NalandaWay was started with a staunch belief in art as a healing and learning medium. Through dance, music, visual arts, theater and films we work with children to find their voice, express through art and think for themselves. Our interventions have helped the kids to develop self confidence to be masters of their lives. Follow our chronicles and be a part of this amazing journey.
Monday, December 23, 2013
A letter from Santa Claus
Ho Ho Ho! This is Santa writing to you.
Here's wishing you a very merry Christmas! It’s another exciting year here at the North Pole! The elves are busy making toys, wrapping up presents and labelling gifts while the reindeer are ready to make another fun trip.
I’ve also been consulting the map and have realized that there are quite a few places that I won’t be able to cover. Making the journey from the North Pole to India on a sleigh is quite tiring and I think I might need a little help from your end.
Rudolph and I have chosen you because, this past year you’ve been at the top of the ‘NICE’ list having lent your support to a number of worthwhile causes! So here's how you can pitch in:
There are these little girls in Gujarat- bright and all of 11 years old who had asked me for bicycles so that they could go to school (which is really far away). So why don't you gift them one on my behalf?
Or you could also hit all the right notes this Christmas by helping a bunch of kids learn music through this great organization called 'Rhapsody'
Or you could help discover a new Picasso from the local schools of Chennai by gifting them art supplies through 'NalandaWay'
All you have to do is visit any one of the links given below on this super-cool website called OrangeStreet.in. The website has given me permission to help these children by campaigning for them here:
Once you visit the website and learn about the project, simply click the ‘donate’ button to contribute an amount of your choice. With your help, these kids will have gifts they’ve always wanted for a long time. Rudolph and I really hope that no child is left without a present this year. With your help, we’ll able to reach out to hundreds of kids who need our love and support this year. Will you please help us out?
Four years ago, Samuel Venkatesan a.ka. Sam had been voted ‘Teenager of the year’ in a children’s daily in France. Formerly a child labourer in Soolagiri village in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, Sam had joined our ‘Achieve through Arts’ programme when he was in high school. Sam was an extremely bright boy and took an avid interest in the visual arts and film making. Through the course of the programme, he directed several short films on the issues affecting children in his village. Sam’s talent and candidness on social issues got the attention of a French journalist who wrote to me with an enquiry about him. The journalist’s story on Sam circulated widely across France and this bright kid swept the polls to emerge as the ‘Teenager of the Year’ in a children’s daily there.
Later, with the support of UNICEF, he even represented India at J-8 Summit in Rome to campaign for the cause of free education for children in the developing world. Sitting from the Mayor’s chair in Rome he appealed to the G8 leaders, “I want free and quality education for all children in developing countries, especially to girls and orphans.”
On finishing school, NalandaWay sponsored his education for a B.Sc. in Visual Communications at the Loyola College in Chennai. He also joined as an intern at a design house and continued supporting his mother back home.
Today, Sam continues his passion of making films about the perils that affect the society. By filing an RTI application, he discovered that water from a lake in his village had been illegally diverted for the granite industries. This diversion had been at the expense of the farmers, who were left without any water. Deciding to take up their cause, Sam made a well researched documentary film on the issue to build awareness about the crime among the villagers, MLAs and government officers.
When I called him up to inquire how he was doing, Sam passionately said, “I am fine sir, police stopped me from making a public screening of my film but I am now mobilizing the community against this cowardly act”
“Take care, Sam,” I said.
Today, I am worried about Sam. But equally proud of him too. His story just goes to show how a little faith in a child’s talent can work wonders. NalandaWay’s ‘Achieve through Arts’ initiative has helped many a Sam become creative, learn essential life-skills and build self-confidence to create lives they truly want to lead. Here. However, there are hundreds like him who still need your support.
Why don’t you make a small contribution today? No amount is small.
On a cool breezy evening Kalaivani, a happy chubby girl and I were sitting outside her thatched house on a raised platform meant for washing clothes. She and three of her elder sisters lived with their parents in a house that was probably less than the size of a toilet in our homes.
“So why don’t you ask your father not to drink? Then he would save money and all of you could live in a bigger house?” I asked.
She stopped shaking her legs and stared at me directly.
Sidestepping my question she asked, “How big is your home?”
“Slightly bigger than yours,” I answered, trying to be modest.
“You know my dad and mom had a love marriage. He used to look like a hero then. Mom has shown the photographs. He used to have a big mustache and my mom would say he looked like Rajnikanth. My mom is a big fan of Rajini,” she said with her eyes opened wide.
“He is a still good man, very loving and caring. He looks very old now. He drives an auto rickshaw and my mom works as a maid in the building nearby. But they don’t talk much these days. My dad sleeps outside in the nights.”
“My mom says that it is because of us four girls he chooses to sleep outside,” she dropped her face in silence.
What was she implying? I wondered.
Was she telling me that there was no space for affection and intimacy between her parents?
She was just 13 years old; could she be that perceptive of an adult’s need?
If she was so sensitive of adults’ needs, what about her needs? Had someone ever asked her?
If marginalized children were given an opportunity to talk about their stories to people who make decisions, would this world be different?
What if they had crayons, paint brushes or maybe even video cameras?
What stories would they tell?
What could they teach us?
Our children media teams have made over 42 short films and they are being screened to administrators, teachers, parents and other care givers. Their stories are changing the way welfare programmes are designed for them.
Please make a small donation for making this happen. No amount is small.
Recently, a colleague and I were on our way to a Government school in the northern fringes of Chennai. The neighborhood was infamous for gangsters and violence. It was two in the afternoon, but a wine shop at the entrance of the street leading to the school was bustling with business. As soon as we got inside the school, we were greeted with a thick smell of urine.
Twenty five children from this school had attended our 4 day residential art camp, ‘Kanavu Pattarai’ a month earlier. A ‘workshop of dreams’ in Tamil, Kanavu Pattarai helps children rekindle their sense of wonderment, inquisitiveness, curiosity and awe. The programme is a four day residential camp organized for disadvantaged children between the ages of 13-18. Students are trained by our facilitators in a variety of applied theatre forms like advanced role-play, improvisation, creative games and exercises, and storytelling.
We wanted to meet the kids, their parents and teachers to understand if our camp had made any difference. After an hour of conversations with children and teachers, we did feel slightly reassured that our efforts had not gone in vain.
It was time to meet the parents and only two mothers had turned up. My colleague inquired if they saw any changes in their kids’ behaviour. One of the mothers remained silent but nodded along to all the questions while the other lady was talkative and open about her observations. The chatty lady looked prosperous compared to the quiet person. But the latter finally opened up.
“Ours is a very poor family,” she said.
“My husband and son do not work and I sell vegetables on the street to earn money. I have never been to a school, but my daughter is very smart and beautiful. I have always wanted the best for my kids, but with the money that I bring home, I can hardly make them rice once a day.”
“But that day she came running to me after the camp. She looked so excited and happy. She announced that she had eaten payasam, ice cream, biriyani, potato roast, cream biscuits and so much more at the camp,” and the lady started crying.
We let her cry. Her tears had more answers than what we wished for.
Food and refreshments constitute a major portion of the costs that are required to run these camps. Why don’t you make a small contribution to make this camp an experience that these children would remember for a lifetime?
At the outset, I would like to thank you for supporting us in our journey towards helping thousands of disadvantaged children achieve through arts. However, we have been patchy in communicating about what we do and how we work. So every month I would like to share a story that reflects our work and successes.
This is the story of Balaji.
Balaji was 14 or 15 when he joined our arts education programme. He used to stay then at the Government Home for Boys. His mother, the lone breadwinner of the family had admitted him at the shelter, so that he could stay away from his alcoholic and abusive father and continue his school education. Besides performing well in school he took an active interest in theatre, folk music and performed at our arts festivals.
Balaji moved back home when his mother fell sick. He would start his day by distributing newspapers, cooking food, going to school and later doing other odd jobs. He completed his school Board examination with distinction, but continued working to support his mother, younger brother and abusive father. I still remember the joy and sense of achievement on his expressive face when he was selected for B Sc Visual Communications course at the Madras Christian College.
Then one day, Balaji came in unannounced into my room and laid out his sketch book before me.
“Sir, I drew this sketch. Do you like it?”
It was a three dimensional sketch of a traditional Rajasthani pot. It was definitely a good effort for a beginner.
“Good job da”, I said and looked back at him. He seemed rather uneasy and fidgety. He used to come regularly to my office every day after his morning job and before he left for college. But that day there were noticeable bruises on his chin and arms. One side of the face looked swollen than usual.
“What happened? Did you have a fall?” I was concerned.
He avoided my question and rambled about something disconnected.
After some persuasion he said, "My father bit me barbarously last night because I would not give him money for alcohol”. He also showed the bite marks all over his right arm and talked about how he had hurt himself on his face while trying to escape his father's hold.
“But don’t worry sir. This is not the first time. I am rock solid," he smiled.
“Anyway, I need to catch the bus quick, otherwise I will miss her,” winked at me and made a dash for the door.
There are hundreds of Balajis who would need your support.
Why don’t you make a small contribution today? No amount is small.