Exploring boundaries in lands far away ~ Ismail Shaikh

मुझे जब पता चला के मैं New Mexico जा रहा हूँ, मुझे बहुत अच्छा लगा क्योंकि मुझे नई जगा जाना बहुत पसंद है। नए-नए cultures, नए लोग, वहाँ के खाने पीने के तरीके- मैं सब बारे में सीखना चाहता था।

हम New Mexico में Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe और Taos गए थे। Chaco Canyon वहाँ की सबसे पुरानी सभ्यता है। उसको देखकर मुझे हड़प्पा सभ्यता की याद आई, जिसके बारे में हमने school में पढ़ा था। उसके अलावा हमने Pablo House नाम के ऐतिहासिक घर देखे, जो ज़मीन के अंदर बने हुए हैं। मुझे Santa Fe भी बहुत पसंद आया। वह भी एक historical site है जहाँ लोगों ने कहीं सारी jewelery की दुकानें खोली हुई हैं।

एक चीज़ जो मुझे interesting लगी थी, वो थी वहाँ के लोगों की rules follow करने की आदत। वहाँ के लोग बहुत आराम से गाड़ी चलते हैं और मोड़ पर हमेशा slow हो जाते हैं। वे हमेशा left और right देखते हुए आगे बड्ते हैं और road cross करते हुए लोगों की सहायता करते हैं। यह careful तरीके से जीने वाली बात मैं अपने theatre skills के द्वारा आगे लेकर जाना चाहता हूँ। मुझे लगता है के हम सबको इससे कुछ सीखने का मौका मिल सकता है और शायद लोगों की सोच में बदलाव भी आ सकता है।

मुझे एक दिन याद है, जब हम सब गाड़ी से कहीं जा रहे थे। अचानक से हमने आसमान में एक खूबसूरत rainbow देखा। ताज्जुब की बात तो ये है के उसके दो minute बाद एक और rainbow भी आ गया। आसमान 2 rainbows के साथ बहुत beautiful लग रहा था और मुझे अच्छा लगा के उसे देखने का मौका मिला।

America जाने से पहले मैंने expect किया था की वहाँ ज़्यादातर बड़ी बड़ी buildings होगी और एक अलग सा वातावरण होगा जो मुझे बहुत खास लगेगा।  मैंने सोचा था के वहाँ का खाना तो बहुत ही अच्छा होगा। लेकिन America के जिस हिस्से में हम थे, वहाँ ना तो बड़ी buildings थीं और खाना तो मुझे बिलकुल पसंद नयी आया। असलियत जानने पर मेरा भी नज़रिया बदल गया।

Towards a Theatre of Possibility~ Sakhi Upadhyaya

When Sanyukta and I walked into a “capacity-building” workshop organised by Junoon Theatre in Mumbai, I did not know what to expect. It was my first “professional engagement” as a member of Aagaaz. I was jittery, nervous even. What capacities were we attempting to build? What actually awaited us was two days of deliberation, not so much as building but breaking apart what we understood ‘theatre’ to be. “Theatre for children” to be more specific: What did the assembling of these words in this specific order entail?

Theatre, drawing from my interpretation of the haphazard combination of flowcharts and notes from those two days, could be anything one wanted it to be. Especially so with children, toddlers and young adults. A language, a space, an exploration, an activity. Theatre was social, it was political. It was relational, contextual. It was imagination and assertion. However, for me, theatre was always ‘in the making’. It was powerful, but a power that was malleable and subject to destruction or creation as one saw fit. What I mean is that in my limited experience of being a theatre practitioner in Delhi, the edifice of what we called ‘theatre’ was always being broken down and built back up; not by self-professed practitioners like me, but by its encounters with the public at large. Who best to tear something apart and build it back up, refashion it and give it new life, than children?

Theatre was, and in my experience with Aagaaz, has never been a “struggle” to perfect that performance, or to become an expert in this form. The Junoon workshop was an appropriate beginning, of thinking about the possibilities enclosed within what parades as ‘theatre’ and myself. “So let us proceed.” I thought to myself, “Let me allow things in my narrow worldview to fall apart and fall back together.” And that is exactly what I know August will bring, as my journey with Aagaaz “formally” begins. The possibility of many stories, many failures and many creations. Before we left for Mumbai, Sanyukta and I were talking over the phone. “You know, I’m not jittery in the ‘scared’ way, just jittery in the excited, there-are-so-many-things-to-do-and-discover kind of way. Get what I mean?” I told her. And I could hear her subtle acknowledgement in the giddy laughter she replied with.

Dialogues Transcending Boundaries

We are guilty of saying it too often about too much, but then it’s true! We are so excited about Nagina, Muzammil and Ismail. Aditi and Radha from KHOJ reached out to us earlier this year about 18+ year olds from Aagaaz, who have worked in Khirki Extension, being a part of a project supported by World Learning (USA). The project explores the dynamics of cultural identity and cultural heritage through. A group of young people from from Khirki Extension and Aagaaz have been virtually engaging with young people from New Mexico. A programme designed to create cultural exchange, two of the three from Aagaaz will travel to New Mexico in early July. Very few of the core group members fit the criteria, specially the former. The three of them, though are constantly bringing in their learnings from the journey to the rest of us. Watching the project from the fringes, we leave you to read what those directly involved in the process have to say.

Aditi Chauhan, KHOJ

Diversity of rituals belonging to clusters of human population worldwide has created behavioural references that continue to outline our identities, passed on with a purpose of persisting through time. While the celebration of this diversity has found more enthusiasts now more than ever, the virtual proximity across space alluding to ideas of globalization has also seen great resistance and adverse reactions to migration of cultures. The necessity for documents validating and defining our identity (simultaneously accentuating the difference) in a particular place restricts movement of expressions and interactions.

Redefining the margins and tracing the routes back to cultural heritage and cultural identity, youth in the neighbourhoods of New Delhi and New Mexico are collaborating through a virtual exchange program titled Voices From the Margins. This community arts initiative by Khoj International Artists Association and Global One to One (USA) supported by World Learning (USA) as a part of their global project Communities Connecting Heritage seeks to preserve and promote longevity of cultural heritage by engaging with youths worldwide through creative mediums of expression.

The eight members of the team from New Delhi represent a vivid network of socio ethnic communities existing in the city and hailing from different Indian states and countries. Ashif Khan, Ismail, Nagina, Muzammil, Leeda Ferozy, Romeo Kiseke, Suraj Tamoli and Yanki Lhamu Bhutia will navigate their ways to understanding their identities and resolving conflicts through discussions and exercises in spoken and written word format, illustrations and performing arts. Teams from both the countries have been interacting virtually, bringing to fore varied interpretations of the margins, sharing specificities of their heritage and identity, similarities and unique perspectives on issues that concern the youth from diverse backgrounds in different situations and spaces. This four month long project will conclude with an in person exchange of both teams and exhibition in June, 2018, with the aim of encouraging this dialog in public and personal spaces and facilitate the creation of a more receptive environment to cultural diversity and preserve the heritage that outlines our identities.

Nagina, Aagaaz Core Group Member

The team members from Aagaaz have some very interesting insights to offer. 18 year old Nagina explains that she never analysed her heritage so closely. ‘Voices from the Margins’ has helped her see how much her everyday life is influenced by the hand-me-downs of her heritage. She talks about something as simple as her surname and religion and goes on to her something as complex as her angry temperament. Interacting with a diverse group of people, has also managed to increase her awareness about the difficulties one faces due to migration and racism.

Ismail, Aagaaz Core Group Member

19 year old Ismail expresses the joy he experienced while talking to the exchange students in New Mexico via virtual means. He claims that the interaction was his favourite moment since it managed to defy the need for common spoken language. His words indicate that the two groups of young people found common ground, in being strangers to each others’ worlds.

Muzammil, Aagaaz Core Group Members

Muzammil, who is of similar age chose to talk about the long term impacts of being a part of such a program. As a performer who is keenly interested in theatre direction, he looks at this as an opportunity to find relevant thematic areas. He has been observing the exercise that they are doing around creating an ideal state, and is specifically interested in going deeper into the challenges they are facing in the process. He feels that they throw light on the current state of humanity, which has possibilities for dramatic exploration.

EPR Changelooms-Aagaaz’s Journey with Changelooms comes to a Pause


The second last week of March left us with no time to catch our breaths. Along with the Kisse Connection, Unlearning Uncentred, the Duniya Sabki workshop and performance, Nishant and Sanyukta also participated with End Point Review Workshop with Changelooms from the 22nd to the 24th of March at the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra.

The first day of the workshop entailed a very interesting outdoor activity that involved setting up a tent and passing people through a volleyball net-like contraption, all while some of the members were blindfolded or tied up. The session ended with very intense conversations around leadership. What does it mean to be a leader? How does/should one create space for making mistakes – for the self and others? How do we create an inclusive culture for our teams? As always the conversations were deep and the comments from the facilitators were insightful. Deep Jyoti Sonu Brahma, the founder of the  Farm to Food initiative in Assam, and an Ashoka Fellow, spent the evening with us, sharing his story. The evening was perhaps the most exciting as renowned theatre practitioner, Jaya Iyer came into do a workshop with us – we played and were happy! She was there to help the group put together a short performance on their Changelooms journey.

The second day was spent in looking at the journey that the organization had made in the last 6 months in terms of its vision, culture, people, processes, structures, and shared leadership. We knew we had made many changes and come a long way, and just seeing it all mapped out made us realize how invaluable the past 6 months had been for us. Kanika, our mentor and Yasar, our coordinator, constantly asked us difficult questions, and challenged and pushed our boundaries. Of course the workshop was very emotional. We wrote letters to our mentor and she wrote us a letter. We spent the evening brainstorming strategies to stay connected to the Changelooms community. A few plans of collaboration, and a few other strategies have already been implemented. For the worst scenario, we have all set an alarm on our calendars to remind us of the day in 2021. 🙂

The last day was overwhelming with the participants and facilitators whispering words of love and inspiration to each other. Tearful goodbyes led to the closing ceremony where all the organizations set up their galleries exhibiting their gorgeous work. For us Changelooms has been inspiring! At any point in time if you are swirling in angst about the world not making sense and are at a loss to find any hope for the future, do spend your time exploring the work that our fellow Changeloomers are engaged in. Here are the links:




Bucket List

Bodhi Tree Foundation

The Optimist Citizen

Swatantra Talim


Dinajpur Notun Alo Society

MASH Project

Red Brigade


Thank you, Changelooms!

Changelooms and Beyond!


We are in an odd space of many years of heart-work that is finally finding its identity as an organisation. Even before we registered UnLtd. Delhi came to our rescue. Sanyukta, as their Level One Fellow was asked a barrage of difficult questions that helped Aagaaz begin to find itself. ARThink South Asia, a few months later put her in an incubation for two weeks. With space to breathe, Aagaaz’s vision, strategies, and goals began to emerge. With Changelooms in October 2016, Sanyukta and Nishant have been on a journey with 12 other gorgeous organizations to find deeper meanings of leadership, strategy, how the self affects the organization and vice-versa, facing demons, and feeling supported to overcome challenges. Aagaaz is being held through a process of deep self-discovery and realizations. We have found and fixed design flaws, expanded our work, and learnt to dream bigger and deeper. Even as the journey will formally conclude on the 22nd of March, we know the impact of this fellowship will stay with us for years to come.

All this support has helped us make some important decisions that are reflected in our latest programme map that clearly indicates what is happening currently.


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