9 November 2013
Colourful streamers fluttering ten feet above the ground. Bunches of colourful balloons rising above. A bright red and yellow poster inviting one and all inside Mohur Kunj. A special brightness around the park on a perfectly normal Saturday. Except defining the day as perfectly normal is a bit of an understatement, at least for the 600 children who arrived there for a day of unlimited enjoyment and the feel of a carnival.
PeaceWorks collaborates with the Kolkata Police in their Nabadisha project for the ‘Share Stories Open Minds’ initiative. Storytelling has been the medium through which we attempt to touch young minds. This creative art form has led us in the right track in questioning traditional mindsets and ultimately understanding our prime ideal of learning to live with differences. Over the last month, our hour-long storytelling sessions turned into encouraging, confidence-boosting sessions for thechildren from various centres. Our volunteers selected a group of children from each centre, inspired them to face a large audience and narrate stories. Seven schools from within the city were on board to put up game stalls. Vikramshila who were with us throughout in assisting with logistics provided financial support for the event. All was set for Golpo Mela: Version 2.
Golpo Mela opened at 12 noon with students from seven Kolkata schools—La Martinere for Boys, St Josephs College, Modern High School, Akshar, Chowringee High, Heritage and Apeejay School—managing children from the Nabadisha centres, Bikramgarh High School and Kailash Vidyamandir (under the Sarva Siksha Abhyan Project), Disha Foundation and Rainbow children from Loreto Day School, Sealdah. The children thronged to play ‘Memory game’, ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’, ‘Feed the Mice’, ‘Bottle Walk’, ‘Print your Mug’, fun quiz on cartoon characters and revelled in stalls aptly named ‘Gaming Paradise’ and ‘Khelo Kolkata Khelo’.
Meanwhile, the art workshop conducted by Mahmud Husain Laskar artist from Santiniketan and Romi Majumdar art teacher from La Martinere for Boys had a constant draw of children who added more colour to the day. National High School for Girls cleared a circle amidst the crowds and did a street play on water conservation. The children were enthralled by the performance and took home the importance of saving water with them. A music band from Heritage added to the acoustic ambience of the space after the play.
Finally, it was time for the most awaited item on the agenda. Waves of excitement were almost visible around the children. Tiny tots from Vikramshila’s Narkkadanga group were the first on the stage. This was followed by short performances from ten centres. Anushka Halder and Subhadrika Sen’s compering maintained a smooth flow between the performances.
Laughter. Rhymes. Jokes. Morals. Fables. Fairy Tales. Literature.
The genre of what was provided on stage was definitely varied in nature. What we realized was that beyond just morals and values, stories in themselves are influences that spur creativity and confidence amidst the young ones. Children from centres such as Kalighat and Lake in fact came up with their own scripts for a play they performed on stage. The Kalighat centre children took a further step and made hand puppets out of old newspapers to add action to their play. The coordinators from each of the centres were extremely pleased with their children’s exposure to facing an audience and interacting with other children from various sections of the society. Providing this space to explore one’s imagination and, in extension, one’s identity will definitely play a role in moulding better individuals for the future was the common thought prevailing in everyone’s mind during Golpo Mela. For the school children, it was an opportunity to let reality sink in. That there were others in the society, in the same age groups who lived lives much different to what they were used to. Seeing the same joy sparkling in their eyes was a reiteration of PeaceWorks’ ideal of learning to live with differences.
Post the on-stage events, the games recommenced with a fresh tidal wave of energy and enthusiasm. The theatre group from La Martinere for Boys provided a stellar conclusion to the day’s events—a hard-hitting street play questioning the position of women in a patriarchal society. The brutality of the present-day treatment of women was further reinforced with the play being performed by a group of boys, just about to step beyond the protective walls of schooling.
As the day came to an end, fond farewells were exchanged between the children from the Nabadisha centres and students from participating schools. Handshakes and hugs. A sense of indulgence. Of support. Of love and peace.