A packet full of jujube and long register notebook as gate-pass …

Recently, I conducted a three-day workshop at a village called Nalwa in Hisar, Haryana. The workshop was organized by Artreach India in collaboration with the Jindal Group for a group of twenty five young women in high school, college and in university. Many were graduates preparing for government job exams. Here I am sharing some of my experience and observations.
On the second day of the workshop, one of the participants brought jujube for us. She collected those from the trees near her house and brought it for us. She was hesitant and took permission before bringing it for us. After the whole day was spent drawing, painting and discussing different things, most of the participants had left. That’s when she gave this packet. This gesture of hers included both – gratitude and to be able to respectfully mingle with others in the society. The participants here understood very well the role of such workshops conducted by NGOs. However, it is also a mingling of people from distinct backgrounds and each one can share their unique experience. This simplicity and strength in her gesture was very moving to me. One reason can be that I interact a lot more with learners in big cities where such experiences are rare. In any case, what I want to point out here is that often in our parameters of learning accomplishments or in our interpretation of what is empowerment such observations are rarely considered. But in this case, it was quite noticeable to me.
The second day of the workshop was a Sunday and local schools and colleges were closed. The coaching centre at the community centre where we stayed and conducted the workshop was also closed. However, few participants carried notebook and pen with them the way they usually do on the other days. When asked why they brought their notebook and stationery on a Sunday when there are no classes, most of them started laughing. One of them mentioned that with a notebook, books and stationery, they can freely come out of the house without any restriction. The long register notebook is their gate pass. A workshop on drawing and painting may not seem like a great opportunity to their parents. Many may consider it wastage of time which can be otherwise used for household chores. However, leisure and creative engagement are our right to a dignified living. To have this inclination to explore diverse things and for that to use all the means available is a voice worth nurturing. 

Over the years, I am meeting young people from distinct backgrounds and using art as a medium to engage with them. Along with them my understanding of accessibility, empowerment and meaningful engagement is also evolving. Both- my ways and expectations are transforming. Many participants in this workshop were very shy or hesitant but their body language, smiles and affirmative nod once in a while during the course of discussion were quite interesting. Often we expect to be able to speak up on a stage or articulate the process as reiterating the learning that happened. Here that was missing in most of the participants but they expressed differently. In our education and training system, we hardly consider these gestures and expression.

Workshop plan to be attached  

Images: Artreach India