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?

Friends of Aagaaz Meet By Vardhna Puri

Aagaaz has been growing in so many ways. Our work has diversified and we’re in constant need of support to be able to ensure that rent, salaries and stipends are given on time. This is what led to the formation of ‘Friends of Aagaaz‘. While we’re still in the lookout for people who align with our values and would like to offer support, we know that we couldn’t make it this far without those who have already pledged to be a part of this journey. This meet was an endeavor to (re)introduce them to the work that has been happening.

The poetic invitation, doing justice to the importance this event holds for us, brought together an eclectic mix of people together on the evening of 27th August. Sanyukta, Devika, Nishant along with the core group members worked tirelessly to create an impressive visual display of the various programs.
This with the hope that the tree grows as the programs expand.

True to their word, all our friends turned up with food fit for a feast. The homemade caramel custards and masala idlis spoil us rotten. So did the coconut bread from a bakery in Nizamuddin basti. After the informal introductions, as promised, the presentation of the work began. Taking forward the tradition of Aagaaz, we could not have settled down for just a talk. A session of किस्से connection ensured that all the people who have been involved in the journey of the program got an opportunity to talk about their personal journey. The members became books, some for the first time and the friends were the readers for the evening. The members answered questions ranging from their association with Aagaaz to their thoughts about the program as well as their hopes and aspirations.

After two rounds of conversations, everyone settled to watch performances. First one was Urban Turban, a performance initially conceptualized for Gender Bender 2016 in Bangalore. The performance looked at everyday lives of young girls and their experiences of living in and navigating the basti. This was followed by Duniya Sabki, a play based on a poem by Sadar Hashmi with the same name. The premise of play being Akbar expressing ownership over the palace he considers rightfully his’, yet being humbly reminded that either it belongs to everyone or no one. Pertinent in the current environment, the play merges this with the everyday experiences of children, raising so many questions. Does the city/its banks/its parks/its roads belong to some more than the others? The performances culminated in a round of applause and followed by questions from the viewers.

The meet was heartening to us in so many ways. Each person has interacted with the group in their own way, however for the first time, so many of them came together. It opens up another forum for us to implement programs and come back to a space, not just to report but to reflect on our own processes.

Duniya Sabki- A module in progress.. by Devika and Nishant

‘Duniya Sabki’ was initially a much loved poem by Safdar Hashmi. Soon, it became Aagaaz’s most celebrated play that managed to effortlessly showcase the talents of the young theatre artists from Nizamuddin.
Currently, it has transformed into a workshop module that is giving so many adolescents and pre-adolescents a platform to tell their stories. Devika and Nishant have been a part of ‘Team Aagaaz’ for a while now and have been observers in the workshops. We would like to share snippets of their conversation about this emerging module and the value it holds.

Devika: Hi Nishant! So, we’ve been observing Duniya Sabki workshops and it’s now developing into a module that Aagaaz wants to take to spaces. It’s become an opportunity for our core group to collaborate with other people and it’s also allowing us to ask questions of the world.
Why do you even think we are doing this in the first place?

Nishant: I think we’re doing this because there is a need for us to raise these questions of how the world is not equal or why is there so must injustice around. The primary objective has been to just question these things and raise a certain kind of awareness.
This is really not about giving solutions to anyone but creating awareness that is coming from the participants themselves. It is not theoretical in nature.
Why? Is because these spaces barely exist in our current world. There are no spaces for people to discover or even confront the discrimination they face or subject others to.

Devika: Also, discrimination is stereotyped in certain ways. We see discrimination with just one face of either ‘gender discrimination’ or ‘caste discrimination’. Especially children, including the ones we have worked with, they belong to both elite spaces and non-elite spaces. They are all being fed the same narratives due to availability of media and popular culture. So, it is important for them to look at discrimination, injustice and consider perspectives that emerge from their own points of view.

Nishant: Yes! From a localized point of view.

Devika: Also, for them to understand that this is something that in not only abstract but also existent in the personal realm.

Nishant: And that is what makes a difference. Having an interactive workshop rather than a lecture about discrimination, is way better tool to use.

Devika: As a theatre workshop, what do you think this has really helped with or likely to help with even in the future?

Nishant: Sanyukta keeps saying this one thing that I really find fascinating. If you limit people through some kind of style, like theatre- In that limitation they have to find ways of expressing whatever they feel. I think that further enhances their experience also. Additionally, there is creation of a space within a space where you can express it verbally as well. So, forms matter and people are generally used to listening to things that are communicated in words but not expressed through bodies.

Devika: Also, I think theatre as a medium opens up an opportunity to understand ability and inability, especially of the body. To be able to see and analyse yourself in a different way and to use performance and projection of voice as tools to actually evaluate your own comfort zones. And I think that itself is an agent in opening up ideas, stories and personal anecdotes that lend themselves quite beautifully to this workshop.

When we look at the techniques that we have used, the general culture of the workshop, what are some of the elements you feel we can take forward?

Nishant: There is one fundamental thing we take for granted- the lack of hierarchies. It is a very open space where everyone also gets the feeling of- Ok! There is a instructing facilitator but there is also an internal facilitator in each of us. I think that is very important. Keeping the space equal often helps people to express what they are thinking.

Devika: Bringing children into a space as facilitators and enabling them to work with people their own age, breaks their perception about who a learner is..who a teacher is..It opens up the opportunity to actually accept that we are learning all the time from each and every person.

Nishant: The space that get opened up in the process helps us raise questions about- who is in control? Who is the perpetrator?

Devika: Also, I think coming more to theme of this whole thing, which is of course- Duniya Sabki based on Safdar Hashmi’s poem. The whole concept of understanding power, equality, inequality and discrimination helps explore newer perspectives. The culture of the workshop itself opens up this question- Is the world really everyone’s? Kya duniya sabki hai? So, how do you think that potential to instigate the thinking process around this idea.

Nishant: Listening to poem carefully and observing the dynamics between Akbar and Birbal can lead to a lot of realisations. People may start experiencing resonance with the characters and it may be an interesting method of introspection.

Devika: I think also to realise that as a performer I can tell my story, that itself is empowering. To know that this is not a ‘picture perfect’ representation but a platform to tell ‘my story’ which might also be ‘our story’.

Where do you think this can go? What do you think we can do with this module now?

Nishant: I think it can definitely be taken to schools that are open to let us come in and facilitate. Also, organisations that want us to work with them. At the moment, we are primarily working with children and adolescents but there is potential to work with college students or even older adults, I feel.
I think it will evolve and go in all sorts of directions. It’s also a great opportunity for the children from our core group who are training to be facilitators.

Core Group Members Talk…

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SHAHID:

मैं आगाज़ के बाकी बच्चो के साथ जून के महीने में DPS, श्रीनगर में एक Theatre Workshop co-facilitate करने गया था | मैंने वहा पर बहुत सारी बातें सीखी पर सबसे अच्छे से सिखा और समझा  के लोगो की सोच उनकी शक्ति होती है मैंने यह भी जाना के मै अपनी आज़ादी को अच्छे तरह से इस्तेमाल नहीं करता हूँ | अपने उम्र के और छोटे बच्चो के साथ काम करके और Facilitation करके मैंने यह नया सिखा की हर तरह की सोच को साथ लेकर चलना आसान नहीं होता है | पाँच-छ दिन साथ में Theatre करने के बाद वहाँ के बच्चों ने मुझे कुछ ख़ास बातें बताई जो मेरे दिल को छू गयी |

ZAINAB:
हम जून महीने के अंत में कोलकाता में हमारे नाटक ‘रावण आया’ के shows करने गए थे | मेरा role वानरों के तीसरे leader का था | कोलकाता में हमने चार shows किये थे | मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा, उसका एक reason है | मेरी acting काफी improve हुई उधर, नवीन sir ने काफी मदद करी | मैं अपनी acting के बारे में छोटी छोटी बातों का ध्यान रखने लग गयी थी | ऐसा पहली बार हुआ के बार ईद हम सब ने घर से बाहर मनाई | वैसे तो हम सब आगाज़ के  दोस्त ज्यादातर साथ में ही ईद मनाते थे निजामुद्दीन में पर कोलकाता में भी अच्छी बीती, बिलकुल अलग experience था |
‘रावण आया’ अब हमारे group का हिस्सा है और किसी भी चीज़ की जितनी भी बार करते है हर बार नयी-नयी चीज़ें सामने आती है और हमने उसके चलते improvement आता है | मुझे life में हमेशा theatre करना है और ‘रावण आया’ अब उसका part hai तो वो भी आगे करते रहना चाहती हूँ |

Kya Duniya Sabki Hai- Drama and performance in DPS Srinagar- By Sanyukta Saha

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What became a gorgeous workshop and performance in Srinagar in the 2nd and 3rd week of June, began with a chance meeting with Sunanda Dhar while Anirban and Sanyukta were traveling through Rajasthan in December 2016. Sunanda and her family have been working tirelessly into creating a space full of music, drama, visual arts, and stories for the DPS Srinagar community. She has been single handedly creating the Special Education Department in the school.  A few more meetings in Delhi and we knew we were traveling to the valley for a couple of week with many of the young Aagaaz members for a Duniya Sabki workshop.

When Sanyukta started working with the group it was difficult to get the children to come in for workshops regularly. From there to now traveling together as a group for most of Ramzaan and Eid (for shows in Kolkata) in the month of Ramzaan was a big ask!  It was heartwarming to feel the trust we have developed with the families of the core group.  There were many tears shed as we embarked on our journey. For the families it was a leap of faith to send their children to Srinagar (at a time when the media is rife with unfavourable news from the valley) for so many days. We were in a train, together, for the first time. It was also the first time ever that Zainab had boarded a train. Made me think about the many things we take for granted in terms of children’s experiences – there have been so many references to train journeys made in the last few years, without having realised that some have never actually experienced one.

After Udhampur what followed of course was new to most of the group. We were traveling through an absolutely unknown terrain to our destination, and I have to day that I am in shock at the negligible number of episodes of altitude sickness (yes, I am using a euphemism here). It is also surprising (yes, after all these years I am still surprised at the magic of drama – each time!) how easily the first day of the workshop created an absolutely equal space between the participants from DPS and the Aagaaz members. The workshop was facilitated in two batches by Sanyukta and Priiya and 6 of the Aagaaz members were co-leading with each group. Nishant and Devika were to observe the workshops, and Anirban spent the first 3 days of the workshop with us to help with sound design.

After traveling for more than 24 hours we reached Srinagar amidst rain and and cold winds on the evening of the 8th. Even as we settled into our dormitories and rooms and sipped on chai, we were informed that the next day (also the first day of our workshop), a bandh had been declared in Kashmir. We were unsure about the number of participants attending, and planned with a lot of space to be spontaneous.

The next morning, as is always, there was much awkwardness in the space before we began the workshop. We had decided to do away with formal introductions and just played. By the time we wrapped up the session and sat down to reflect, we realised that the space had automatically transformed into one of play, genuine curiosity and friendships. The next few days were spent working on voice, body and exploring the theme of Duniya Sabki. Friendships deepened as the participants and facilitators exchanged stories through images of feeling disconnected from the world they live in. We were surprised at how little we expected themes like bullying, falling in love, trouble with parents, feeling unheard, and struggles with academics to feature during the workshops.

On the second last day, we performed 2 shows for students and a show for parents in a span of two and a half hours. From Safdar’s words about the world either belonging to everyone, or not belonging to anyone, we moved into narratives about transgenders, bodies that are differently abled, falling and failing in love, depression and suicide, bullying, nepotism, and the relationship between gender, state and the military. To riveted audiences children from Nizamuddin Basti and DPS Srinagar performed with their energies absolutely in sync to tell stories to change, ACTing to change.

Duniya Sabki Facilitation Experience

 

Aagaaz collaborated with Deepalya Community Library where four of our core group members from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti co-facilitated their first theatre workshop. This resulted in a performance called ‘Duniya Sabki’. Nagina, Zainab, Jasmine and Nagma share their experiences of facilitation by answering some basic questions.How did they feel?

नगीना: यह एक बहुत अच्छा अनुभव था क्यूंकि पहली बार मैंने अपने से कम उम्र के बच्चो के साथ काम किया | Lead करना थोडा मुश्किल था लेकिन मैंने पहले भी कही और workshop किया है तो थोडा सा आसन भी था | मैंने बहुत मज़ा किया और बहुत कुछ सिखने को भी मिला |

ज़ैनब: अच्छा भी feel हुआ और थोडा बुरा भी | अच्छा इसलिए क्यूंकि first time facilitation किया था और बुरा इसलिए क्यूंकि दीपाल्या के बच्चो के साथ एक अच्छा relation बन गया था | बस ऐसा feel हो रहा था के हम पाँच दिन बाद उन्हें छोड़ न दे और उनसे हमेशा मिलते रहे |

जास्मीन: Deepalaya Community Library के बच्चो के साथ काम करके मुझे बहुत मज़ा आया क्यूंकि मुझे कई महीनो बाद ख़ुशी मिली थी | 25 February से ले कर March के 18 तारिख तक मेरे एग्जाम चल रहे थे जिस कारण मैंने अपनी खेल-कूद और मस्ती-मजाक बंद कर दिया था | 19 March से ले कर workshop के आखिरी दिन तक मुझे खूब मज़े आये क्यूंकि उन बच्चो के साथ काम कर के मुझे अपने आगाज़ के बच्चो की याद आ रही थी और थोड़े अपने बचपन की भी याद आ गयी | वो भी उतने ही शरारती है जितने हम | जैसा की आगाज़ में मै, ज़ैनब और सद्दाम मस्ती करते है वैसे ही दीपालय के बच्चे दीपक, तुषार और प्रिया कर रहे थे ! मुझे संयुक्ता, टॉम और प्रीया के जैसे कलाकार के साथ काम करके भी बहुत मज़ा आया | प्रीया हम सब को बहुत सारे body exercises और dance कराती थी और हम सब ने वो सब भी सीख लिया | पहली बार ऐसा था के हम दुसरे बच्चो को सिखा रहे थे और लगने लगा के अब में बड़ी हो गयी हूँ और वो feeling उस time दुगनी हो गयी जब वो मुझे Ma’am या दीदी कहते थे !

नगमा: जब में दीपालय पहुची तो वहाँ के बच्चे किताबे पढ़ रहे थे | फिर हमने एक दुसरे से बातें करी और games खेलकर एक दुसरे का नाम भी जाना | पाँच दिन नाटक बनाते-बनाते हम सब बहुत ही अच्छे दोस्त बन गए जैसे हम आगाज़ group में है | मुझे workshop में बहुत अच्छा लगा |

What did they learn as a facilitator?

नगीना: अगर कोई facilitate करता है तो उसे सुनना बहुत ज़रूरी होता है, बिना सुने हम कोई काम नहीं कर सकते | जिस Group के साथ हम काम करते है उसमें गोपनीयता और trust का होना बहुत ज़रूरी है, उसके बिना group नहीं चल सकता है | और हर बार सिर्फ गुस्सा करना सही नहीं होता है और उससे काबू में रखना चाहिए ताकि हम गुस्सा वहाँ दिखा सके जहाँ पर उसकी असली ज़रुरत होती है | Facilitate करते करते याद आया के जब आगाज़ के बच्चो को facilitate करने के लिए कोई आता था तो उन पर गुस्सा करना, कभी बात न सुनना और आपस में बात करना शुरू कर देना, यह सब हम करते थे और अब जब खुद के साथ हुआ तब एहसास हुआ के हम दुसरे के साथ बहुत बुरा व्यवहार करते थे | और भी बहुत बातें सीखी हमने जैसे की workshop के दौरान हमारा ध्यान सिर्फ ग्रुप पर होना चहिये, time का ध्यान रखना चहिये और ऐसे शब्दों का इस्तेमाल नहीं करना चाहिए जिससे आपसी संबंध बिगड़े |

ज़ैनब: थोड़ी मुश्किल हुई और समझ आया के जब कोई facilitate करता है तो कितनी थकावट हो जाती है | मैंने patience रखना सिखा | जब बच्चे सुनते नहीं है और परेशान करते है तो उनको ना मारकर, अपने गुस्से को थोडा control करके काम करना | एक ही Group में लोगो के ideas अलग-अलग हो सकते है तो important है उनको match करते हुए चलना | और ज़रूरी है के different types के activities कराना ताकि सबका interest बने रहे और काम करने में मज़ा आये | मैंने यह भी सिखा के बच्चो को अच्छे से समझाया जाए ताकि वो अच्छे से सब कुछ कर सके | Objective सोच कर जाना भी important है जैसे के हम सोच कर गए थे के workshop के end तक एक play बनाना है पर साथ ही साथ और भी चीज़े करनी चाहिए जैसे games खिलवाना | एक और बात के सिर्फ अपने ideas के बारे में ना सोचना पर बच्चो के ideas भी catch करने चाहिए |

जास्मीन: मुझे सबसे पहले सीख मिली के किसी भी workshop को करते समय सबसे पहले आपस में मेल-झोल और भरोसा बनाना पड़ता है ताकि अगर हम अपनी personal बातें share करे तो हमे लोगो पर trust होना चाहिए | दूसरी बात यह की अगर किसी बच्चे से acting नहीं हो रही है तो उस पर गुस्सा नहीं करना चाहिए और बुरे शब्द इस्तेमाल नहीं करने चाहिए क्यूंकि अगर हम ऐसा करेंगे तो वो बच्चा घबरा जायेगा और सिखने के बजाय उसके मन में ‘मुझसे कुछ नहीं होगा’ जैसी negative सोच आने लग जाएगी | एक बात और सीखी के हमारा सुनना बहुत ज़रूरी है | हम अगरworkshop में अपनी बातो में खोये रहेंगे तो जो बातें चल रही है वो नहीं सुन पाएंगे और फिर बाकी लोगो से पूछते रहेंगे के क्या बोला किसने | आगाज़ में भी ऐसा हो जाता है और जब दीपालय में कुछ बच्चो ने हमारी बात नहीं सुनी तब समझ में आया के जब हम ने अपने facilitator की बातें नहीं सुनी होंगी तो उनको गुस्सा ज़रूर आता होगा | Workshop में हम सिर्फ सिखाते ही नहीं पर बहुत कुछ खुद सीख भी जाते है |

नगमा: मैंने सीखा के बच्चो के साथ काम करते समय बुरे शब्दों का इस्तेमाल नहीं करना चाहिए और डाटना और चिल्लाना भी नहीं चाहिए | Patience रख कर ही काम अच्छे से हो सकता है |

What did they do well and what could they have done better, as a facilitator?

नगीना: क्यूंकि जिन बच्चो के साथ काम किया वो उम्र में मुझसे अलग थे तो उनकी thinking भी अलग थी और as a facilitator मुझे उनकी thinking को साथ में चलना ज़रूरी था जो की मैंने किया | लेकिन एक बात मुझे ध्यान रखनी है के Workshop के दौरान मुझे ज्यादा energy के साथ groups में काम कराना चाहिए |

ज़ैनब: मेरे group में जो बच्चे थे उन में से कई बच्चो के roll-fit नहीं हो पा रहे थे | हर कोई हर चीज़ नहीं कर पाता था या कर भी लेता था तो मुझे ऐसा लगा के मैंने कई बच्चो को गलत roll दे दिए | पर अच्छी बात यह रही के हमने हार नहीं मानी और उन्होंने कोशिश करी और अपना roll अच्छे से कर के दिखाया | अगली बार जब में फिर facilitate करुँगी तो ध्यान रखूंगी के बहुत सारी interesting activities पहले से सोच कर जाऊ क्यूंकि कई बार ऐसा हुआ के मुझे group में interest बढ़ाना था और मेरे दिमाग में कुछ activities ही नहीं आ रही थी |

जास्मीन: मैंने facilitator के तरह से यह अच्छा किया के बच्चो को सही तरह से dialogues बोलने का तरीका बताया जैसे के हमे जल्दी जल्दी नहीं बोलना चाहिए acting करते time. मुझे लगता है के अगर में पहले से उस group में होती तो में उन बच्चो के बारे में अच्छी तरह जानकर उनके साथ और अच्छे तरीके से काम कर सकती थी |

नगमा: में बच्चो के साथ दोस्त बन कर रही और अगर उनको कुछ नहीं समझ नहीं आता था तो में उनको और बता कर या खुद वो चीज़ कर के दिखाती थी | उनको नाटक के गाने याद करवाने में और गाने में भी मैंने उनकी बहुत मदद करी |

Kya Duniya Sabki Hai?- Aagaaz offers its first Theatre Workshop at Deepalaya’s Community Library in Shekh Sarai

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We had heard so much about the fantastic space that writer Mridula Koshy has created in the widing streets of Shekh Sarai that we knew we had to visit. After a couple of months of email exchanges, Nishant and Sanyukta walked into this orange canopied space in October. It was one of those low inspiration, questioning one’s life and work kind of days. As they started talking to Mridula however, inspiration started crawling back in. It is no ordinary library that just lends books to readers of all ages. It is a space that is dedicated to develop a rich critical thought process in the minds of all those who step in. As Mridula shared the details of all the programmes that the library runs out of three rooms full of thousands of titles, we saw how the space was changing the lives of readers of ages 3 years and above. Even as the passion with which the library is run rubbed off on us, we knew we were coming back.

It took us more than four months to find a slot of 6 days that suited both Deepalaya and Aagaaz, and between the 19th and the 25th of March, 17 children (ages 10-14) played with us. This was a first in many ways for both Deepalaya and Aagaaz. This is the first time that we as Aagaaz have offered a workshop. This was also the first time that 4 of our core group members from Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti co-facilitated a workshop for other children. For Deepalaya, it was the first time that a theatre workshop was being offered. Priiya, a member of Pandies’ Theatre and an extremely talented actor, writer and dancer and Tom, a young intern who is visiting India for two months and is a member of the Youth Theatre in England, along with Sanyukta, Nagina, Jasmine, Zainab, and Nagma, were a part of the facilitation team.

We began with the idea of creating a collaborative performance based on our first production as Aagaaz – Duniya Sabki. A poem written by Safdar Hashmi and by the same name Kabir’s  Mat kar maya ka ahankaar (Prahlad Tippaniya’s tune) are the framework and inspiration for this piece. Through the 5 days we workshopped our way into creating three short pieces attempting to answer the question – “Kya duniya sabki hai? Agar nahi, toh kyun? (Does the world belong to everyone? If not, then why?” We could tell how the world of literature had already begun impacting these young minds as the participants came up with instances of inequality and discrimination from their own lives.

 

Soon we had identified three themes – gender, religion and caste. We facilitated the participants into devising their short pieces – they created plots, characters, dialogues, and directed each other. The members of Aagaaz rehearsed the poem and the song (along with movement choreographed with Priiya). We had decided the workshop would end with a collaborative performance for the community on the 6th day. Having started with nothing we had a 30 minute play ready by the end of day 5. The participants painted a beautiful banner that hung by the canopy to invite one and all. The magic of drama prevailed – on day 1 we had begun working as new group of facilitators with children we didn’t know. On day 6 we ended the workshop with a beautiful performance played to an audience of about 70 odd children and adults, as 24 mad-hatters who are now bonded with a common creative exercise.

The play was deeply appreciated by the Deepalaya community of children, council members, parents, and volunteers. A mother, who saw her daughter on stage for the first time acting out the gender roles she is expected to play, went back introspecting. Mridula has invited us back and we hope to find resources to be able to add to the gorgeous work that she and her team are already doing. The sight at the end of the performance beautifully illustrated the connection that we have forged with this place – the actors were not willing to elave the stage even as the audience trickled out – the insisted we dance to their favourite drama exercise – hai re sakhi bajra  and sing the infamous kahab toh lag jayi dhak se one last time. In the times that we are living in – these are the small, but powerful pockets of hope that constantly keep the heart pumping for more. There are now 17 more children who ACTed to Change.

Four of our Brood begin their Journeys as Facilitators

We have begun our journey to train the core members of Aagaaz as youth facilitators. Nagina (17), Jasmine (15), Zainab (15), and Nagma (14), have embarked on this journey with elan. What began as apprehension, soon became an experience of deep reflection and many realizations. When Sanyukta asked them to reflect on the session on day 1, the first thing all four of them unanimously shared was a deep sense of empathy with people who have facilitated workshops with them. Jasmine said, “ab pata chala jab hum workshops mein aap logon ki baat nahi sunte toh aapko kaisa lagta hai (now I know how all of you feel when we don’t listen to you during workshops). Probed further about what that means as a facilitator, they all agreed that patience is imperative to working with children.

One of the highlights of this workshop for each one of them was traveling alone by metro and making their way from Nizamuddin to Khirki and back. They are now proud owners of metro cards and have a sense of unparallelled independence.

Watch this space for reflections from their experience in the next newsletter!

Tom’s Reflections

It was such a great week of workshops at Deepalya Community Library. In the lovely basement space of the building so avoided the heat which I was still getting used to. Still, the heat of the sun was replaced by the buzzing energy of the 17 children who took part.

At first it was clear, like me, they had some apprehensions and shyness. But breaking them in with fun, ice-breaking games that introduced elements of theatre and performance tempted them out of their shells. We slowly introduced them to improvisation using freeze frames and dialogue to give them a sense of what focus and thought performance requires.

As a facilitator it was important not to overwhelm them with the big questions straight away. Part of the process was letting them find their own realisations and stories. This is something I found such satisfaction in seeing unfurl before me. I did find it difficult, however, to help them in their journey as it was easy for my questions to get lost in translation. I found my questions were also quite complex and so I had to try to simplify them so they could be presented to the group in discussion. After stories had been shared I tried not to overthink my words and asked them about simple details: who was there? Where were they? What time was it? These would then form an image in their minds which could be ‘translated’ into a piece of theatre. They had the power. Another thing of being a facilitator is to let the kids take control and your only job is to intervene when they needed help staging a moment or direct them so the moment is realistic and true for an audience.

Throughout I was constantly having to use the context in a situation and people’s tone of voice or posture to understand what was being said as the words themselves were in a language I can’t speak. This was in the performances but also in games and group activities or discussions.

Overall, it was such a fulfilling week. Seeing these kids with no previous experience perform such thought provoking pieces on gender, religion and caste was just beautiful. The power of theatre for you. I hope I’m able to return in the years to come and see how this experience has changed them, their thoughts and their futures.

Duniya Sabki @ Zorba the Buddha

Duniya Sabki @ Zorba the Buddha

We are super excited to announce our next public show. On the 8th of November we shall be performing Duniya Sabki at Zorba the Buddha! Kindly find the details mentioned below. Meanwhile, please be blocking time! 🙂

Duniya Sabki, inspired by Safdar Hashmi’s poem by the same name, deals with issues of entitlement. The play asks questions that are intensely relevant to the current scenario. Who does the world belong to? Who should the world belong to? Who occupies more space? Who has a louder voice? Through vignettes of the lived experiences of the members of the repertory this piece has been devised to provoke answers to these questions. Prahlad Tippaniya’s beautiful rendition of Kabir’s ‘mat kar maya ka ahankaar’, Dushyant’s ‘sau mein sattar aadmi’, and the popular ‘kahab toh lag jaaye dhak se’ breathe life into the narrative.

Duration 45 minutes (Show) + 15 minutes (Conversations)

Cast: Muzammil, Shahid, Nagina, Jasmine, Ismail, Saddam, Danish, Rukhsana, Nagma, Sajida, Mehjabeen, Nahid, Tuba, Ayesha, Ladlee, Heena, Anjum, Zarina, Ameena, Zainab
Sound Design: Anirban
Music: Kunal, Sukriti, Vanshika, Divyam
Production Manager: Shivi
Director: Sanyukta

Event Details
Sunday, 8 November
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM

This is a Free Event & a Private Gathering
We will raise a hat for the artists and donations are welcome
Children below 10 years are not allowed

Optional Dinner can be availed at a subsidized contribution

Limited Capacity, Book Soon!!!

For Reservations & More Details
07827706109
09311131096
seek@zorbathebuddha.org

https://www.facebook.com/events/1659964464288472/

Duniya Sabki @ Safdar Studio

Duniya Sabki @ Safdar Studio

Here’s sharing a few photos from the show. 🙂

The play – Duniya Sabki, asks questions that are intensely relevant to the current scenario. Who does the world belong to? Who should the world belong to? With Safdar Hashmi’s poem by the same name as its framework, the play weaves in stories from the actors’ lived experiences. Prahlad Tippaniya’s beautiful rendition of Kabir’s ‘mat kar maya ka ahankaar’, Dushyant’s ‘sau mein sattar aadmi’, and the popular ‘kahab toh lag jaaye dhak se’ were sung beautifully by the ensemble. The accompanying musicians (Sukriti, Vanshika, Kunal, and Divyam) along with Anirban’s sound design breathed life into the piece.