I have just returned from an overwhelming journey, diving into an adventure amid 500 students and teachers of the Fountainhead School, Surat. This was part of Junoon’s five-day Arts at Play with Schools programme.
I whizzed into Surat to catch the last two days of our programme, and how grateful I was to have the privilege of being thrown into the whirlwind of activity!
The wonderful Kathak dancer and choreographer Debashree Bhattacharya was holding fort, as guide and mentor of the five-day journey through the magnificent world of performing arts. Each child held onto their 'Passport of the Republic of Junoon' that allowed them to explore and discover things around and within them!
On day one, the journey took the children to a local auditorium where they entered the forested world of Gillo with their production of Kyun Kyun Ladki that brought alive Mahasweta Devi’s enchanting story of the same name. On the second day, aspects of the play were brought to the fore as the performing team visited the school and unravelled the secrets of how the story journeyed from the book onto stage. On day three, the children travelled to the isle of Sampurna Chattarji, where they explored her world of words and their magic, enchanting the children with her infectious zeal for poetry.
On day four, the journey continued with Utkarsh Mazumdar, who unravelled the mysteries of acting and techniques that go into this craft. All along, Debashree and her assistant Ishaan steadily guided the 500 students towards their final destination of the creative showcase, the fifth day, where they were to watch each other's creations, triggered by all they experienced in the previous days. The fifth day saw three spaces in the school come alive with such energy and creativity that it was completely exhilarating. Even the teachers who had been facilitating the process never imagined that so much could be created in such little time!
At the end of the day, I had an informal session with the entire teaching staff of the school. It has always been humbling for me to be amid teachers. They bear such huge responsibility on their shoulders. How I dream of an India that holds up its heroes to the world and in equal standing has among them... our cricketers, our film stars and our teachers! Inshallah!
A biology teacher of senior school said her son was in the fourth standard and participated in our Arts at Play programme. As a child, this teacher had grown up in Ahmedabad where her parents exposed her to the arts; from music concerts to theatre to fine arts. She grew up to love painting and drawing, but her son had absolutely no interest in the arts at all.
Two days ago, a minor miracle took place. Her son came home from school and announced that he needed to go to the stationery shop to buy some paint and crayons, but was worried because it would cost about Rs 300. His mother was thrilled and happily made the purchase.
Another teacher shared a beautiful incident that had occurred just a few hours earlier. She has a girl in her class who is very shy. Her silence and reticence to speak up in class was such a concern that her parents had to be called in to address it. Yet no change had occurred.
The child had just participated in Junoon’s programme and was part of the Ambitious Advertiser team that had to publicise their group’s creative showcase. The team did this with a magnificent parade that steered through the corridors of the school, banging out their announcement to the world. At the end of the programme, the girl ran up to this teacher and said, “Miss, now you will always hear my voice in class!”
What more can we ask for? That a child gets inspired, recognises her own creativity, builds her own sense of self-worth, falls in love with an art form, makes the entire struggle completely worthwhile and puts a huge smile in my heart!