Theatre Thinker Manjul Bhardwaj facilitates youth to explore their political Identity in "#TheatreofRelevance -#राजनैतिकआत्मबोध " #स्वराजशाला
Facilitated 4 day "#TheatreofRelevance -#राजनैतिकआत्मबोध " #स्वराजशालाorganised by #Youth4Swaraj at #Smabhavana Institute in Palampur , Himachal Pradesh from 25-28 June ,2017 in which Youth from Delhi, Haryana, Himachal & Punjab explored their political self .... Lovey Vikram share her Journey of 'Swaraj Shala".. Must read story ....
_______my experiences of Swarajshala, Palampur
Swarajshala, an initiative by Youth 4 Swaraj(Y4S), gave me an avenue of working in a very different kind of group and of understanding a different group dynamics. Group or collective has been an area of interest for me owing to my research work. However, bringing theory to practice was very different. Swarajshala was a unique group as compared to the various groups that I had worked with or worked in. I have witnessed my apprehension and indifference towards political and social issues transform into a sense of belongingness and affirmation. Instead of being a passive recipient, I now want to be the active participant of social change. My feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and anguish were given a direction through the various activities performed at Swarajshala and through the various discussions.
What is particularly engaging about the whole process of Swarajshala is the format which is dynamic and encompassing. Unlike regular workshops, there is no set agenda, no particular syllabus, no pre-determined guidelines, no format, and no instructor. All the processes undertaken evolve based on the discussion of the participants inside the Swarajshala itself. The participantsalone get to decide what they want to learn based on their intentions, aspirations, and so on. Based on their views and their goals, the whole format is decided. Learning is through doing and that doing is not a routine group work. It may be through enactment of a particular social issue, through dancing in a group, through singing, or even through working together in the kitchen.
In the recent Swarajshala, I have personally witnessed the unfolding of this process. Initially, all the participants were divided in groups to answer three basic questions (1.) What do you want to learn here? (2.) What do you want to do here (3.) What do you want to teach here? Based on the answers of the group, the agenda of the workshop was decided. It is important to mention here that an emphasis was made by the facilitator, Shri. Manjul Bharadwaj that working in the group doesn’t mean that the individual is subsumed. If an individual doesn’t agree with the group, she has the full right to put forth her views apart from the group view. After thorough deliberation, the agenda was set. It included the discussion of various issues such as (a)the current Indian political situation(encompassing various socio-political issues such as casticism, gender justice, Kashmir issue, cow protection, Nationalism, and so on) (b) Effective communication(including dialogue and questioning) (c) how to build a movement? (d) self- development(answering questions such as how to take initiative, how to get rid of the mental block and so on) (e) understanding group dynamics and group consciousness, and (f) an open session (to discuss other issues which may not be categorized under the above heads). On discussing the various topics to be deliberated, the order of discussion was also decided by the group. Unanimously, it was decided that starting from the self we shall reach social-political issues(the subject). It was also decided to discuss the view of ‘Swaraj India’ on various recent issues of national and international importance as well as to understand the functioning of Youth 4 Swaraj and to understand the role of student and youth politics in today’s society.
Like some others, I was very inquisitive about working on the self. I have been to several personality development workshops and was expecting something of that sort here as well. But to my surprise, the business here was not a usual kind of affair. It all just started as a part of the group activity which is rightly termed Chaitanyabhyas. In Chaitanyabhyas, there were plethora of activities but it was not confined to the four walls of the class room. Here, we got an opportunity to reunite with nature and our natural environment. We rekindled our relationship with nature just to realize how far we had moved away from it. The kind of activities in Chaitanyabhyas were not fixed. There was no monotony. It covered a range of activities from communication to voice modulation to blindfold walking, to shouting slogans, to dancing, to coining your own rhythm, and so on. The level of energy at the end of our daily Chaitanyabhyas session was remarkable.I must admit that I never felt happier than this in the past couple of years. My smile had come back. I witnessed remarkable change in my confidence level. After so many years I enjoyed rain. Talking to people became easier and smoother. It worked as an ice breaker for the participants.
Let me also mention that Chaitanyabhyas was not only limited to working on the self. Within the span of four days, we realized that it clandestinely covered all our agenda of discussion in one way or the other. It taught us time management, initiative, responsiveness, responsibility, and leadership. So, basically we were discussing some issue proactively in the class and realizedduringChaitanyabhyas that we have slowly started living it. In this way we come to understand how all the activities of Swarajshala were closely linked with each other. They were so nicely interwoven that none could be viewed in isolation with the other. We had already started imbibing those qualities in us without even realizing it and we come to realize only when we reflected on those activities.
Apart from Chaitanyabhyas which became anindispensable part of our mornings, the class room discussion on social issues and other questions also followed similar format. The discussions were supplemented by factual data as and when necessary (For example, we were provided with the data on reservation and verbal and non-verbal communication to get a clearer picture of the entire discussion) but primarily it was through a question-answer session with the participants. Sometimes the whole issue was put forth in the form of a play prepared and enacted by the participants working in groupsand sometimes a prelude to the entire discussion was put forth in the form of a play enacted by the team of Theatre of Relevance (the team comprising of Manjul sir, Komal and Smiley. They help us bring out our leadership qualities through self-realization or “atma bodh”). The two plays performed by them titled Main Aurat Hoon and Sampreshaṇ left a deep impact on all of us. It was not only owing to the fact that visuals are more appealing many a times than words but also because the artists were very interactive. They did not take the help of any outside instrument. Even the sound effects were created by them through voice modulation. They constantly engaged with the audience though eye contact and gestures and because of this we felt constantly associated and connected with them.The intensity in the performances and their passion to make a point shook me inside out.
By the end of third day I realised that I had already imbibed the discussions on movement and effectivecommunication into myself. It was even reflected in the open letter which we used to write to Manjul sir every morning. The open letter reminds me of yet another uniqueness of Swarajshala. In many academic workshops an oral feedback is asked for at many places. We rarely criticise the organizers, the faculty and the staff in such feedbacks. But, here it was not the case. Another facilitator, Shri. Rajiv Godara, prompted us to think and act critically. He was more than happy if the criticism was directedat him or at Manjul sir or ifa critical review of the proceedings of the Swarajshalawas done. His approach elicited many students to come up with their grievances and criticisms. The grievances were not just heard but were also carefully dealt with to the utter satisfaction of the grievance maker. I had never seen anyone taking criticism so positively and as a means of improvement. While discussing various issues as well, he promoted discussions and dialogues. Any contrasting view was not curbed, it was properly heard and contained.
In the course of the discussion of our prepared agenda, Shri. Yogendra Yadav discussed the meaning of Swaraj. I got a complete new insight into how the term “Swaraj” engulfs the individual,its interaction with the society, the nation, and the world and vice versa. The approach here was quite different from what we generally witness in today’s political debates. Yogendra sir was not radical but not superficial as well. He gave me a new direction of thought where listening to others’ point of view is as important as putting forth your own thoughts. I have seldom seen a social thinker so clear in his thoughts. He did not mince words and he did not dictate. He did not inculcate his own ideology but inducedus to think.
Apart from the formal interaction in the class room and an impersonal know how duringChaitanyabhyas, there was also ample moments of informal unification. This was possible through the discussions over tea, singing and working together in the kitchen, and an informal tour of the river side. I have personally felt that on the first day we all walked in as individuals but on the last day, we came out as “saathis”.There was no formal introduction of the participants on the first day but, we knew quite a lot about our saathis on the last day of Swarajshala. We started knowing, criticising, admiring, and loving each other. We learnt to appreciate and admire the individual differences as well as to respect group feelings. It was truly ourSwarajshala. The facilitators might have been the mediators between us and our thoughts but we truly were the decision makers and that sense of belongingness is unmatchable.I am looking forward to working in the direction that I have inculcated through my participation in the Swarajshala. I am thankful to Manjul sir, Rajiv sir, Yogendra sir, Komal and Smiley for their useful insights. I am also thankful to my friend Saira for indulging me into this unique learning process. It was a remarkable experience of my life and I do not want to get over it.