Our journey with Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti had begun in October 2009 when Sanyukta joined the mammoth PPP initiative led by Aga Khan Foundation called ‘Humayun’s Tomb-Sundar Nursery-Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Initiative’ as their Arts Education Program Coordinator fresh out of an MA. After spending three years with the initiative, she was excited about exploring the potential of a community-driven initiative and thus quit her job in March 2013. Her intention was to deep dive into drama as a process that could build safe spaces for dialogue. The decision involved continuing to work with a group of 35 children from the Basti who had been bitten by the theatre bug.
Aagaaz was conceived in 2014 and registered in 2015 because of the group’s inclination to explore theatre as a career. It was born out of an unsettling realisation that all theatre makers in Delhi come from privilege. The act of story making and telling was, therefore, only the purview of a few. How does that affect the act of narrative building in a city?
Aagaaz is the Urdu word for ‘beginning’. We are a community of theatre practitioners and facilitators, committed to examining and questioning ‘what is’ to probe ‘what could and should be’. We create spaces for ourselves and those we engage with, to discover ways of ‘act-ing’, with its dual meaning of taking action and performing on stage. We strive to develop and nurture the ability to think critically, be curious, imagine that which may seem impossible, and follow these new possibilities with courage. Aagaaz works towards closing gaps in learning, understanding the ‘other’, access, and dignity through engagement with theatre practices.
There is a gap in a deeper understanding of the self, society and the world. While there are notions of these in each person, these notions are more often than not caught in single stories of gender, caste, class, religion, different abilities and intelligences, language, ethnicity, etc.
43 per cent of children below the age of 5 in India do not meet their developmental potential. Co-existing within class, caste, gender, religion and socio-economic inequalities from a young age, they are at risk of long-term behavioural and emotional problems. Yet their psychosocial needs (mental, social, cultural and developmental) at home and school are systematically denied. With the lack of consistent access to psychosocial safety, they are unable to realise their potential.
This long-term sustained violence and trauma across generations denies any possibility of democratic dialogue with so many people being rendered voiceless. The lack of dialogue negates the possibility of societal transformation.