Creating a space beyond differences

When 20-year-old Bhanu Tatak went to Uttarakhand last year as part of her month-long internship, she did not anticipate living alone, without electricity and a phone connection, an experience that left her wanting to do something for the community’s children.

She visited Shree Bhuwaneshwari Mahila Ashram, a women and children centric organisation in Tehri where she came face-to-face with realities that made her want to be associated with community-led initiatives.

She recollects, “I was curious to know how they passed their leisure time. Girls were mostly in groups and were in household chores and gathering wood. Boys would usually be playing volleyball, just around the corner.”

She adds, “I usually visited schools as the organisation held gatherings and events in different schools in the nearby areas, mostly in the district Chamoli. And in free time, I just went from house to house for interaction and to observe their daily lives.”

Some of these experiences made her continue as a volunteer with youth leadership NGO, Pravah’s SMILE (Students Mobilisation Initiative for Learning through Exposure) programme. The final year student of Sociology at Miranda House, Delhi University, says, “We tend to live in an urban bubble. We just care about our lives, to earn and to live. But that is very limiting.” That motivated her to get her skills in visual arts including photography, painting and sketching to work on her current project – Dhobighat Dreaming on the children of washermen at the city’s famous Dhobighat. “Only when we dream, we have a vision and we will be taking an action towards it. So I want the younger generations in Dhobhighat to have their own dreams,” she tells Metrolife adding that the project would culminate in a documentary on those children to spread the message of equal opportunities irrespective of castes, occupation, gender ,etc.

Just like Tatak, many others came forward to share their stories of aspiring for change at Breaking Walls: Creating Empowering 5th Spaces – A Grassroots Media Festival held recently at Dilli Haat, INA. The event organised by leadership forum Commutiny – The Youth Collective (CTYC) and Pravah saw a mix of theatre, music, games and film screenings to highlight and discuss various kinds of discriminations. Aparna Ravi from CTYC says, “We work with youth-led and youth-engaging organisations on issues of leadership, youth development and active citizenship. So, this event is advocating for fifth space which is a space beyond traditional four spaces – family, friends, leisure/entertainment and career. It is actually a live fifth space experience that young people have co-created, co-led and are co-owning it as an exclusive space for themselves.”

“Breaking Walls is a campaign,” says emcee Saudamini. While the other events took place in Jaipur (Rajasthan), Telangana, Harda (Madhya Pradesh), Ahmedabad (Gujurat) and Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), the Delhi event was eighth in the series of Breaking Walls and with this “we have reached out to more than 3000 young people onground,” says Ravi.  

While the nukkad natak by Pratyaksha Theatre Group highlighted caste, depression, colour of the skin, and questioning one’s sexuality as some of the issues plaguing the society, the short films made by activists and media professionals affirmed the need for communal harmony. Alfa Educational Society in Rajasthan gathers youth from different communities, religions and castes and gives them a space for learning and playing was captured in the film, ‘5th Space ki Vidhi’ by Nitin Das. Ravi says, “We are trying to promote cross-border friendships beyond labels, beyond any restriction, and looking at how we can create an empowering, non-judgemental space through regular discussions and advocacy.”  

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