‘Duniya Sabki’ was initially a much loved poem by Safdar Hashmi. Soon, it became Aagaaz’s most celebrated play that managed to effortlessly showcase the talents of the young theatre artists from Nizamuddin. Currently, it has transformed into a workshop module that is giving so many adolescents and pre-adolescents a platform to tell their stories. Devika and Nishant have been a part of ‘Team Aagaaz’ for a while now and have been observers in the workshops. We would like to share snippets of their conversation about this emerging module and the value it holds. Devika: Hi Nishant! So, we’ve been observing Duniya Sabki workshops and it’s now developing into a module that Aagaaz wants to take to spaces. It’s become an opportunity for our core group to collaborate with other people and it’s also allowing us to ask questions of the world. Why do you even think we are doing this in the first place?
Nishant: I think we’re doing this because there is a need for us to raise these questions of how the world is not equal or why is there so must injustice around. The primary objective has been to just question these things and raise a certain kind of awareness. This is really not about giving solutions to anyone but creating awareness that is coming from the participants themselves. It is not theoretical in nature. Why? Is because these spaces barely exist in our current world. There are no spaces for people to discover or even confront the discrimination they face or subject others to.
Devika: Also, discrimination is stereotyped in certain ways. We see discrimination with just one face of either ‘gender discrimination’ or ‘caste discrimination’. Especially children, including the ones we have worked with, they belong to both elite spaces and non-elite spaces. They are all being fed the same narratives due to availability of media and popular culture. So, it is important for them to look at discrimination, injustice and consider perspectives that emerge from their own points of view.
Nishant: Yes! From a localized point of view.
Devika: Also, for them to understand that this is something that in not only abstract but also existent in the personal realm.
Nishant: And that is what makes a difference. Having an interactive workshop rather than a lecture about discrimination, is way better tool to use.
Devika: As a theatre workshop, what do you think this has really helped with or likely to help with even in the future?
Nishant: Sanyukta keeps saying this one thing that I really find fascinating. If you limit people through some kind of style, like theatre- In that limitation they have to find ways of expressing whatever they feel. I think that further enhances their experience also. Additionally, there is creation of a space within a space where you can express it verbally as well. So, forms matter and people are generally used to listening to things that are communicated in words but not expressed through bodies.
Devika: Also, I think theatre as a medium opens up an opportunity to understand ability and inability, especially of the body. To be able to see and analyse yourself in a different way and to use performance and projection of voice as tools to actually evaluate your own comfort zones. And I think that itself is an agent in opening up ideas, stories and personal anecdotes that lend themselves quite beautifully to this workshop.
When we look at the techniques that we have used, the general culture of the workshop, what are some of the elements you feel we can take forward?
Nishant: There is one fundamental thing we take for granted- the lack of hierarchies. It is a very open space where everyone also gets the feeling of- Ok! There is a instructing facilitator but there is also an internal facilitator in each of us. I think that is very important. Keeping the space equal often helps people to express what they are thinking.
Devika: Bringing children into a space as facilitators and enabling them to work with people their own age, breaks their perception about who a learner is..who a teacher is..It opens up the opportunity to actually accept that we are learning all the time from each and every person.
Nishant: The space that get opened up in the process helps us raise questions about- who is in control? Who is the perpetrator?
Devika: Also, I think coming more to theme of this whole thing, which is of course- Duniya Sabki based on Safdar Hashmi’s poem. The whole concept of understanding power, equality, inequality and discrimination helps explore newer perspectives. The culture of the workshop itself opens up this question- Is the world really everyone’s? Kya duniya sabki hai? So, how do you think that potential to instigate the thinking process around this idea.
Nishant: Listening to poem carefully and observing the dynamics between Akbar and Birbal can lead to a lot of realisations. People may start experiencing resonance with the characters and it may be an interesting method of introspection.
Devika: I think also to realise that as a performer I can tell my story, that itself is empowering. To know that this is not a ‘picture perfect’ representation but a platform to tell ‘my story’ which might also be ‘our story’.
Where do you think this can go? What do you think we can do with this module now?
Nishant: I think it can definitely be taken to schools that are open to let us come in and facilitate. Also, organisations that want us to work with them. At the moment, we are primarily working with children and adolescents but there is potential to work with college students or even older adults, I feel. I think it will evolve and go in all sorts of directions. It’s also a great opportunity for the children from our core group who are training to be facilitators.