Friends of Aagaaz Speak: Vernon Fernandez

My first experience with theatre was in the annual school play – a perfect excuse to spend about a month away from the classroom in rehearsals. You can’t be in a large production and not get bitten by the theatre bug, though. I’ve loved entertainment ever since, even changing jobs to work in the industry. Being connected to a play in any part of the production helps one to see exactly where one fits into the bigger picture, know that every little role matters – and allows you to escape a little. Theatre has provided me with amazing experiences, fond memories and some long lasting friendships. Sanyukta is one example of those – we met once a year at a theatre competition for three years running – yet have stayed in touch for 10 years after that!

When Sanyukta told me about Aagaaz, I had already heard about all the work she had been doing in the basti. Using theatre to reach out, to connect and to help children develop seemed so obvious, I wondered why people weren’t doing it already. I knew that the team would make the maximum out of whatever they had, and while I couldn’t help in person – a contribution was a small way to ensure that theatre continued to improve lives…

I’ve been extremely proud to hear about Aagaaz – each update I get only tells me more about how the children working with Aagaaz are improving. Their exposure to life and opportunities is increased, their drive to be better is stimulated – this is that one investment that I can see having a snowball effect which just keeps growing.

Friends of Aagaaz Speak ~Steeve Gupta

This October, we decided to start a new column in the newsletter- ‘Friends of Aagaaz Speak’. This space is dedicated to all those people who have invested their trust and money in Aagaaz. Their association is valuable to us and we really wanted to know and share why they have chosen to become a part of our journey.

This month we are featuring Steeve Gupta. This is what he has to say:

“If you’ve met one child from Nizamuddin Basti and managed to understand what their challenges are, then you’ve met one child from Nizamuddin Basti.
To think that most children in such spaces will have very similar challenges and require similar solutions is the path to band-aid support.

Living in a delhi slum is an all-out assault on a child. A child who is very aware of the world around and therefore even more sharply aware of the hurt it is receiving.

What I love about Aagaaz is that it provides a space for these children to build their own identity and their own methods of living through this reality. Thriving even (maybe).

The use of drama helps in the children being able to deconstruct events and look at them in a more healthy and non-victim way.

More importantly, the focus of Aagaaz is what I love. There is this group of children and Aagaaz has taken up their emotional & social well being and development needs until the time they can go out there and start making a life of their own. This focus helps me as a friend of Aagaaz know that there will be tangible action and results from any time or funds that go into it. We are seeing the results already.

As a friend of Aagaaz, a rule I follow is to check two things:
One, what can I do to make things easier for the Aagaaz team to do their work?
Two, what should I do to ensure the Aagaaz team doesn’t have to spend time taking care of me or my needs so that they can focus on the work with children.”

Steeve is the Managing Director of Maynardleigh Associates India. In 2002, Steeve graduated from the University of Central Florida, with an MBA and specialization in International Business. In theatre, Steeve worked closely with Aamir Raza Hussain at Stagedoor productions and Oscar Nominee Victor Banerjee. He is known for his deep insight into people’s behavior, his experience of working with thousands of leaders and his commitment to creating an engaging, experiential & partnership based learning environments that focus on the growth of businesses and individuals.

Friends of Aagaaz Speak By Priyam Jain



This October, we decided to start a new column in the newsletter- ‘Friends of Aagaaz Speak’. This space is dedicated to all those people who have invested their trust and money in Aagaaz. Their association is valuable to us and we really wanted to know and share why they have chosen to become a part of our journey.

This month we are featuring Priyam Jain. This is what she has to say:

“As a distraught teenager struggling with issues of bullying, alienation, and loneliness, I would often hope that someone would help me make sense of my self and the environment. It was during college,  that theater happened and I became acutely aware of the power of arts in healing and critical thinking for me. It was, to say the least, life changing!

A couple of years back, when I first bumped into Sanyukta, the founder of Aagaaz, I became a witness to a community of young theater makers from Nizammudin reinforcing what I had experienced first hand. I was both inspired and eager to support this lovely group.


 As I came on board in the role of a friend of Aagaaz and a mentor to one of the members, I got to have an insight into this community of changemakers. Against the backdrop of many odds, they were making work that transformed each member and the audiences. Aagaaz for me is a community of changemakers, theater lovers, inspiring individuals and most of all hope givers.

Not one interaction has been ordinary and their creativity constantly pushes the boundaries of my own biases and perceived limitations about applied arts in community spaces.

Thank you Aagaaz for your ability to help us look at critical questions to do with the spaces we inhabit and bring both heart and insight into your work.”

Priyam is a trained counseling Psychologist and a certified art therapy practitioner, She has worked extensively with people across ages and diverse communities.

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.

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