‘Rangtoli’ of reflections on human emotions and aspirations – Parents’ day at Mallika and Nandu’s NSD’s theatre summer camp

Mallika and Anandita at the NSDs summer theatre workshop
Mallika and Anandita at the NSDs summer theatre workshop

Mallika was insisting on my not going on a tour till Sunday, June 5th, as I was scheduled to visit North-east India. Her NSD summer workshop, Rangtoli, has scheduled parents day and since Indira cannot make it due to her delivery a week ago, she wanted me to be there at any cost. So I deferred my trip by a day. Mallika and Nandu, along with Uma and me, landed at their NSD summer workshop center in Jamia Milia, prompt at 7:30am. Mallika and Nandu have been very secretive as far as revealing the parent day details. They would say, “We will not tell you, it is all going to be a surprise. You only discover when you come.”

When landed at the center, we were welcomed by the spectacular display of the works of the sixty children, 30 each from age groups 8-12 and 13-16. The works included caricatures with descriptions on different topics – My room, Most precious part of my body and why, My family and also their expression of feelings in words in the form of a letter to parents about why they are the best parents, how they feel towards parents response to their behaviour and outlook in life and so on.

Youngsters expressing their feelings to parents
Youngsters expressing their feelings to parents

I cannot express the feelings every parent went through, looking at each of the letters. Many parents were feeling very emotional going through the pictorial descriptions and also the letters written by the elder children to them. They were surprised at the eloquence with which each child shared their inner feelings towards their parents. As the letters did not reveal who is the writer, parents were guessing which letter is of their child, reading through the narration of an incident which they were part of. In the process, almost every parent read every letter. Every parent was touched going through each of the letters. These letters threw a lot questions about the struggles of a child in the adolescent age and what they are expecting from their parents. It was a great way to bring the parents in touch with themselves and the impact of their actions on the psyche of the children. Here are a few of the expressions..

After an hour of getting in touch with oneself, the parents were clubbed in groups in innovative ways. We went on to have a wonderful string of exercises that not only warmed all the participating families, but also familiarized most of us with one another. These exercises included –

a. In the enclosed space, walk at normal speed, slow speed and faster speed; while walking greet one another in whatever way you wish to. Then go on to maximize the greetings
b. Participants to form various clusters by likes – colors, flower, animals, fruits.. in the process every one got to know who all are alike in what respects
c. Random groups to be formed. Each group needs to think of a flower and form the shape of the flower. Other teams have to guess. Then the group has to enact how the flower blossoms, shakes when it rains, celebrates etc…
d. Each of the three groups were asked to make an elephant. Then these elephants had to do different actions as was shared by the facilitators…

Once warmed up and familiarizing oneself, we moved to the next phase of the day plan. Every child had made an invitation card that parents carried. So my invitation card made by Mallika had a pattern cut, and one of the children in their group had the pattern. Once you match the pattern, the child who had my pattern, Sheena in my case, became my facilitator for the day. Two to three families with their facilitators formed a group. We had to interact and get to know about each other families.

We were asked to close our eyes and my facilitator, Sheena, lead me along a path that was jig-jag to a destination. The exercise was about trusting one another and I felt really happy that I surrendered myself to Sheena and she lead me wonderfully. Finally at the destination she asked me to sit and after a while lie down and relax. While relaxing there were tender hands that was massaging my legs and arms and I could make out that it was Sheena. After a while a strong hand came and massaged, this could only be one of the adult trainers of NSD. Then finally there was another pair of hands that went all over the body, straddling, across while massaging and I could sense that this has to be very familiar person who has known me ever, that is Mallika. After half an hour of this relaxation exercise, I was ushered by Sheena to another destination with my eyes shut all the while. She helped me settle in one corner against the wall. I could hear and feel that others are being brought in to this room and helped to settle too. Finally we were allowed to open our eyes. The room was full of parents, forming the outer ring along the wall and the children were sitting in the center of this ring.

Parents shared their feelings about the whole day thus far. Many were obviously moved by what they read on the display and the tender massages they received. They were emotional and shared how this workshop has thrown open new dimensions to their relationship with their children.

Parents exploring children and themselves
Parents exploring children and themselves

After the feedback and sharings, we moved to the final stretch of the day. The groups thus formed, seven in all, each were given a situation to enact. The condition was that the adults have to be children and children were to be adults. The groups were given about 15 minutes to plan out before all assemble in the same room. A performing arena was demarcated and all groups settled in the audience spaces. Each group was called to perform. The scenarios included..

a. Children are getting spoiled; no idea what sort of friendships are being cultivated
b. Children are lazy and they neither understand the parents nor they help them
c. Children do not study and they are stuck to TV, computers and play-stations now a days
d. Chaotic family
e. Understanding family
f. Children misbehave when you take them to a marriage function
g. Children taking care of old parents

It was fun as well as learning experience interacting with other families and planning the skit. Many of the women and including a few men, were participating in such an exercise for the first time. It was a great experience for them also to open up and come out of the cocoon. On the other hand there were a few who were very uninhibited and were in acting with felicity.

Each episode was enacted and then all participants discussed the issues – as how do we make the environment better for the children at home. The process did throw quite a few thoughts and many parents took away new ways of dealing with situations and their children. It also made many parents aware of their responsibilities towards their growing children and how they can go about investing.

I came back and sat next to Mallika, after our group enacted the scenario – children getting spoiled. She was staring at me. I asked what was the matter. She immediately said, “you are a bad boy, you are spoiling others.” I could see that she did not expect me to portray such a character and does not approve of my dalliances. Nandu said that I was very funny..

With this exercise, the parents’ day came to an end. All parents were delighted to be there. I am sure the day would have thrown a lot of questions to each parent to ponder about and respond in a better way to children.

This one month NSD’s theatre workshop would make a world of good for every selected child, Since this workshop is all about helping children to come in touch with their inner journey and external journey, with oneself and their behavioural patterns, with their securities and insecurities.

Long live NSD, Long live TIE – Theatre in Education. Kudos to NSD’s facilitators. Kudos to children. It was truly a ‘rangtoli’ of reflections on human emotions and aspirations.

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