to create an informal, unstructured learning space which doesn’t fall into the established trappings of the existing systems. On the face of it, it might look like a pretty vague idea to start with but that’s what we had to begin with. Consequently, we initiated our interaction with the children at the end of January on mounds of garbage, the erstwhile state of Jamun Wala Park!

Along the way, the facilitators, which includes many children from the core group of Aagaaz too, have been setting aside some time to work on polishing their facilitation skills and also, learn about working well with children with all kinds of energy. Additionally, we plan to invite educators and facilitators to train all the Unlearning Uncentered facilitators in the area of working with children and informal learning spaces. The pre, post-session planning and review aspects are in place now and have become a helping source of reflection and generation of further ideas for Unlearning Uncentred. Currently, Devika, Himani and Nishant are regular facilitators, with Sanyukta coming in as the observer sometimes. Himani has been the most consistent volunteer at Aagaaz and an integral part of Unlearning Uncentred since the beginning! More people are going to start helping us out with the space starting this month, as facilitators and designers of the space; Jasmeen, Saddam and Nagma from the Aagaaz core group as facilitators & Vardhna, Nupur and Shipra, our friends and educators, as designers. We are really looking forward to that!

Along the way, the facilitators, which includes many children from the core group of Aagaaz too, have been incorporating time & space to polish their facilitation skills and also, learn about working well with children with all kinds of energy. Additionally, we plan to invite educators and facilitators to train all of us in the area of working with children and informal learning spaces. The pre, post-session planning, and review aspects are in place now and have become a helping source of reflection and generation of further ideas for Unlearning Uncentred. Currently, Devika, Himani and Nishant are regular facilitators, with Sanyukta coming in as the observer sometimes. More people are going to start helping us out with the space starting this month,- Jasmeen, Saddam and Nagma from the Aagaaz core group as facilitators & Vardhna, Nupur and Shipra, our friends and educators, as designers. We are really looking forward to that!

We are looking to understand the needs of these children better and respond to those by designing the sessions in a suitable way. Also, in order to support such designs, we are looking to study and understand child development in depth. The children whom we meet twice every week (till July we used to meet them once every week) belong to diverse age groups, This is another factor that needs to be incorporated in our session plans to ensure every child’s engagement. It’s a challenge and something that we look forward to addressing since the crux of our work is to be able to give everyone the space to be.

The adults from the community have started responding to us differently as well. Whenever a regular facilitator doesn’t come, some of the parents are bound to ask us about them! Recently, one of the children’s elder sister wanted to learn all the songs that the children had learned. In response, all the children gathered around her and shared every song in one go! This kind of sharing that has been initiated on its own within the community is a beautiful sight and opens doors for our future engagement with the larger community in Khirki.

It’ll take us some more time and experiences to be clear about our vision for the space. Though what we are really sure about is that our program’s approach will continue to be informal, inclusive and playful and that there will be a lot of learning and unlearning, for everyone, including us. Hopefully!

Youth Club! A new group in the making By Sanyukta Saha

Each week a group of young people gather at C5 for a couple of hours of drama and play. The sessions are being facilitated by me and the six core group members who are now a part of the facilitator apprenticeship programme. The youth club began on the 13th of August with ten young people from Nizamuddin basti, Kale Khan, and Sundar Nursery.

We are happiest about four of our erstwhile Aagaaz members coming back to us. They had to leave because of their family’s objection to them doing theatre – it took them two years, but they fought the battle and are back! The rest in the group are friends of the Aagaaz core group members who have been hearing about their friends’ experiences and wanting to be a part of Aagaaz. Nishant and Devika are also bona fide members of this club.

We had plans of beginning youth clubs in different parts of the city led by the Aagaaz core group members, to create spaces for thought and dialogue through drama. The space created itself in Nizamuddin, as adolescents kept walking in to ask if they can join. We want to take this group on a journey similar to that of the core group’s, and they will be the ones leading the process, closing the first of hopefully many loops.

Six of the core group members led the second session of the youth club, facilitating various exercises that led to improvisation. We have also begun exploring the inner dialogues of the new members through image theatre. Although the core of the youth club’s engagement will remain drama, they too will engage in conversations around their bodies and relationships through Darpan.

The new members, when asked about their expectations from the youth club,  said they wanted to meet more often and for longer, and create plays together. We are hoping to begin working on a play with this group by the end of this year. The core group will be leading this production.