Thursday, June 25, 2009

You Don't Need To Know Hindi To Dance

June 25, 2009

Whenever you fall you get up.

When “things are bad, they can only get better”.

After yesterday- a blur of anger and resentment- today was fresh.

Heavy rains waking me up, I put Teva sandals on my feet instead of sneakers

This is a change in me. Before this project others had told me “wear close-toed shoes in the slums, you don’t know what kind of things are on the ground there.” When it rains the grounds are muddy and in that mud can be bugs, trash, non-hygienic things relating to the bathroom, etc.

Today I saw past it all. In truth, wearing sneakers isn’t that helpful anyway because they get wet and muddy- but there is still a sense of protection.

With my sandals I had a new attitude for the day. The past few days have been a blow to my self-esteem and confidence- doubting my skills, leadership abilities and interests in life. I have been more passive role in and out of the classroom, have not wanted to connect with the children, and in one word: distance.

Calm, fun, be with the kids.

Passing the spot where the cat used to lie, we are asking the family nearby. “It died yesterday. Got washed away by the rains…” This was a completion, (maybe to my major frustrations), and a lead in to the birth of the play.

Peeping my head from the ladder into the classroom I hear the kids screaming “teacher!” It still gets to me. Every time. The excitement in their voices, smiles, hands waving.

Immediately I notice the leader of our class, worried anxious upset?

I start thinking of reasons: she is nervous for the play because we have given her such a big part? She is starting to realize that we are leaving in a few days? She is looking out the window longingly, gazing at the rooftops: is she thinking that we are a symbol of hope like Manjul said, but that she is losing hope in herself for the future? I don’t know.

We show the kids a videoclip on children performing street theatre. Interested in their reactions I am looking at them all watching…smiles on their faces! When the boy in the dvd starts hitting the girl (as a drunk man coming home and hitting his wife) many of the kids, specifically the boys, had huge smiles on their faces and were laughing at this. Even one boy was clapping. Why? Why does it bring this reaction to them when they are dealing with this reality on a regular basis? These kids are starting to think about their lives, but are they thinking that this physical abuse is wrong? If this is the way they are brought up and aren’t exposed to much outside culture and customs (except t..v occasionally), then what gives them the moral understanding that this is wrong?

At recess Gayatri turned to me, positioned her arms to play the swirling game and asked if I would play. WHAT?! A sign that today would be full of liveliness! I twirled with her, she was so happy and free.

The music played from the laptop, and all of a sudden the bare classroom turned into a playful fun house. Jumping, Bollywood dance moves, swinging kids upside down like planes, shaking bodies left right up down, we were laughing, having fun, twirling more with the kids we were in it. Everyone was smiling, kids were excitedly coming back from break. Now there is a new definition of recess. We were actually playing and enjoying each other’s company.

We asked one kid: what do you want to be when you grow up? “Police”. Us: Who wants to be a policeman here?

4 boys stood up and improvised a scene. Came Everyone contributed (the rest of the kids who are sitting in a circle) to the scene by making sounds of a police car.

Next: who wants to be a teacher?

Two girls went up and immediately a bunch of little ones went up to play students…

One of the “teachers” was confidently in charge, she went straight into saying “a is for apple…” teaching the kids a lesson. It is true, this is a moment where the kids can believe they are in their fantasy job world. Next was doctor.

One of my goals today was to appreciate the kids. It is starting to sink in that I am only here for a little more time!

Time to practice WAH! We changed the word after a while to “Sooonooo”, which means listen. Today’s agenda was working with the kids games that we had played during the week (Manjul’s idea) and adjusting them to themes related to their lives and ultimately the play..

We practiced walking in from a line clapping, singing the song and going straight into the Soonooo Soonooo. The older boy looked proud leading the group, and all the kids were involved- yes!

Next we worked out the scenes from our original script- which is great. Started off with scene of drunk dad coming home to beat up mom. Originally we didn’t have the boy who had told us his story, acting it out. Too personal?

In the end this boy really wanted to act out the dad. We let him do it- and with full confidence and expression and energy was it acted out! So well! Watching Gayatri’s expression the whole time, it was full of sorrow and excitement and pride and nervousness.

A girl who came out and sang then inspired another girl to come out (who had been in the corner the whole time!)

That’s how it works- peer pressure or peer support. Works both ways. You want to be the cool one= the person who is entertaining, who is confident, who has the spotlight.

We ended with the kids sitting in a meditative position with eyes closed and hands on their laps, open.

Meditation: On how this has been a great day and not to forget what we have done!


I have never sweat like this before in my life.I believe I was at an ultimate high because: 1) dancing requires no verbal language 2) I love dancing in general.The kids were remarkable: Shaheel was doing a sort of breakdance routine. The whole time- nonstop.

I couldn’t have asked for more.

Complete disbelief: how did this happen?

I am very proud. It seems like after all the sweat and panting all the way through training and reflections, if anything this day was the day that proved to me that it was ‘worth it”.

Everyone was having fun. We didn’t divide the class, as I had thought was completely necessary to be productive.

Also a touching moment was at the end of the day when all these kids went up to Juhi and Sriya with their notebooks asking for homework. They wanted us to write them words to learn. I want this scene in the play. (Look at picture on the right)

What a hunger for education. You don’t see this everywhere. It was beautiful.

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