Monday, June 22, 2009


June 22nd, 2009- Monday

OMG- WHAT A DAY!! The rollercoaster ride never ends!!!..or maybe I’m exaggerating it—but that’s an integral part of describing this INCREDIBLE experience!

So today I woke up extremely lazy, as if I had to go to work after a long weekend..a really odd feeling. It took me the entire car ride to Sriya’s house to wrap my head around the fact that we were going back to Samna Nagar, back to our children. To tell you the truth, I don’t know if I was completely excited. I had felt the peak in my energy levels the week before and now it felt like I was exhausting- slowing but at an incremental rate. At this point, not only did I feel physically exhausted, but also mentally didn’t feel the same. Anyhow, I was still excited about our progress with the children- so Zohar and I left early to meet at Sriya’s house for a meeting before we entered “the zone”.
From the plan that we had made for the week during training, we had decided that today we wanted to finalize the script topic, identify the leaders within the children and instill some more confidence and focus in them and update the Parivartan staff on what we were up to and what our plan of action was for the week to come. So we planned for half an hour at Sriya’s house and also for an hour on our way to Wadala. We reached there at 1:15pm and went directly to Gangadhar’s office. He mentioned the fact that Gayatri teacher wasn’t at school yet as she had to take care of some work for student’s admissions in the formal schools. We spoke to Gangadhar for a while, giving him updates, and then we told him about our idea of taking the students of our class for an “educational trip” planned for Wednesday. Wednesday was impossible, so he shot that down within one go- we suggested Thursday, but he was reluctant. He said that there were many issues involved but it was possible- so we should have a meeting with the teachers and us after school. The plan we had in mind was to take the students by bus (which was to be arranged as a donation by Sriya’s mom’s friend) to South Mumbai to see another street play that Manjul was working on with kids from Seva Sadan, possibly have our kids do a little skit for the kids from Seva Sadan, then go to Mani Bhavan, The Gateway of India, and then possibly meet and interview a doctor, lawyer and policeman. The purpose of this was not only seeing and experiencing theatre through children they could relate to, it was also experiential learning- build their confidence, get some visuals – try being creative and get inspired by actually coming face to face with their dreams.

So after speaking to Gangadhar, we went over to the classroom – regaining some levels of energy and excitement on hearing my favorite salutation “ HELLLOOOO TEACHERRR!!” :D The three of us walked in when Gayatri teacher was working with the kids on the Hindi alphabets. I noticed (then soon confirmed) that there were atleast 4 new students I hadn’t seen before. We quietly sat at the back until she stopped to come over to us. We explained what we planned to do today. I mentioned to her that we would need all her help possible to go through this process- she readily agreed. By then it was around 2 pm. She asked us to take over the class until she went and called all the kids to come to school. She said that this was an everyday routine as that was the only way they would come. Some of them were too busy playing, some were doing some work and then some have gone to some place with their families and couldn’t get back in time for school.

We first sat in a circle and went over names and saying “one thing that you would like to do when you grow up that you haven’t been able to do before”. Eg: I want to fly a plane. This game went extremely slow as expected. So we switched it up- shook it up a little. Broke up the group into 3 groups and then worked with just them. Gayatri and Zohar were together and I helped a little with the translation- but mostly Zohar managed as she always miraculously does. Sriya and I had our own groups- and each group had 1 or 2 leaders that would tell the rest of the students on how to act. We gave them objects like ‘tree, house, train, animals, etc”. After a while we made it competitive and got the students to show it to each other- while the others have to guess.

Next game we got them to get into a circle and then mentioned scenarios. Asked those to step forward if anyone related to them. Eg: I would ask one kid “what’s your religion”- she said “muslim”- then all those who were muslim had to step forward. The one that got me thinking was when I asked someone “when I fight with someone I resolved the problem by…” he said “hitting”.. then many children stepped forward- I told them to step back since it was a bad thing. One boy ran as far as he could, laughing the entire time. I asked him why he did that? Hitting a lot? He, just like the other kids, didn’t realize that it was wrong- just seemed like a “done thing”. It got me thinking- the reason why we’ve been having such a hard time with the script has been because these kids don’t really identify with these situations as ‘adversarial’ but just a part of their daily routine. Their exposure so limited that they haven’t really experienced a life beyond. Which made me think that maybe ignorance IS the key to happiness at present. Empowerment is one thing- what about the consequences of empowerment!? There are many questions of development that don’t really have a straight answer- which make it even harder to work with conceptually. Anyhow, the game ended when we were all really close to each other. We gave each other a huge group hug and then said something that now sounds cheesy (but is still important) “spread only love and not hate”!!

After this we decided to let the children off for a 15 minute break- more because I needed it than them. Although things were going OKAY so far, I can’t really type out the energy levels in the class room. For some reason today everything felt like a challenge. The students were extremely restless and I was getting worried about 1 or 2 kids losing interest. Sriya, Zohar and I tried to brainstorm on how to change things and proceed to make optimal use of time for the purpose of our script. We finalized a few ideas and then got broke up into 3 groups again. This time however, we decided to break them up by age. Sriya and Zohar worked together on the middle aged group with the topic of education, Gayatri teacher worked with the youngest kids on the topic of cleanliness and I worked with the oldest kids on gender discrimination. Now, although we had the groups broken up- it was EXTREMELY hard to get the students to focus and work together as a team. I finally gave in, assigned them roles and gave them specific scenes to work on. It was extremely chaotic but we pulled of a great 10 minute play! :D Each group performed for the others. The audience wasn’t really paying as much attention – and there was more chaos, but they still enjoyed it.

We finished class 20 minutes passed deadline, Zohar and Gayatri’s phones were on silent so they didn’t see Gangashar’s missed calls until we were done with class. We walked over quickly to his office, ofourse he wasn’t in the best mood. Ashni teacher (the other classes’ teacher) was already there. I gave them a quick update on what our plans for the outing was. That’s when Gangadhar intervened and said that he didn’t think it was a good idea. He gave us some reasons that I could detail in the next post when I’m not as exhausted. Basically, there wasn’t really a conversation with the teachers. He said he spoke to Shakil and they collectively came to the conclusion that there was no way that the students could go. That was a dissappointing moment, but we calmly tried to understand his views. We had that meeting for a good half an hour and went back an forth with the options and addressing all administrative and conceptual concerns- but came to the conclusion that it was a bad idea. Ashni teacher barely said anything, but Gayatri teacher walked back with us to the bus stop..chatting the entire way there.

We came home to Sriya’s house again, went over the day- reflected, noted issues, and tried to go over the next day’s specifics. However, we were quite flustered with a few issues- 1) How do we make a group of diverse students who can’t read or write – write a script!?!?! 2) There were a few students that were losing interest. What do we do with them? How do you keep everyone interested!? 3) We needed a back up plan for the exploration trip. We really wanted to avoid calling Manjul until Tuesday. We did anyway- felt MUCH better although after an hour long conversation we didn’t have a concrete plan. His sense of calm and confidence always calms me down.

For now that will get me the sleep...

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