So I’ve put the pics up on Picassa and on FB too, I’ve seen some that others put up and revelled in the general excitement of Hamara Manch. But I can’t still help thinking how far the kids I’ve known for five long years have come….
I’m talking about my son Udai and his classmates, most of who joined Shikshantar when they were between the ages of 3 and 4. We were talking about the first ever Hamara Manch they did last night, when they played the role of vegetables, sending out and imbibing the message that different veggies provide different nutrients and so its good to eat everything! After the play, even usually detested veggies like lauki (bottle gourd) were eaten with enthusiasm, to the delight of parents in the class :)
From then to now, the messages have changed: they have explored themes from nutrition to environment, fantasy to storytelling through rhyme, rural life complete with accent, dialect and costume….. for me, the fun bit has been the complete absence of the moralistic tone in the narratives. Through song, rhyme and dance in the performance and artistic expression in the backdrops and costumes and music in the background, kids have taken up these themes on their own initiative, albeit prompted and moulded by their didis (teachers).Today, Udai’s class (Surya group) sang “i guess its time to plant a tree or two” as a reminder and challenge to themselves, not as a general diktat to the world.
From then to now, the children have grown in confidence, in their ability to express through their bodies, voices and hearts. There is no sense of “the stage” as they perform, comfortable in their own space and amongst their own people. I appreciate each time the sense of enjoyment and that there is absolutely no perceived stress among the kids or teachers. A far cry from the school performance I remember as a child. There was competition about who would get “chosen” to perform; today’s schools appreciate the importance of everyone getting a chance. One step further, Shikshantar appreciates all children, consciously avoiding comparison and working to bring out the strong points in every child to the fore.
We know this from experience. For the first three years, Udai was one of those lost little ones. He didn’t make eye contact, he day dreamed though his performance. As parents we watched, wondering where this was going with him, consigning him (yes, its hard to accept) in our minds as a non-performer, non-confiden kind of guy. He enjoyed the proces and being part of his group though, and we tried to be satisfied with that.
Last year though, we saw the miracle transformation. In a dhoti kurta, we saw Udai deliver his dialogues and perform ‘in the role’. The entire class, in fact, each and every child had blossomed into a performer, and taken the likes of Udai along, for good! We saw them all grow in confidence and poise this year. We also more many more elements of their own thinking, research and analysis this time.
The entire month before Hamara Manch is an intense experience for the kids; they focus their energies on the messages and experiences they would bring to the audience, their own parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings… They learn to work as a team, cooperate, disagree with grace, and compromise too! They learn to appreciate criticism from elders and peers. These are life lessons of immense value.. And most of all, teachers play a pivotal not a dictatorial role. And parents, they know nothing of it till they watch their kids perform…it’s top secret and that the BEST part :)
There’s a lot of lessons I want to pick from the kiddos- the dedication, focus, effort, teamwork, creativity, analysis, attitude and most of all, the ability to let your work speak for itself!