Day 15: Disinterested adolescents

I went in to the 7th grade today to fill in for another teacher that was sick. Since I didn’t take any formal subjects with this class, I decided to run a couple of exercises and games from TO with the class. And boy, where they a disappointment! Well, I shouldn’t blame the entire class for a group of 7 or 8 boys that absolutely didn’t want to try any of the activities. They did the activity for half a minute, gave up and stood there, disinterested. They longingly looked at the basketball court, wondering when I’d let them go play.

It was a huge lesson for me on having a backup plan and on being mentally prepared for a disinterested class. For the first, I was covered. But the second hit me hard. I had to take a solid 5 minutes to let it sink in that a majority of the class was not interested in the activity and that I had to try something else. And this was the one that affected me the most and I had a lot to share about being in power versus being powerless and whatnot.

I abandoned that, picked another trust game. And it worked like a charm. It started slow too, in fact, and almost went downhill. So I quickly got in and teamed up with a couple of these notorious boys to show them how it could be fun. Soon enough, they were trying real hard, switching partners to get it right.

Validation came in the form of them talking about it before lunch to the 5th and 6th graders, and them coming over to ask me how to do it. Before I knew it, there were pairs of little kids doing trust see-saws in the ground. Totally worth it!

Aunty, you are under arrest.

Why? What’d I do?

You gave us all a – 1 in the Change maker chart.

Well you did leave the lights and fans on.

You’re still under arrest.

Ooh! Aunty, you’re a good zentangler.

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Day 132: Oppressors unlimited 

The weekend started on a great note, the 4OfUs met to watch a forum theater by the TO community working with Srishti school of design. SoulSurfer stuck to the plan of  my first metro ride in the city, and I was glad that he persisted. The anonymity that comes with public transport and the novelty that came with the ride in the city was very energizing. A little stroll in and around Cubbon Park and we were seated in for the play.

For all that I read about the uniqueness of forum theater, I was impressed by seeing it in action. It’s quite likely that most of them in the audience were there, like me, because of some basic introduction into TO. But it was also likely that they were just random passers-bys, ones that were really moved by the scene that was playing out in front of them.

It was very encouraging to watch some men come up, and take on the role of the oppresed lady. It was very disturbing to hear some men talk about how they had experienced such violations of their personal space too. It was most disappointing to hear more and more stories of women facing these violations on a daily basis. Ten minutes back, half an hour back, 1 day back, 2 months ago, since 15 years; and the tyranny continues.

Being in the role of a spectactor was unnerving, especially to realize that the obstruction or the oppression that my role was facing could be faced in real life too. There could be a creepy Vijay slowly falling on you in the bus, there could be a driver who’d refuse to listen to all your protests, there could be a situation where you’d have no other option to try; and at that point, you might not get a retake.

It makes me angry to think about how inhuman mankind truly is, to be able to ignore another’s will and interest entirely, and to thrust one’s own want and needs. What bothers me more is to see men of the privileged backgrounds act like there was no problem at all. I’d like to see more men, like the SoulSurfer and MadO, step up and realize that women all around them – girl friends, mothers and sisters – were stepping on thin egg shells every time they were walking out the door. I’d like them to join the dialogues and become a voice of sanity in this deafening discussion.

I believe that without enough voices from the other side of the fence, we’d just be prisoners rattling our cages in a sound-proof room.

Pics4mswiss: When darkness prevails, the heavens open up and a new sunrise is seen. 

Day 34: New experiences, petting projects, and dreams

Petting projects

A normal Saturday took a turn for the better when we kicked off the volunteer group at Pet a Project. Ranga Shankara, the location for our meet, was a wonderful venue and I enjoyed a productive hour, working on my assignments, while the gang rolled in. And it was such an amazing bunch to talk to. The power of volunteerism is that you do not have competition or that innate human need to one-up the other. The six of us were almost instantly chatting away like we’d known each other for years. There was already some playful banter and teasing, reminiscent of thick friends. For an outsider, we could have passed off for a group of friends reuniting after years of being apart. And that says wonders about the team that we have now.

The project itself has gotten me excited for a few weeks now. It follows in line with our conversations over the summer, at Bhor, where as educationists, we agree that there is something critically lacking in our daily school curriculum, that is leaving our children incapable in real-life situations. While the Schools of the Future Program targeted middle-income private schools, that could in turn seed fund the project with government schools, and focused largely on making learning visible in schools, Pet A Project aims at working specifically with low-income government schools, and enhancing the life-skills in these school students.

Questions remain about the true nature of the curriculum that has been designed already, the effectiveness tracking mechanism and the sustainability plan. But for now, it’s project-go, and that has always been a fun and exciting time.

New experiences

 

The day got better when Sid and I lost and found our way to Tortilla House, a quaint home studio in the residential streets of Koramangala, where the day’s edition of the Playback Theatre would be. The Actor’s Collective, founded by a ChristU Alum professor, and itself consisting of a number of ChristU alums, is one of the forerunners in the country on the alternate theatre concept, called Playback Theatre. From our first hello there, we felt extremely welcome and warm, with the ambience and the actors and their smiles.

Unlike a typical play, where the actors are up on stage, almost playing god, and the audience sits below, with eyes of endearment, here we were all right there in one single room. The audience sat at one end of the studio, while the actors took another. The facilitator did a wonderful job bringing the two together, and the crux of playback theatre – of acting scenes based on the stories shared by the audience – was extremely intriguing.

My personal experience, watching them enact my Trust Circle Conundrum, was insightful. The trust circle in itself has been something that I think about extensively, and the questions of my readiness to get into it will always plague me. But watching the actors enact that conflict, especially almost hinting that I should get in there, was a powerful feeling indeed.

Dreams

 

While a number of us shared our stories and watched in silence as the actors brought them to life on stage, the one story that moved me the most was Vinu’s struggle with the true origin of dreams. As beautiful as his struggle was, the way it was enacted was equally powerful.

Do we dream dreams that are our own, or are they dreams that we are made to dream?

His narrative to the question was his struggle with his identity as a homosexual and a passionate man and his dream of having a loving partner, a child and a dog to complete his family. As the relationship went down under, his dreams haunted him and he repeated the question often to justify his need to move on or his lethargy to stay put. I couldn’t have related to another’s struggle like I did with Vinu’s.

An engineering degree, a stable job in a multi-national company, a few trips offshore to work from exotic countries, a steady stream of vacations to exquisite lands, an extravagant marriage by 24, a baby by 26 and another by 28. Whose dreams are we expected to live? Does the society have such an effect on our pysche that even our dreams mirror the societal demands? Did we grow up dreaming of vacations in ultramarine blue seas? Weren’t our dreams more rustic and basic then?

And more importantly, how many of us are dreaming the dream of others and fooling ourselves into thinking they are our own?

“S, seems like you had a lot of fun this Saturday. Is it true that you went to a café where people cut a birthday cake and you dint even get a piece? Couldn’t you have tried to sneak one out, at least for me?” Scotch