Children in their years of early development, slowly start to understand concepts. They develop a sense of self and discover time which eventually leads to the acknowledgement of something as simple as age. Aagaaz has had a very similar journey. Dates and starting points were very irrelevant to us when we were smaller and younger. Now, our work and our community has grown and we are beginning to grapple with our identity in the larger ecosystem and ways to stay connected – to our growing world and also our roots. We decided to create a birthday ritual for ourselves – drama games and a show and all our friends.
June was an amazing month for many reasons. One of them was lack of time, which made the process of planning and preparation rigorous and exciting. A special version of Duniya Sabki was the most important element of the day. The core group put their hearts into it and they did everything required to ensure that the play was made, that too beautifully. They practiced at night, negotiated with their families and pushed their bodies without complaining about fatigue. The grown up Aagaaz, was reflected in their actions and decisions.
Muzammil, the director of the play shared that this became a process of mapping Aagaaz’s journey. On an occasion like this, he wanted to present something meaningful and relevant to the group.Despite all the challenges they encountered, he received a lot of support from the rest of the actors. He was impressed by their commitment, especially since they all agreed to practice during late hours. There was a lot of hard work involved and inputs from Sanyukta and others only came in one night prior to the performance.
Saddam, from the core group found the preparation rather challenging at first. He expressed that a lot of the actors didn’t show up initially and punctuality was an issue. He was also constantly concerned about Muzammil, Ismail and Nagina’s energy, which varied depending on the intensity of their work at KHOJ Studios. He was glad to see a gradual shift in the attitudes. Saddam pegs the success of the performance, on the seriousness that emerged during the last few days of rehearsal.
The day itself was like an exercise in ensemble work. We co-created the space for our guests. Cleaning up the space, bringing food, cleaning, labelling and greeting people- all of it happened without much effort. The larger community also blended in with ease. Something about the whole experience was magical. ‘Bhelpuri Khalo’ and ‘Roohafsa lelo’ became the code words for ice-breaking and conversations happened with old friends and new.
We were lucky that some of out near and dear ones, took out time on a busy weekday. The added their own zeal to the space. Like every other birthday, we couldn’t have survived without a small dose of rituals. Mridula from Theatre Professionals and Dhruv, who mentors Aslam – one of our core group members, fulfilled this need by bringing two wonderful cakes. This helped us embrace the cliches we love, and allowed us to consume them in grand proportions.
The performance spoke for itself as the refrains of Safdar’s lines cushioned Aagaaz’s journey and Ankit from Play for Peace helped us set the tone with energisers that had all of us radiating with joy and sweat on the muggy day. Awkwardness permeated the air when everyone was asked to share their favourite ‘Aagaaz Memory’. The initial discomfort gave way to some thoughtful sharings, funny anecdotes and significant stories. There was laughter, running, dancing, selfies, unexpected conversations, and ideas that emerged out of nowhere. Our initial nervousness around not being able to host people, slowly disappeared. Eventually, an invisible thread connected us all and now we are further tangled up in each others’ stories.