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.

DiE Jams (Drama in Education Jams) by Sanyukta Saha

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What?
An organic space for those who work with people using drama to come together and jam. The few principles that exist currently are:
Whoever’s present to Jam is the right person.
Whoever’s there participates.
Use this space to try exercises/experiences.
If your exercise or game needs specific material or object, bring it along.
Share news!
Feed us.

Why?
The number of applied drama practitioners is growing and yet there is a sense of either working in isolation, or existing in niches. The attempt is to create a space that runs without a meta-facilitator even, planned and curated by only the people in the room. That too, democratically.

How?
The brainchild of Jehan Maneckshaw of Theatre Professionals and Drama School Mumbai fame, he has found co-conspirators in Aagaaz. The first Jam took place on the 9th of July and we figured that this random idea can actually float and be.

Where?
Basement, C5, Nizamuddin West

When?
Second Sunday of every month 9am to 11.30 am. Next date: 13 August 2017.

Who?
Drama educators, theatre practitioners, drama enthusiasts, anyone willing to spend 2 and a half hours on a Sunday, playing and learning.
What can you do?
If you are still reading, you might be curious about being a part of this space in some way? Please don’t hesitate in getting in touch with Mridula at 9818015880 or Sanyukta at 9873853348.

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.

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.