Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Mumbai “School” and “The Mumbai” City!

Our project was mentioned by the Hindustan Times, in Mumbai today –

It was another KIDS DAY OUT !
But the morning began, with a little painting exercise, with Seema Enand, a marketing professional but a ardent art lover and practitioner!

Once again, just using fingers and acrylic painted, each child painted his/her own canvas. We made them believe they were painters, and feel as if they are making their first professional painting.

Seema led them thru a little story about nature and its beauty, and each of them interpreted thru their own eyes!
It was a simple as brushing your teeth, and everyone was happy with their results.

We then set out to the Cathedral & John Conon School, in Colaba. The school, is supporting The 1000 Crane Project, as they believe deeply in the area of community and social development, which is a very important part of each student’s learning at the school. The bus was sponsored by the school, which picked us up from the TISS campus, and dropped us back.

So, it was a day for the children with the students of the school. The students, Riddhima, Jay, Naira, Aashna, Karishma, Upasana, Agni, Sangeeta and Mallika acted as their Mumbai buddies and took them to some of the key spots of Mumbai.

We began with Mani Bhavan, where they went thru the life history of Mahatma Gandhi thru the model gallery.

They were then taken to The Gateway of India, and of course, shown the famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel. The students were really great, as they had done their homework perfectly, with all the information from history, to structural details upto the current situations on each spot.

They also had fun, when we met with Uma Kadam, a photographer of The Times of India, Mumbai, who wanted to capture the children having fun with each other at the gateway. The kids started having so much fun amongst themselves, and with the photographer that in that confusion, I forgot to click a group photo of them in front of the Gateway of India ! 

Then we made some quick stops the Jehangir Art Gallery, Rajabhai Clock Tower and the Flora Fountain. Since, we could only get the students of the school after their school timings, we managed to see most of South Mumbai.

The best part of the day was to witness the interaction between the two groups. When we played a little name game before starting from the school, there was an air of discomfort and unfamiliarity, but by the end of the 4 hours we were driving across town, the buddies actually bonded. When we left, I actually heard, one of the students tell his buddy “ I will call you on your birthday!” and one of our children telling them that he wishes to leave Goa and come study at their school, and the students were very welcoming to the idea.
The objective of the day was for the children of The 1000 Crane Project to meet and interact with a group of young students like them from a different background, but realize that they are all the same, and feel empowered to try and work towards a better life.
On our way back, I was questioned by one “What do I need to do to study at TISS? I really wish to come to Mumbai and study more and then work here.”  My answer to him was “ Study hard ! Believe in yourself and you can get a scholarship, which will enable you to study anywhere in India and the world.”

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Moving Closer to the 1000 T-shirts for Fukushima

We had invited children from the Salaam Bombay Foundation, to be a part of the T-shirt painting exercise for the children of Fukushima.

The exercise began with the presentation of the story of Sadako Sasaki and the 1000 Cranes, and a short explanation of the hazards of nuclear power. After the presentation, they all painted their own crane T-shirt to be sent to the children of Japan.

We had a little spare time while the other volunteers were preparing the dining hall of the hostel at TISS to convert it into a painting workshop, so, we got our 10 Crane Project children, to become teachers of small groups, and teach them how to make the origami paper crane.

So, it was a complete exercise towards understanding the story of Sadako Sasaki, as well as sensitizing themselves with the understanding of nuclear power.

We had to remove the fabric canopy made by the kids yesterday from the common area, and bring it in to the boys hostel foyer, as it was being attacked by the monkeys in the open campus, but, hanging it in an enclosure actually made the crane woven into it more clearly.

We then did an exercise of Quick Painting! This is an exercise to test the visualization skills of a child as well as challenge the child to work with limitations – in this exercise it was time and tools.
They were just given paper, and acrylic paints, no brushes, pencils, erasers. And we kept giving them different themes which they had to draw /paint using their fingers, in a limited time! There were a no of spontaneously creative work that emerged.

We then had a short team building session conducted by Victor, a fellowship student at TISS, working in the area of ABT (Art Based Therapy).

We ended the day with a movie – Chillar Party. As much as they enjoyed the film, in the feedback after the film, they all seemed to understand the meaning of team work and friendship.  And, I can see the bonding increase, as they have by themselves between yesterday and today, amongst all these multiple activities managed to make 260 paper cranes already !!!!

Learning Patience thru Recycling Art !

It was a little difficult to bring the kids back to a work mode after a day of fun yesterday, and it was equally important to make them start working as a team.
So, the day started by our volunteer, Laura Drese, teaming them a team exercise, where communication and co-ordination had to be used to cross a bridge. Quite interestingly the girls worked well, whereas the boys were happy to be out. ( this time, the girls have outnumbered the boys, so they are feeling a little left out, this has been my only regret uptill now, and shall be more careful in the future.)

We then got serious!
I presented the story of Sadako Sasaki and the 1000 Cranes, explained the mission of The 1000 Crane Project.
The story did hit a chord somewhere, cause when I asked them if they wanted to learn how to make the cranes, there was a unanimous YES! And also an ambition – That they will also collectively make a 1000 CRANES!

We then met Arun John Lakra and Nitya Amarnath, freelance textile designers who work with recycled fabrics, Pradipta Ray, an animation flim designer and a versatile artist, Anirban Haldara, Fashion Designer and Co-owner of ThreeSixtyDegrees, a design company here in Mumbai and Nisha Jacob, a freelance graphic designer.
They came together, to work with the children on an installation piece related to the story of the 1000 cranes.
At first, the kids did not really quite get what was happening, but, once they explained to them, that they were here to show them how many different ways are there to use old fabrics apart from using it as a stuffing, or to make doormats! They got the objective of the day.
When they were told that we were all collectively going to make a large piece, they were excited!
It was decided that we would make a canopy from which we could hang large cranes to illustrate the flying crane in 3D. 

When we opened the boxes of fabrics donated graciously by Mandhana Industries, Mumbai, everyone’s eyes lit up seeing the different colours and trims and fabrics. Special thanks to my friend Jagvir Matharoo, who organized it all from Mandhana Industries.

The fun began, when we had to ask them all to start with the mundane task of tearing the fabric into strips that can be woven or knotted together! I started noticing that each ones patience levels were different, and quite a few gave up after cutting a couple of strips, and for some it just became a mechanical task.  The work started turning out more interesting when after creating the basic structure they kids were called in to start filling and weaving the frame.

Again, here, we gauged the patience levels, and the genuine interest in a collective task such as this. I must add that some were really into it, almost like a meditative exercise, and then went on and on, while a few just could not make sense of the task because they could not visualize the end result, and were just not ready to give it time either.

The cranes were made beautifully creating fabric-paper, and then doing origami. This also helped the kids get more practice into making more cranes.

At the end of the day, the piece was given finishing touches by the experts that had come, and then they hung it in a common area of the campus where it shall be visible to everyone on campus.
The kids did lose their patience by early evening, and were distracted by the little play area in front of some residential building in the TISS, campus.

Post dinner, I conducted a feedback session, they loved the final product in the form of a canopy and were proud that it was hanging in a public place, but the negative of the day was that they all got bored with the task, as they could not see the end product, and wanted to make something that will be made quickly, rather instantly.
That’s when the lesson of Patience was taught.
If you want to build a building, can it be built in one day? No!
If you have to pass your school, can you go straight to the tenth grade because you are bored going up one class every years? No!
So, if you dream big, then you should have the patience to endure all the pain and boredom that may come with it.
The day ended leaving them all thinking about the need to be patient, and then we related it to the fact that if they were going to attempt making a 1000 Cranes by the end of the workshop days, then they need tremendous patience for the same.

We all dispersed post dinner, determined to change!
Thank you Arun John, Nitya, Pradipta, Anirban and Nisha, you guys really tested the patience of the children, but, brought out a brilliant product in a day’s time!

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Slice of Mumbai - A Lesson on Friendship

We started our day by learning Bollywood Dance from Rupal, a young, budding and extremely talented lady, who started the day for the children in a very positive and energetic way. The kids took to liking her right away, and managed to learn some of the steps they’ve seen their favorite actors dance too.

Post this high energy session, they met my group of friends who have been a part of my life and experiences of years now, and it was a day planned with them.
Our first stop was at the exhibition called At Home, presented by Dekha Undekha – Conversations in Art & Health, an initiative of a non-profit by the name of SNEHA, that works in the Dharavi slums of Mumbai.
Getting to the exhibition was an experience by itself, as it is situated in the heart of the commotion of Dharavi.

So, packed in four cars, we drove thru the by lanes of Dharavi to reach the school where the exhibition is placed. The children were not very happy with the streets and lanes of Dharavi, full of people, dirt and other litter. But, when they walked into the exhibition area, all their faces lit up !

The exhibition itself was like as if we had walked into Alice’s wonderland from a street of disaster.
At Home: Conversations, is an extremely creative exhibition of art pieces related to everyday life, hurdles, stories and experiences of the women who live in the Dharavi slums. Using textiles, ceramics, painting and photography as mediums, the pieces have been painlessly created by the women themselves, and believe me it cannot be said it is the work of novices.
The display, the workmanship, the concepts are very very professional and compete with any professional work out there in the market.
A must see for all in Mumbai.

Coming back to our children, they had walked into Alice in Wonderland, and the first question in all their minds was "Why is such a lovely exhibition in a filthy congested place like this? "

Their questions were very nicely answered by the women artists themselves who personally took them thru each display, explaining the concept. Then, Priya Agarwal, one of the SNEHA’s managers, conducted a short creative exercise with the kids, and added their tiny artworks as well to the exhibition as well.

After an hour of learning and seeing beautiful art, it was time for my friends to take over the day. They wanted to let the children let their hair down a little and see a little of the city life. So, the first stop was lunch at a food court, which is like the most common eating joint visited by most city dwellers, since it gives you a choice of food. The kids had their first MacDonald’s Burger! Excitement Galore!

The lunch went as long as a four course meal! Then, we were all invited to Neesha’s house for Tea, and so they got to also see a typical Mumbai household.

After Tea, they were taken to a dog show organized by the K9 Club of Mumbai, and surprisingly all of them are animal lovers, and if they were given a chance each of them would have all adopted a pup each which were out for adoption.

We then returned by early evening to the campus. I thought they would be all tierd and would want to relax, but somehow their energy levels were high, and did not want my friends to leave, as they had all picked their favorites based on the conversations of sports to movies and food that they had with them. Also, the group wanted to present the dance they learnt in the morning to the friends.
So, we had an impromptu dance session, followed by a name game, in which the friends also joined. Eddy, Neesha, Hersh, Sheena, Prarthana, Kartik and Prachi. It was interesting and fun for the kids to have the adults play this game with them.

We ended the day with a little feedback session, and a lot of positive points as well as negative points came out, like they wanted to see more of Mumbai, not knowing that there is another field tour planned for them, the boys who are outnumbered wanted to play at the gaming zone of the Mall, but all in all a good day for them.
At the end the objective was for them to realize the Power Of Friendship, which they understood by spending the day with a group of friends who practically live and support each other everyday !

Thank you Eddy, Neesha, Hersh, Sheena, Prarthana, Kartik and Prachi, I can guarantee you that the kids are going to remember atleast one of you for the rest of their lives, and you have made them feel very special today, and surely motivated to keep working towards their dreams.