The Compassionate Gaze

02-Dec-2018

Last year (2016) we began our journey of moving deeper within urban slums and communities in Delhi. Our work with ‘Juveniles in Conflict with Law’ had taken us to a different spectrum of urban life in the city. But it is always important to go back to places that have equipped us to take the next step in the field of Social Arts. The Adharshila Observation Home for Boys has been that space. It is an area where urbanisation, migration and the law interact at complex levels. The recently amended ‘Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection Act) 2015’ has changed the discourse on crime and punishment for years to come. The merits and demerits of the act continue to be heavily debated. As one of the tenets of punishment, we strongly believe in the power of reformation and the ability of legal institutions to engender change. The Observation Home in Kingsway Camp has been one such institution where this transformation is being realized. All our visits to the home so far have increaseed faith in our own work and the role Expressive Arts can play in the process of self-learning and self-growth. This experience has been incredibly satisfying. Although we have been working in the Observation Home for the better part of the decade, the connection with the children this time is special. We started working with a group of 15 inmates in the first week of May (2017) towards a workshop that will culminate in a performance at the Delhi Judicial Academy. We are exploring the idea of ‘Dreams, Delinquency and Destitution’ in the context of ‘Youth at Risk’. The time spent so far has also revealed a lot that needs to go in working towards the issue of mental health and diverting public opinion towards a more compassionate gaze. We started our workshops by introducing the children to basic theatre warm-ups and creative exercises before slowly moving on to ‘childhood dreams and aspirations’. Once we got to this playful core, the task ahead become easier and smoother. Participants shared their stories, circumstances, future goals, inhibitions and restrictions that have shaped their lives today. We also explored enabling oneself to overcome these barriers and look for respect where it matters the most: to the Self. This connection of course, comes with its own set of challenges and precautions. We do not believe in any hierarchy and genuinely consider this process to be a mutual one. Expressive Arts is a tool that allows one to go beyond the defined realm of conversation and thought and make room for a deeper probe into issues of identity formation that the youth struggle with today. Working at the Home only strengthens our resolve in the core vision of the Foundation, that of equity and social justice. We do hope that this time spent can only pave way for more work in the future that is centered on the idea of healing and empowerment. –Rijul Kataria works as a Research coordinator with The Yuva Ekta Foundation.  

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‘FREEDOM TO DREAM’ @ AADHARSHILA HOME

“I want to complete my education and become a big man one day” – Participant, Aadharshila Home

“I have always wanted to help people and with my work, I’ve managed to fulfill that dream” – Member, Child Welfare Committee

Be it the young, or the younger, everyone dreams. Our dreams connect us to our innocence and light, that makes us one with our being.

The Foundation, on August 25, 2017, conducted a Capacity Building workshop at the Delhi Judicial Academy for members of Child Welfare Committee, Juvenile Justice Board and organisations that work in the sphere of Juvenile Law. A small and engaging performance by the boys from the Adharshila Observation Home titled ‘Khwaabon ke Par’, was followed by an Art activity that engaged all stakeholders on one platform and share their dreams with each other.
A magical afternoon turned surreal because of the interactions that helped everyone understand and empathize with one another. It also promised to bring back the same innocence within all participants that helped them remember their lifelong dreams and aspirations. As our country completes 70 glorious years of its independence, we hope to continue our work with ‘Youth at Risk’ and find ways to connect the young ones with their light, their humility and their passion.
We would thank Gauri Saxena, Mona Sharma and Pankaj Gupta for making this event possible. We would also like to thank our guest facilitators Bani Malhotra, Tavishi Krishna and Ankita Dasgupta for their contribution towards the workshops!
Picture Credits- Aarushi

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Director’s Note

“Didi (sister), will you bring me a Tulsi (basil) plant on your next visit? The Tulsi is sacred; I will put it in my mandir (temple).”

This is the summer of 2009. We are at the Observation Home for Boys at Kingsway Camp, Delhi, surrounded by 25 juvenile offenders who have come to attend my Remedial Drama workshop. We are discussing dreams and aspirations and as the boys share their stories, Rahul asks me for a basil plant.
Robbery, Murder, Rape, Extortion – their crimes are brutal. Each boy feels falsely implicated, believes that the system is working against him. Most come from dysfunctional families, have no Role Models, no Heroes who can inspire them to find a way out of the horrific entanglement of drugs, alcohol and crime.
Our challenge is to make them aware of their choices in every situation, choices that will empower rather than debilitate them. We begin using the tools of Theatre and Expressive Arts and every few months a new intervention convinces me of the possibilities of a new start to these young lives.

This is the space from where our play “Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein” is born. Questioning the ever-widening chasm between the marginalized and the privileged, demanding accountability from a society that aspires more for Mercs and Mobiles rather than a qualitative education for all.

We have begun to work at a resettlement slum close by where many juveniles live and as I try to understand complex migration issues, I sometimes falter, grow weary. And then I remember my first conversation with Rahul, seven years ago.

“Rahul, tell me then, where does your God reside?” “In the temple that is within my heart!” he answers. “And when you pick up a knife to kill, where does your God go?” I ask. “Didi, the doors of my temple were open long before and my God has left me. I am still waiting for him to return!”

The Banyan is a healing tree, with a loving, protective aura that embraces all with its grace. Our play attempts to re-create this magical, expansive space in which everyone is welcome.

– Puneeta Roy, Managing Trustee – The Yuva Ekta Foundation, is Writer and Director for the play- ‘Bargad Ki Chhaon Mein- In the shade of the Banyan’ which will be travelling to Glasgow, Scotland in early October as part of National Theatre of Scotland’s project HOME AWAY.

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Yuva Ekta 2011-Dainiks Volunteer Diary

April 29, 2014

A year has passed by since the first time I bonded with various people from amazingly differing horizons. Having so many people who are brimming with ideas in one room just makes me go, “Whoa”! I find myself sitting in that same room with gazillions of thoughts that have already taken shape and those which are just ready to burst out.

Vaguely enough, I find myself not on time almost every day. Yet, my un-punctual character is greeted with smiles that peep through to show delight in its full glory. Else, I’m made to do push-ups that just get me even more pumping for the 3 hours that we spend together. The same (or some other ritual) is inflicted on anyone who’s late. Yet, it ends up making that very person sense things with a whole new dimension and a colorful perspective.

So lost in the midst of wonderful people, I find it hard to keep track of my experiences in their chronological order. Each moment is so exciting and stimulating that one gets lost in it like a man would in a universe filled with shiny stars. And then there are those extra special moments when an otherwise quiet person bursts out with joy on experiencing their new found treasure.

Some do get “tired” in the warm up sessions, but all of that fades away once we start cracking jokes at each other and begin our day. From loud “HA’s” to mind numbing physical exercises, we begin with little bodily and mental modifications every morning. These prep us for the whacky activities that hit us out of the blue. These are followed by more exercises targeted towards new muscles that we discover everyday (some are found inside my highly bald head as well). Sometimes it seems as if flexing my goatee muscles would be easier. Then we “break” off for a sip and a bite and wander around to reboot our complex personal utilities.

Me yelling “GOLA BANAO!” is a common site. After each one of us is back in the “gola”, we break off into groups trying to make tiny scenes of everyday life by pooling in our ideas. Ah! It would’ve been so tranquil if it were that simple! Numbers, losses of consonants, strange situations are only the beginning. Making us think harder, some awesomely beautiful ideas crawl out of nowhere. To state a few, we did sing “Ek, Do, Teen! Char, Paanch, Chey, Saath, Aath, Naw, Dus, Gyara! Bara, Tera!” in a disco scene, and then we broke out in thunderous laughter trying to articulate sentences without their consonants, like “U O-Ot U-Ar Oh!”

Always stumbling upon new ways to entertain each other, we end up learning bucket loads of new things. Three hours fly by as if it were only a minute, a room with tons of commotion falls silent within that minute and “chappals” keep disappearing and turning up at weird places (pranks carefully planned out by a mastermind who is still on the run). And then the long wait for a new day begins…

Danik Ghosh aka Boomba is a Bluebells School International graduate, who was part of the Yuva Ekta Workshops in Summer, 2011.

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