The Outreach- 11 years, Many Meanings, Many Outcomes

15th - 29th January, 2018 Jaipur, Rajasthan

This is our eleventh year of facilitating the Youth Outreach Program at the Jaipur Literature Festival and it is a familiar drill. Phone calls to schools and NGOs inviting participants, sorting out logistics of travel and accommodation, all happen seamlessly. In our constant efforts to stay relevant and inspiring for the students, we chose the theme of Emotional Intelligence as a yardstick to measure self awareness and leadership abilities. Little do we realize what an emotional roller coaster we are all embarking on, as our 55 participants bring their innately diverse stories and experiences to the workshop.

A quick glance at our friends from rural NGOs will explain the dynamism of the tapestry we are working with!

Papu, Rekha, Indira and Bhagyashree come from the Bikaner district of Rajasthan. A 450 kms journey to Jaipur is normally completed in a twelve-hour train ride. In this case however, it takes more than a month’s effort for them to reach Jaipur. Members of the Urmul Seemanth Samity work tirelessly for weeks to get permissions from their families. There is an obvious fear. A girl living outside her home (let alone their village) for 15 straight days is daunting. Apart from the men in her family who travel to the city to find work, nobody else has dared to travel to nearby urban districts.

In what is a minor geographical contrast to Bikaner, Leela, Choti and Suman travel from Bassi Village, that shares nothing with Jaipur city apart from its vicinity. Doosra Dashak has been working with the youth in the village to reduce this disparity. While distance might not be a problem for members of Bassi village, the daunting nature of their daughter’s stay in Jaipur definitely is.

Doosra Dashak and Urmul Seemanth Samity have been sending their participants for the Jaipur Literature Festival’s Youth Outreach program for the best part of this decade. In its 11th year, the Outreach has acquired a special meaning for every participating institution. Urmul and DoosraDashak make sure send first generation women learners for our workshops. At the YuvaEkta Foundation, we harbor a vision of Social Equity and Empowerment, as we invite young participants from schools and NGOs across the country. Keeping aside divisions of caste and class and distances of the rural-urban divide, the aim is to create a novel inclusive experience.

Speaking of distances, Anil, Dharmendra, Shivjit, Jayshree, Sapna and Karan have crossed a state border to enter Rajasthan. For the second year running, participants from The Rural Changemakers and the Kabir Foundation bring the joy of skateboarding to our workshops. Skateboarding has transformed the lives of people in Janwaar village, in the Panna district of Madhya Pradesh. Helping break barriers of a traditional caste divide, it has managed to give their youth a chance to express themselves. But what happens when the Yadavs and the Adivasis of the village stay away from their parents’ eyes? Would it also mean staying together in the same room and breaking centuries of separation that has kept them apart?

The Banjara community from Udaipur district wonder what the future holds for them. Even today, young boys betrothed in their childhood know that the time to start and support their own families is close. While their travel might not be restricted, their lives certainly are. The Olakhaan Trust has been pushing for community members to break age-old customs like child marriage and open up to new horizons. Shambhu Lal Banjara, a participant in 2014, is back in 2018 as his contingent’s coordinator, stronger, committed and opinionated.

Commitment is also reflected in Varju’s and Gudiya’s attitude. Coming to Jaipur for the second time as a part of Jan Chenta Sansthan, they are confident to interact with the group and share the changes they have been through. Their coordinator, Ms. Navli Kumari finds Jaipur to be a space where she can break out of the village confines and actively contributes to the workshops.

Living in Jaipur, one might expect Nandini, Manisha, Sahil and Pooja to get the same opportunities as their urban counterparts. However, studying in a Government School under the guidance of Jagriti Foundation, they tell us how nervous they are about joining our workshops. For Manisha, meeting a score of people in a strange environment is a fear she has to overcome. Today, she confidently greets you with a smile on her face and shares her joy of interacting with new people.

Then there are Kunal, Suhail and Abbas, energetic and vibrant, traveling to Jaipur for the first time. The children of sex workers in Delhi, they have come into the workshop through their parent NGO Kat-Katha, with whom we have partnered for the first time. Excited and nervous as a new path stretches ahead of  them, they spend a week of intense self reflection with 55 young adolescents from within and outside Jaipur – embarking on an inner journey of Emotional Intelligence that can be traumatic as it is empowering!

It is the fifth day of the workshop when Kunal breaks down. He is watching a scene being performed of a woman trapped into a web of prostitution, after a middleman takes advantage of her poverty. This is his mother’s story and the role play takes him back to painful memories. As Kunal opens up gradually, we realize that he carries tremendous unresolved anger – at himself, his family and the world. Standing on the Samvad Stage at JLF, it is a moment of Truth as he steps forward to speak his monologue, releasing his aggression as he talks about his anger.

55 participants from 13 institutions across the country came together a week before the Jaipur Literature Festival for this program. Five Jaipur schools ie. Jayshree Periwal High School, Jayshree Periwal International School, Rukmani Birla Modern High School, Maharani Gayatri Devi Girls’ School and St. Xavier’s Sr. Sec. School partnered with eight NGOs namely Doosra Dashak (Bassi Village), Urmul (Bikaner), Jagriti (Sanganer), The Rural Change Makers (Janwaar, MP), Kat Katha (New Delhi), Kabir Foundation (Khajuraho, MP), Jan Chetna Sansthan( Abu Road), and Olakhaan Trust (Udaipur).

Through the course of the 7 days, different facets of Emotional Intelligence were explored and each participant was encouraged to ideate and express.

Tushar talked about the conflict with his sibling and how despite constant quarrels, his sister was always there for him when he needed support. Shivjit narrated the struggle he went through when his parents made him change schools and he lost all his friends. Karan shared how he feels when his friends are always cracking jokes at his expense. Anjali shared her struggle of dealing with body image issues when her classmates made fun of her complexion. Poorvi expressed how fights between her parents affected her, and how she later discovered that they were going through a crisis of their own.

These any many more stories came together in a play titled Bhavnaon ki Nagri– The world of Emotions’.

After performing in 12 schools and one village in Jaipur, our performance finally finds its way to the Jaipur Literature Festival Grounds. This year’s performance is even more special, as for the first time the performance is part of the Festival’s programming. The performance is staged at Samvad, one of the venues of the Festival. The standing ovation at Samvad is testimony to the deep connect that our young performers have made with the audience.

Workshops, performances and warm abiding friendships – in an effort to give back to the city of Jaipur, JLF has been hosting the Youth Outreach program for over a decade now, which has been growing bigger each passing year.

Over the past 10 years the Outreach has explored diverse themes like ‘Gender Justice’, ‘Human Rights’, ‘Environment Sustainability’, ‘Freedom of Expression’ and ‘Finding Me’ using Theatre and Expressive Arts. Each year the theme gets more intense, the stories become more personal.

The Jaipur Literature Festival’s Youth Outreach program 2018 reached out to 4500 students, teachers, community members and JLF visitors.

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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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