Adharshila Learning Centre is a unique school for adivasi children in Madhya Pradesh that views education as a tool for liberation...and a place of fun.

The Adharshila Learning Centre was started in 1998 by the Veer Khajiya Naik Manav Vikas Pratishthan.

The children have an active role in running the school.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The past 6 months


June – November 2011

     The academic session started with the first hand experience of rubbing shoulders with the regular school system. We were trying to admit our son in the 10th class, who was in Adharshila (an unrecognized learning centre) for the first 9 years. The papers, affidavits and all. We experienced the anguish of the hapless adivasi parents who have to run for the various certificates from panchayats to tehsils for months to get their children admitted. The photocopy shops make a heist. In this month farmers are running in search of two things - seeds and loans for the farm and certificates and hostels for the kids.

     Even though the rains tested every body’s patience the meeting for new admissions was a moral booster. New, excited children and parents. Nice way to forget those who have decided to leave. Even more encouraging this year was the group of people who wanted to open a new centre in Roshmal. Kukna an AMS activists mobilized parents of 3 villages to start a Centre in their village. He listed 35 parents, keen to start the new centre, formed a committee to manage the school and brought them to Adharshila for a one day meeting with us to understand the philosophy and structure of Adhrshila. Ultimately this didn’t work out as they couldn’t find anybody to run the centre. But it resulted in two young boys and girls coming to Adharshila for the teacher training program while studying for the 10th exam from open school. We hope they will be able to run such children’s centres after one or two years – a future plan. The children of Sakad village took lots of vegetable seeds and some tree plants for their homes.

     The 4th issue of Yuvaniya, a magazine for youth came out. We established a good rapport with the workers of Muskaan, an NGO working with Gond children in Bhopal slums who came to help in typing and editing the issue. We are currently working on the 5th issue, a special issue for the Adivasi Ekta Sammelan to be held in Rajasthan in January. We are after the main leaders of the Ekta Parishad to write for the issue. Through Yuvaniya, 4 writing workshops for adivasis were conducted from where most of the material for the magazine was generated.


Kamal
     Ex students – one of our oldest stars, Majali did us proud by agreeing to go to Bomliya paat a settlement (not a recognized village) in Burhanpur 200km away, to help the community and Adivasi Ekta Sangathan restart a school  which they had started three years ago. Another oldie, Kamal has taken a six month gap after graduation to visit organizations in other tribal areas. He went to Jharkhand and stayed with Arvind Anjum for 3 weeks. In the Adharshila Scholarship program one student of class 12th is being supported.

     Children are encouraged to participate in social and political events in the area. The Adharshila children’s song and dance troupe performed at two adivasi sammelans in Maharashtra and MP. Right now also they have gone to Zoida village in Maharashtra. Maybe the Naatak India Company will get to perform in Rajasthan. We are still trying to get sponsors ( hint for SRUTI ). The children performed a play in the school on 15th August, depicting the story of Independence. The senior students participated in two rallies held in Sendhwa and Pansemal. Two teachers also attended programs of an adivasi organization in the Pati block.
      
     Adharshila has been taking up the role of training teachers of community schools. In the first half this year 5 trainings were held. Two in the Kakrana School in Alirajpur district. Two boys from Burhanpur stayed here for a month for teacher training to help in the Burhanpur School. One training cum meeting was organized for adivasi teachers of five schools run by adivasi sangathan/communities. 15 teachers from the 5 schools participated. A great feeling of camraderie was felt amongst the teachers. Some common programs were decided – drawing workshops and folk story documentation. About 50 folk stories were collected in these schools in 3 districts. A Kahani Marathon was conducted at Adharshila where about 60 children, age 8 years – 18years and some villagers narrated stories for about 4 days, two hours everyday. About 15 children made illustrated books out of their stories. Hopefully we will be able to print a collection of some of these stories by the end of this academic year.

     In this vein three student teachers from Adharshila volunteered for a month at a remote school run by Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan in Barwani District. We too were invited to take a course at TISS, Tuljapur to do an Educations Skills course for the final year BSW students. It was interesting to compare there infrastructure with ours both for 150 children. Jayashree conducted a women’s training for the Satna group voluntarily.

     Lot of work on basic curriculum development was completed. Most of the math curriculum for the primary and some modules for the middle schools were made thanks to Mansi. Work on English and Hindi language primers also went ahead. Jayashree tried her hand at illustrations quite successfully. Two interns from TISS, Mumbai, doing Masters in Elementary Education helped document two social science modules one each in Geography and History.

     Vibhore was with us for 3 months intermittently, under the Adharshila Fellowship Program. While volunteering he was engaged in thinking about the question of bringing social change through education.     
     
     This year a poultry was started by the two students who went for training in the summers. So now we have an organic farm, cattle shed and poultry, looked after by the children under the guidance of adults. The poultry has more than 50 birds, starting with 7.  the organic farm has given us about 4 quintal veggies uptil now. This year we also have a papaya plot. These activities are important for us as one of the basic premise of this educational program is that we – adults and children - should engage in the activities that are done by the villagers. One group has made a potato plot for themselves. Another group developed a herbal garden which lasted for 4 months. 

 
Students and teachers constructing the hen cage
Our newest residents

Field preparation
Group fertilizer preparation
     Many inhouse workshops were conducted for and by children on Origami, craft, math, story writing etc. Children of one group have become avid bird watchers. There is an origami group. At least 6 children have tried there hand at violin. Two are still persisting. Two parent meetings were conducted where the children presented what they had learnt. And kabaad se jugaad is happening always. First there was the kite fever – kites being made from plastic, then there were the plastic balls, bhingris etc.

     Some friends insist on coming to Adhrshila and they claim that they get a lot of inspiration. One such group is INSPIRE who bring NRI children to see the ‘real’ India. People from two NGOs also visited us. A group of villagers who wanted to start a school also stayed for a day. Some businessmen from Indore visited the ‘Sakad Ashram’ through some other friends. And lastly these days we have the annual visitor the Wagtail from the Himalayas.
    
     Construction of a kitchen extension shed was done and the mess hall was partitioned to make two rooms.

     We are 100 children and nine adults. A group of 8 senior children help Shevanta, Shanta and Badri bhai manage the show. This year almost all the day scholars have vanished due to the RTE and the stipend being given to children.






End of Term 1

20 September 2011

    

The children have gone off. What ever we do we can’t beat the joy of going home. The rain and wind have gone too. Silence is all around us. Even the bright multicoloured cosmos flowers, thin and elegant, cannot fill the silence with all their colours. The birds too seem to have quitened. The first term is over.
   
    



      Kamal has finished college and taken a drop of six months on our advise to roam around the country before he applies for MA Economics somewhere, which is before he sits for the IAS. He has long plans. We are looking for suggestions for a good college where the atmosphere is not laden with too much English and neo-liberal economists. He volunteered in a school run by a people’s organization and of course Adharshila where he has been brought up. He is going to spend some time in Bihar with Arvind an old friend and activist of the once famous Vahini group.

    We feel this is a natural extension of our work, to place children in good institutions in the fields of their interests. We have made a list and will try to seek admissions for higher studies for our and other deserving students.

  
      A small cat has come into our house. God sent. Freedom from rats. But she is all over the place now, only decent looking and loveable.

    We went to conduct a 5 day Education Skills course for the IIIrd year Bachelor of Social Work students at the TISS campus at Tuljapur, Maharashtra. It has about 160 students, 130 staff and 100 acres. The amount of resources pumped into an institution doesn’t necessarily mean quality education. One thing for sure, it means lot of wasteful expenditure and no use of creatively using resources. So the lesson learnt outside classrooms is of a wasteful, extravagant living with others doing all your labour work. How so ever much they may debate on the caste divide or factors of poverty and equality and other big words inside the class room. Routinizing such words is dangerous. It just might prove to be counterproductive. Words lose their edge when overused.

     We have 100 children, 10 staff and 6 acres. Every day we are thinking of improving our farm production or when will we become self sufficient in fuel wood. How can we reduce costs and improve quality with minimum resources. How will we fight these resource rich guys ? This keeps coming up again and again.


The pedagogy of social studies

     Sayonkia and Kuldeep, two master of elementary education students from TISS-Mumbai, each spend 2 weeks with us for their field attachment part of their program. Both of their backgrounds are in the social studies- history and geography, respectively. They stayed and documented projects, taught classes, shared their skills, and got a small taste of Adharshila life.

     Sayonika taught ancient civilizations to the elder students, engaged the Krishna-Brahmputra groups in a local and family history project, and documented some of our history modules. She is also a talented artist, and took some drawing classes focused on developing perceptual and observational drawing skills.

Jewelery Artifacts
The 'dancing girl' of Mohenjo Daro






Indus Valley Civilization
      Kuldeep engaged with the students over Project Map- which involved students learning about direction, space planning and measuring, map reading, and local, national, and global geography.

Students observing and drawing a
brick-made floor plan map

 Using maps and atlases
to understand where we are

A student's rendition of their own house
with accurate measurements and direction.

New Meaning of Faag

25 March 2011

One
      Faag maangna is a wide spread tradition in North India. To ask for grains is almost a traditional right of dalits in many states. In the western Indian districts of Alirajpur, Jhabua, Dhar, Barwani, Khargone etc.,five days after Holi is bhoor or gaanda dahda, literally translated – crazy days. It is adivasi tradition that groups of people dress up in interesting attires and go from house to house in villages and ask for Bhangoriya. People give grains or money or whatever they have made or brought for the festival. After five days of collection, the team has a joint feast (funded from the collections) where the whole village or hamlet eats together. Small groups of children also do the rounds. It’s generally fun time. Many teams block roads with boulders and logs and ask all those who pass by – on foot, cycle, jeep or truck or bus. Some teams of Alirajpur and Chota Udaipur and Dharagaon districts are so beautifully dressed that they are a big tourist attraction too.


Two
     People’s movements and activists have always been wary of funding agencies. But funds are needed. There is always an impasse. Ultimately many bow to the Funding agencies, taking indirectly, through agencies who are friends or not that bad etc. and keep nurturing a guilt complex at having succumbed to making a compromise. They try to work, mostly in donation mode. In spite of this having been a very important issue with activists, they have not been able to work out ways of reaching out to ordinary people to raise funds for their work. Many times they don’t have the time. Basically fund raising has to be seen as part of the political activity and politicization of people.

One plus Two
     There is no dearth of creativity and spirit at Adharshila. And being part of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetana Sangath tradition we are diehard about combining fun with politics. Jayashree decided to take to the streets during bhoor, after Holi with Adivasi Mukti Sangathan activist Bijoy bhai, a leading Congress leader Mr. Motiyani and a band of enthusiastic students and ex studs of Adharshila. A pamphlet was printed highlighting the state of the country due to the policy of liberalization. They distributed the pamphlets and explained the issues to the people while asking for faag to support various struggles taking place all over the country against land acquisition by highways, SEZs, mining corporations and the likes.

     It was also a great public relation exercise and there were some interesting interactions with people. Some reacted with much empathy like the police commissioner – who told us how alarmed he was at the 165 Adivasi suicides that came across his desk in rural Sendhwa Thana in the past year alone. Others reacted with less emotion – like a hardware store manager who didn’t see the point of what we were doing with the flyer, as all the information could be found daily in the newspapers. And others with questioning minds – What you’re doing is fine, but is it really going to change anything? I mean, if people, just planted trees that would be more change than anything. Our response to this last comment… You are so right! Come to Sakad, and see our school. What was once barren land is covered with greenery because of our students and teachers planting and raising trees.
    
      We hit everywhere we could from chai-walas to local public offices. They were people we had pre-existing relationships with, and many new friends were found.
    
     The money collected from the faag is to help people doing this kind of consciousness - raising work and to take forward the work of people’s struggles. Though our team was small (as most of our students were on break), our presence was definitely felt and appreciated.


We hope to do it even bigger next year ……….




End of year goodies!

2011 is winding down...

but we have a few posts to be back-tracked.


 Enjoy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Diverse Actions all Around

Once again we have a small poultry with seven hens and a cock. The hens have started laying eggs. A new platform is being made to put the hen cage. The platform so the rats and snakes don’t dine on the hens. Shanta our nursery teacher has found a new passion, doing masonary work almost everyday. The cock crows regularly at 5.45 am and everyday the kids visit them and watch them eagerly, jumping, fighting and contemplate.
Shanta and others working diligently to construct the hen cage
          Sowing is complete. The amazon group had an English lesson on the farm and are trying hard to remember words like sorghum and millets and ploughing. Study has become regular for everybody. The water project is over and we are thinking of preparing a play on the theme of independence or more aptly - in dependence. The senior students said that they want to observe the weather but chickened out when they realized that it meant recording a lot of things everyday. Does anyone know where to get a hygrometer to meausure humidity ? Also they want to know how the groundwater got collected inside the earth. They also calculated the volume of a drop and the amount of water wasted in one hour from the water tank.
learning is live...

 There was a lot of frisbee playing in the week with the visitors Adam(Canada) and Nihal(Bangalore) and the INSPIRE group – 9 NRI children from the US, spending a month in India visiting NGOs.
fris! fris!
 Pumpkins, beans, gourds and ladyfinger have grown. We have planted about 50 papaya plants prepared in our inhouse nursery. Lakhs of subabool plants have grown every where. Our weeding strategy is to first weed around the vegetable plant. The rest of the space will be weeded after about 10 days when there is one or two leaves in the subabool. This will provide precious nitrogen diet to the plants. Right now we are preparing the flower beds to add a dash of colour to the green.

There was a random guy from Rajasthan, from some company who came and showed paper cutting techniques and croche work. His prize was that he sold off a few needles to the kids. It seems they are a group of about 50 young boys going around the village schools.


One of our bulls was not well. He had stopped eating. Now he is allright and is grazing. The other bull banged his horns into the cow’s head (his mother), breaking a horn. This led to much consternation as the cow is due to deliver in a month.

  Finally after a month the climbing ladder for children has been made. ..and three snakes killed.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Beginning - July 2011


Well, finally the year has started at Adharshila.

All the rooms cleaned, most things placed in their places. Teachers know where to go when and the children too. How fast they adapt to a system, poor chaps. We have started knowing them a little, which ones come near and the ones who change course on seeing elders.

Initially we were sceptical about the number of children. Though 35 parents got there children registered in the meeting for new admissions, they did'nt turn up till one week. It was getting late and late. The monsoon was just not coming, just strong winds. People here, first think about the farm and then the children. As they have to take credit for both the ventures and of course the farm is more important. As the there was no sight of the monsoon the money lenders had stopped giving credit to the farmers not even after keeping silver. Every year at this time we think about good, free education for the poorest section of the people but stop short, thinking of fund raising as we are not into the institutional funding mode and rely on friends for support.

With no kids and no rains around we started dissecting the whole project of education, schooling and the uselessness and all the negatives and started wondering what we were doing here.

Eventually the rains came and the children too and ended all the conversations and rubbished all theories. About forty new faces, mostly boys though. Now we are around 80, twenty short of last year. Most of them are below 12 -13 years. Two have come to study for the 10th open school exam and help in the school.

Our house too, now has a semblance of order. The rats have come down to a tolerable number. The plumbing line damaged due the uprooting of a tree near our water tank has finally been repaired and we have water in the one and only kitchen tap. Removing the tree was a very arduous task requiring hard labour of senior boys for almost six hours, done over two three days.

There is electricity, touch wood. It can come and go in a snap - very erratic like the rains this year. Actually this time of the year the demand for electricity is very less but the excuse for not coming are lightening and strong winds which damage the long wires and transformers. Valid excuse they say but we shell out for the burnt out laptop chargers and inverters. (inverter blown twice and one laptop charger gone in the past 15 days, we don’t count the mobile chargers as they are just 80 bucks).

But all this was not as easy as writing this paragraph. It took us and everybody here about two weeks and still we are on our toes. But the great thing is that we can do our own plumbing, and electricity repairs, and battery maintenance, in- house.

The children have been divided in three groups. Those who don’t recognize the alphabets and numbers, those who know all this, a little and the elder ones who have been here. There are two elder boys 8th pass and 9th fail, are training to help small children and about organic farming and whatever else goes on here. For starters most of the time is taken by singing and playing and vocal exercises and exploring the campus and surroundings. The main themes are rain, farming and water. So we have on the menu lot of songs, folk mostly, and exercises with water – words related to water and rain, why does water rise in a brick, which one is faster, sounds produced by water, how many drops of water my bottle can take… it will go on for almost twenty days.

And yes, we have set up our music room with two each of harmoniums, tablas, guitar and a small casio and dholak. Only thing lacking is a teacher. Please forward this to aspiring volunteers. Four children have started on the tabla and violin.

The best news at the end – Jayashree’s new venture this year is the poultry, so we have acquired three hens and cock which is crowing right now. This is being taken care of by Abhishek who went to an exposure visit to Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, to learn from the work of ANTHRA, an NGO.

Second, Majli a girl from the first batch of Adharshila has done us proud by helping Manish, in starting a new school in a very remote village with no electricity and road. The community had run a school for two years with our help but it had stopped. This year it’s on, again. Let’s see if Majli can take it forward. There are around 40 children there. She needs all support from all of us and friends.

Manish, will also be helping at Adharshila this year, while seeing the new school with Majli.

And thanks to Adam (a student of Environmental Science, Toronto, Canada) and Nihal (engineering student from Bangalore, India), who visited for a few days, for the pictures.

Bye for now. Hope to connect again soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Blood in Old Huts

Since last two years it has become a tradition ( i think two years qualify for a tradition in this fast paced world) that as soon as the hostel children leave for home on holidays the children from the Achchaliya hamlet of our village take over the campus.

They had been eying the huts for a long time, while passing this way, going to their fields or grazing cattle. Yesterday the school children left and today the Achchaliya kids came and promptly asked if they could also make huts. Yes of course, you can !!

Immediately they started repairing, making new rooms - walls and roofs and floor. They got a place to live of their own. They will happily water the tomato plot, trees, draw, learn a few English sentences. We couldn't take them beyond this last time. Lets see what all they do now.

One thing is that they are going to have a haircut. This costs 15 rupees in Chatli whereas they can learn to do it themselves here for free, here. Maybe we will take a nominal cost to get new scissors.

No they don't go to school but they come to Adharshila in the holidays. Once we named this place -Pooriyaan Jaaga, meaning children' s space. It is now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Children's village v/s School


…It is 3:00 of a sunny afternoon and wandering through Papita Hamlet, I find my way to Mullya’s hut, where kids are hooked with sheets of paper folding them into origami birds, boxes, and stars, which they hang from the ceiling. After he gives me some cool water, I move on to the Boyda Hamlet, where Sanjay gives me a tour- their house is under construction. He shows me the small enclosure they had just built for one of the new mother dogs and her puppies. We hang out in his neighbor Suklal’s house where he is copying song lyrics in his notebook, and begin to sing out the songs.

Adharshila is abuzz with energy. Very hectic activity. It starts at eight in the morning and children have to be dragged out at five or six in the evening. Since the last three weeks children are fully engaged, making small box like rooms for themselves, from anything they can lay their hands on – twigs, gunny bags, plastic, cloth, ropes, old anything.

They are sitting there, eating there, playing, chatting, reading and writing also, drawing. But mainly they are building the room, already repairing, rebuilding, changing location, decorating and going around.

It started as a joke but now it’s full time. Kids often play ‘make-believe’ which mimics reality. But this has everything to do with reality- the kids have brought in water pots for cool water, clothes washing spaces with drainage, a common open space with park-like benches, and racks for books, clotheslines, curtains, and small brick enclosed verandahs. A dry latrine is under construction. Outside one of the homes, a Subabool sapling and aloe vera plant have been planted and being drip irrigated (an overhung plastic bag filled with water with a small hole). A chalkboard with the school chants and all of the residents’ names is posted. As soon as the the kids heard a story of a boy in Africa who brought electricity to his home and village making a wind mill out of waste they started to ‘make current’ from gobar (dung). No two houses are the same and there is a steady flow of visitors to one another’s houses. There are three hamlets- Tower, Papita (papayya), and Boyda (hill)- with 2-5 houses in each hamlet and 4-5 students in each house. In all about 40 children are involved in this.

But…… everything is not happy, happy. There are fights – someone broke someone’s hut, hey you took my sticks or gunny bag, someone forcefully made a hut ….and so on. Also there’s been damage to public property …. as at least two new upcoming trees were broken, hedges were broken, new bricks were taken for construction, one almirah and the basement were ransacked for material ..

So …

...there was a meeting to frame rules ( of course we exercised our authority). Everybody had a say and about 20 rules were made – not to break new branches, enter with permission, elders not to bully small children, clean surroundings of hut etc.

Sounds like a lovely picture but there are some apprehensions and resistance from the teachers as well as senior students. One day the teachers were very upset as nobody turned in for ‘school’. They pulled out everybody from the huts and sent them to class

For the teacher, the question lies in how to do the ‘school’ stuff when all the students have gone off in different directions, each doing a different thing. Before the the establishment of this children’s village, the bell-guided school structure was set- morning prayer, class, breakfast, class, lunch, class, …. One thing that was done was to get rid of the class bell, as it went against the students’ flow of work in their new spaces. Again, there was opposition to this, but the question remained… how to add the school stuff in the context of what the students themselves created?

So we had a meeting to explain the importance of this activity and generate ideas on how to incorporate ‘ learning of subjects’….

We tried to tell them that this the best possible thing that can happen where children are doing something continuously for 12 hours, without being told anything. There must be something in this. We should think how this initiative can be extended to what we call studying or learning.

We explained that the biggest learning that’s happening now and which could never have happened inspite of our best efforts was that children were learning to use freedom creatively, decide what they want to do and pursue their ideas without anyone telling them to. They were learning self discipline. And if one is so keen on learning then they were learning real life the settling of villages.

This was all right they said but what about english, maths, science etc. what will happen to all that we have planned for them ? so we made some exercises –

For teachers –

  1. Go by their (children’s) plan for a while.
  2. Go to their huts and record what they are doing.

For children –

English excercises --- 1. Where do you live?

2. Who lives in your house?

3. When did you build your house?

4. What is your house made of?

5. What is in your house?

6. What are the names of trees by your house?

7. What are you doing?

8. What are you doing in the hut ?

Activities --- 1. Survey the village and the hamlets and make a list. Find out who lives where, the number of people in each house and total the number of residents.

2. Make a map of the village.

3. Plant a medicinal tree by your house.

Maths --- 1. Take measurements of your house, find it’s area.

2. Levels worksheets that students do them independently and move up as they successfully complete a level.

Each of these activities were written on a card and the children were free to take a card and do it anytime they wished to. On completing a card they had to show to the teacher who would correct it and put a tick mark on her list.

The students have been continuously and independently beautifying and ideating for a month now, everyday, along with the rest of the school activities- cooking, farming, theatre, singing. And the reading and writing is alive and well, as the houses are a favorite place for quiet (and uninterrupted by bells & teachers) study. They read, sing songs, make lists, tell stories, play cards, sleep, eat... the list goes on…

… I’ve heard that the physical environment is a major conditioner of behaviour. From observing and interacting with the children and their spaces it is evident that the kids hold a sense of ownership over their house, their work, their days. Hopefully this will help them take control of their lives in adulthood. One thing that can be surely seen is the drive they have in this new project, and there is potential for much more…..

On a Monday the teachers forgot all the meetings and rang the bell. Collected all the children in the ground and … go to class!!

Some children didn’t go. They were tucked in their new houses. They didn’t even go to class. Again meeting, reminding.

Now a bargain has been arrived at. Some time the children have to go to their level groups in English and Math. Sometimes they just sit and do whatever they want. Some time they are given activity cards and they can choose to do them whenever they want to. We are creating more spaces and activities so that they can go to them. For eg. There are two boxes with books, an almirah with some games. Children just go there, take out things on their own and keep playing or reading. We are trying to create more of these self service counters.

Problems

  1. Some children become just wanderers and lost. It may be fine by us but not for parents.
  2. Some just ape others. Not neccesarily thinking on their own.
  3. The look of the school is very disorganised. The parents and visitors don’t like this.
  4. The parents have a set idea and no exposure to innovative or alternative learning methods leave alone curriculum.
  5. The children if questioned threateningly by parents or elders, just say that we are not taught. They don’t know the theory and merit of self learning.
  6. Ultimately the children have to give exams so they have to ‘study’.

We are sure that this is a good thing and will continue with bargains. This concept has generated a totally new concept of a learning within a school environment and we are now working out a different architectural concept for this approach.


Anyone with an idea interested in coming and working with the students? Calling engineers, architects, artists, musicians, teachers…

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Naatuk India Company presents --- Hum Kahan Ja Rahe Hain?




14th January 2011, Merkhedi village, near Sendhawa, Madhya Pradesh.
Finally the day arrived for which we had been practicing and waiting for a month. The tent was huge and there were about 20,000 people. The children 10 – 18 years, all actors of the Naatak India Company (aka the students and teachers of Adharshila Learning Centre), were very excited, seeing the crowd. Nervous ? no sign of it. They had been specially called to perform their famous play Hum Kaha Ja Rahe Hain? (Where are we going?), by the organizers of the Adivasi Ekta Parishad’s Mahasammelan, the annual convention.

The play is old, though with every year comes new issues to tie in, new actors and actresses, and new audiences. What is this play all about? Why have we been showing it year after year?

As you can tell from the title, the play is about where Adivasi society is going- where it is going amidst a backdrop of proselytizing religious groups and political parties, land-hungry private companies, and an identity-conflicted youth generation. For example, Krishna Pawar’s original family name is Pawarkia, Gyarshilal Arya’s is Awayya, Vijay Solankie’s is Suwiya, and Babita Senani’s is Sustiya. These youth are all prime examples of the desire to shed one’s Adivasi identity and replace it with something else, something else more suited to what one hears in cities.

The shinyness of the market strongly influences youth with its hero-fashion images of how to look, what to wear and buy, and especially how to think. We show in our play how the outside inflences have created fights within families- between brothers, sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, young and old. And the nature of these fights, a problem born in this generation, have become so so extreme that they rip at the very fabric that ties Adivasi families together.

So what does a young person do after these fights? What does one do after becoming disillusioned by the outside? Where does she/he go? As said earlier, political parties, religious groups, and private companies, are always ready to take in fresh people, especially those with land capital. What will the new generation do? At first glance, it seems that the choice is between modernism and tradition, new times and old times, but maybe there is more to it. Maybe theres is more to growing up in a society historically and highly connected to the natural environment yet currently entangled in the mainstream.

Hum Kahe Ja Rahe Hain? is a witty satire, a colorful expression, and a problem poser of these issues.

The great thing about the play is that most of the sets, props, dresses etc. are also made by the children with the help of elders. This year two senior students also developed background audio effects for the play.

The one and a half hour play was a hit. It kept the audience wide awake from 12 midnight to 1.30 AM. The school received donations, firewood and leftover rations worth almost Rs. 25,000.00.
We also had a book stall, where children sold books, posters and calenders on adivasi heroes.

The team got an invitation to perform in Shahada, Maharashtra. There also the play was very well received. The audience was shouting and laughing at every dialogue. People gave about Rs. 8000.00 in donation instantly.

Seeing the success of these plays once again our very old plan of having a jeep and roaming all around in the adivasi area, showing the play. Of course the fuel will be paid for by the hosts. But the jeep we have to manage. Any suggestions ?

PS – We are hoping to make a film of this in the near future. Be on the look out!! And any body wants to volunteer to get involved write to us fast.

We are all very pepped up. And what’s this … the day the theatre group had gone to Shahada to perform, the small kids left out of the play decided to have there own action. You won’t believe this but suddenly everybody is making a hut for themselves….

……. Wait for the next post on this extremely unique activity.