Sharoni Mitra

In the month of April I finally got a call back from CINI to work as their summer intern. It was one of those extremely humid days that one rarely forgets; I travelled to their office to speak about the internship. Waiting on the second floor I was just anticipating what kind of a supervisor and work I would be given. Thankfully my supervisor spent more than thirty five minutes understanding my interests and abilities. She made me in charge of the ongoing project which was in collaboration with another NGO called UROTAAR. The person who was in charge of the project from CINI and had initiated this was leaving due to personal reasons hence I sat down with him and understood his ideas and prospects for the project. She then handed over the project to me and delineated my responsibilities and guidelines. Essentially I was just going to document the whole project. However, she expanded that horizon and asked me to work as the liason between both the NGO’s.

The project received funding from the Han’s Foundation. The final motive was to make a few children of Tangra perform a street play. The workshop for the street play took place thrice a week and rendezvoused fifteen times through the next month. The script, inspired by The Jungle Book, was directed to convey a message specifically to the young children living in the slums of ‘Tangra’. These children came from impoverished economic backgrounds and were victims of cruel adversities and traumatic experiences; some had fallen prey to child abuse, while most of the others were deprived of basic necessities required to sustain life. When I first met the blooming young actors, I was just astounded by the way they greeted me and made me feel a part of their family. The initial mistake was that I was looking at them with guilt and sorrow, but towards the end I realised they first needed to be seen as equal individuals or else an automatic division is being created which was hampering smooth flow of conversation between us. So I made an effort to be a part of them and look at things from their perspective.

The street play served as a channel for the children to voice their opinions regarding the right to education. Each day was a unique learning experience. For the first time, the group of thirteen children were being taught something exciting. Singing and dancing with the members of UROTAAR was only a small fragment of it. It was almost astounding to see the children internalize their characters and express their emotions through the different roles they stepped into.

The initial classes were devoted to make the children understand the relevance of the play in the modern world. In what followed, the children were exposed to dialogues and gestures which gave them clarity into their thoughts and helped them express creatively. As the weeks went by, the children developed an extraordinary sense of hand-eye coordination for every act and rose with immense confidence. The idea of performing before hundreds of unknown faces ignited an irreversible spark in their hearts. They were resolute on leaving an impact on their audience and kept working harder. They took pleasure in exploring new aspects about themselves, which further helped their conceptions of the self evolve: the quiet ones in the group were finally coming out of their shells, the non-dancers were prancing about, and the singers were improvising and matching their melodies.

Their final rehearsal on the field turned out to be a rather motivational act. While practicing, they managed to gather a huge audience from their neighbourhood. Seeing people enjoy their performance boosted their spirits and made them even more fearless. The first show took place in the midst of the slums in Tangra itself. It showed how the rabbit, a small and bodily weak creature, used knowledge and education to defeat the lion’s cub who believed in external strength to be the exclusive source of all power. The act ended with the lion being replaced by the rabbit as the king of the jungle, thus, showing the dominance of education over physical strength. This was just one of the aspects about the whole project but what I perceived from the whole experience is that education can be taught in different ways and methods. Street play or acting is a method which will definitely help enhance the children’s knowledge and awareness in a fun and exciting manner.

The young children and I became close and they often shared their problems and spoke about various injustices met out to them. One girl took me to her house to meet her parents, It made me understand that they were confiding in me which helped my confidence grow. I had learnt something very important from them, even in the most adverse situation one has to learn to find joy and work hard to achieve a person’s goal. I got inspired by their determination and will always remain very fond of all of them. I was a referred to as Mam during the rehearsal of the play but a friend during the breaks. Each role taught me more about my own capabilities and I remain thankful to CINI for providing me with such an opportunity.