Empowering the youth through art and theatre.

Empowering the youth through art and theatre.

27th March 2019 was celebrated as World Theatre Day.

Theatre– a stage where art meets talent from all walks of life–is a place that holds the secret to empowering the underprivileged youth of our society. A secret that the Mumbai-based NGO, Salaam Mumbai Foundation, discovered through its Academy of Arts.

The Academy focuses on using the power of art and theatre to instil in the youth from the lesser-privileged backgrounds a sense of respect for themselves by giving education a chance to improve their life. Bringing art and education together to teach and help them improve their career-prospects, the foundation offers the youth after-school programs for personal and economic empowerment through experiential platforms of learning.

It’s through theatre that these youth not only find a voice to express their innermost feelings about a life that’s far removed from the rest of the privileged world, but also get a chance to develop their talents and improve their career opportunities.

The Academy found how, with the help of art and theatre, the school-dropout rate of these youth could be brought down. it has given them a brilliant opportunity through part-time employment and scholarships to continue with their education and dare to dream for a better future.

The Arts have shown to help students to critique themselves, learn from their mistakes and be open to experimenting.

One of the success stories from the Academy is of Sakshi Kasare, a 16 year old, who lives in a slum in Bandra, Mumbai, with her family of 11 members in a tiny space. She joined the Academy where she transformed from a clueless teenager to a confident performer–a mime artist–who won her first Best Actress Award at the NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts).

The news of her wining and her photograph made an appearance in the newspapers, which made her decide that this is what she would like to do in her life–act.

Many students have benefitted from the Academy. They have gained confidence and an increased self-esteem, and learned problem-solving and collaboration that will help them when they step into the world outside.

Recently, the Academy decided to collaborate with the Stanford Talisman–a student cappella group from the world-renowned Stanford University, USA. The concert, titled ‘Circle of Love’, performed multi-lingual compositions interspersed with mime productions by the Salaam Mumbai Foundation’s Academy of Art.

An adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, the performance brought together on stage privileged students from a world famous university and the underprivileged youth from Mumbai slums, with world-class theatre training. Their love for theatre was what brought about this collaboration.

The students from the university and the youth from Mumbai now look forward to performing in front of an audience from another country to showcase their talent.

The Salaam Mumbai Foundation and similar organisations today strive to create a space for these youth to educate them and help them learn life skills through the performing arts. They believe that these children, who may belong to the lesser-privileged background, do have the potential to make a space and a name for themselves and bring about a change in the social structure of the society they live in.

Sharing here, some snapshots of the beautiful performance by the two groups at NCPA on World Theatre Day.

 

*Linking the post to the We Are the World Blogfest – #WATWB. A blogfest that shares human news story from around the world that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

We Are The World Blogfest

 

Showing the world how arts helps improve lives of the lesser-privileged youth.

Where do you find happiness? Quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Where do you find happiness? Quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh.

March 20th is the National Happiness Day.

How are you celebrating it? Do you share your happiness with those around you, because, you know, happiness increases only when we share it with others? And, the kind of lives we live today, each one of us is in need of a spark of joy that will help them go through it all.

Man has been in pursuit of happiness since the time he came into being. Although, back then, he may not have dwelled upon happiness as much as we do today, for life back then was comparatively simpler (or, was it?) and less stressful (??).

But, I am sure man was happier, back then, because each time we visit our past–our childhood–we recollect how less cluttered life was; how less stressful and how less complicated, and agree that, yes, life in the past was so much happier!

Progress and development brought along distractions and distress galore. Today, we may have the world at our fingertips, but happiness is something we fail to find on any app.

We scour places that boast of being the treasure trove of this elusive emotion; we seek it in people, in stuff we buy, and each time, return empty-handed and broken-hearted. Eventually, having tried our luck and failed, miserably, we give up on it all–on ourselves and our happiness, too!

However, Life is one tough cookie, who never gives up on us and makes sure we realise the meaning of true happiness and where we ought to look for it!

It introduces us to adversities, gets us caught in a storm, and almost pushes us over the edge into shark-infested waters, only to pull us back in time and make us appreciate what we have.

An appreciation that teaches us the meaning of HAPPINESS, and where it lies.

Over the years…okay, who am I kidding? Over the last year, I have realised that happiness lies right here, in front of me, and not somewhere else, where I was looking for it.

Happiness lies in my work, my art, the tiny everyday moments that I used to take for granted.

Happiness lies in being in this moment, in living this moment without thinking about what happened, and wondering what might happen.

Happiness lies in savouring the present that I have been gifted by Life; in embracing it with all my heart, and being grateful for it, along with its ugliness and its impermanence.

That, for me, is happiness, and HERE is where I find it!

What does happiness mean to you? And, where do you find it?

Sharing today, three quotes by Thich Nhat Hanh, that will help you find answers to these questions.

Happiness lies in the here and the now!

 

Love,

SHILPA…

 

Where do you look for it?

I and my new year goal – How we work together.

I and my new year goal – How we work together.

Last year was tough, like every other year, but a bit more tougher in every possible way. However, after going through all the lows and the rough terrain, I ended up learning a lot.

I learned about Life, about how helpful those difficult moments had actually been and how I need to be grateful for all that happened. It changed me, my outlook towards Life and my reaction to circumstances good or bad.

Last year taught me to forget about the past and the future and focus ONLY ON THE PRESENT MOMENT–the moment that’s LIFE!

Ergo, my WOTY (Word/Words of the Year):

LIVE IN THE MOMENT

 

Just being physically present in the here and the now makes no sense if you aren’t mentally and emotionally invested in it. To be able to live fully and experience every moment in all its entirety, you need to be living and breathing the moment, focusing on it a 100%.  And, that is what I have been attempting since 2019 began.

I won’t say it’s easy, because it is not. We condition ourselves to forever look back at what happened and dream about what we would like to happen. Rarely do we forget the past tense and the future tense and concentrate on the present continuous. So, yes, it’s tough unlearning all that I was used to and learn something new, after all these years.

But, change, as we know, takes time to develop into a habit. It also takes a lot of hard work, patience and consistency. And, that’s what I have been working at.

There are times when I lose myself in the past, in comparing today with yesterday and how ephemeral Life is. But, after a while, I bring myself back to the present so that I experience well what the moment has brought for me.

HOW LIVING IN THE MOMENT HELPS ME:

Living in the here and the now helps me reduce my anxiety; makes me realise that, what I fear about tomorrow, is just my imagination and how I need to put my imagination to better use than conjuring all sorts of horrid things and ruining the peace I experience in this moment.

Living in the moment helps me focus better on my work–be it writing or art, or helping my nephew with his studies, or even managing my home.

Living in the moment helps me come up with ideas for my blog, topics I can write about or designs/illustrations I can work on.

And, finally, living in the moment helps me enjoy the present that I have, without worrying about the future that’s uncertain and ruing the past that can’t be changed.

It gives me peace of mind and a whole lot of sense about how I need to use my mental capacities for my well-being and my happiness.

How about you? Have you been working on your new year goals? Is 2019 in alignment with your WOTY?

 

Love,

SHILPA…

Is your new year in alignment with your WOTY?

Empowering young girls for a brighter future. #BalanceforBetter

Empowering young girls for a brighter future. #BalanceforBetter

Every year, on the 8th of March, the world celebrates women on the occasion of International Women’s Day. Women being the backbone of every family and our society, are honoured for their contribution to the society, for their accomplishments–be they in any field–and their grit and determination to make a mark despite every hurdle, every barrier that they come across. It’s a day dedicated to challenging gender bias apart from felicitating women for their achievements.

This year, taking into consideration the skewed ratio of girls to boys in schools, a Mumbai based organisation, ‘Salaam Bombay Foundation‘, has organised a special campaign planned for young girls, to motivate them and empower them to achieve gender equality. And, in doing so, they aim to encourage them to continue their education and aspire for a better and a brighter future.

Children belonging to the underprivileged sections of our society prefer to drop out of schools to help their parents improve their financial condition. Many of them also get entangled in the evil web of drug menace, thereby ruining their entire lives.

Organisations like the Salaam Bombay Foundation help such children by guiding them, helping them return back to schools and continue their education so that they have a better chance at a respectable career and a future they never dreamed of.

The foundation offers girls vocational training in beauty, wellness and bakery so that they become independent and help supplementing their family income.

This year, the NGO has planned on presenting the young girls articles like pressure cookers, baking moulds and other starter kits which will be handed over to them by women entrepreneurs. The motive behind this wonderful gesture is to inspire the young girls to overcome the obstacles they face, and work hard towards achieving not only financial independence, but also improving their morale and self-esteem.

This year, around 1900 girls from Mumbai were imparted training in skills relevant to today’s modern lifestyle. About 493 of these girls have begun working and are helping out their families financially.

Helping mould the children at an impressionable age makes all the difference, not only to their confidence and overall development, but also to their lives. They are offered precious opportunities to educate themselves and enjoy a better standard of living. Through their foundation, the organisation also aims at increasing job opportunities for adolescents belonging to the underprivileged sections of our society.

The campaign theme for this year is, #BalanceforBetter, an initiative for spreading the word about gender balance around the world. The event will be held on the 8th of March at Worli Sea Face Municipal School, Mumbai, between 10 to 11 am.

If you happen to be in the vicinity, do attend the event and encourage the young girls. It’s all they need to work harder at fulfilling their dreams and living a better life.

 

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY WOMEN’S DAY!

Education and women empowerment

 

 

 

 

Why we need to let go of stuff we can’t control

Why we need to let go of stuff we can’t control

Have you been asked this question when you complained to someone about certain stressful events from your life?

Let me share this conversation, as an example:

“My dad used to thrash me when I was a kid.”, a person shares with his friend, who replies, “So, what? My dad disowned me!” 

What’s the thought that comes to mind, instantly? Doesn’t it make you shudder, looking at the other person’s situation in his Life?

It’s something I saw in a film, the other day. An exchange between two people, one of whom has carried the trauma of being raped during her childhood, for years. An exchange that makes this woman realise that despite having had such a terrible thing happening with her, she might still be in a better place than the other person, who has gone through something worse.

She also realises, how futile it has been, carrying this burden with her all her life, ruining the relationship she has with her very loving and caring husband and living with the ghosts of her past.

I know, it’s really not easy letting go of certain memories–events that took place in our lives that shook us to the core, traumatised us and transformed the person we were until then.

We keep holding on to those memories, keeping them alive in our heart for years together, and in the process, hardly finding any peace in our present Life–the one which we have, today.

We hold on to grudges against someone who wronged us, hurt us, tortured us with their behaviour; we hold on to stressful incidents that were, at some point, a part of our lives; we keep those wounds afresh, for ages. And, what do we get in return? Nothing, but heartache, and endless pain that makes us blind to the good that is happening today!

And these wounds, they ruin not only our mental health, but also our physical and emotional health, our relationship with others, and, most importantly, our relationship with ourselves.

The severe aches and pains we experience are very much a result of the stressful memories we hold on to, as they are a result of the physical wear and tear our body goes through as we age.

Why don’t we understand one thing that Life is never, ever, going to be smooth-sailing? That, Life is always, always, going to be a bumpy ride, which might, sometimes, offer us a beautiful view, and just as we begin to enjoy that beauty, will shove us in a pothole, the size of a crater, and shake us out of our reverie, turning our world upside down?

That’s LIFE, isn’t it? Ever-changing, never easy, always tough.

But, the one thing that can give us some solace is the game I shared in the beginning of this post. The game of, “So what?”

it’s a game you can play with yourself, too, you know, when you find yourself cursing your misfortune and grumbling about everything going wrong with your Life.

Just think about the situation you are in, that’s unpleasant and stressful, and ask yourself, “So, what?” .

Then, compare it to the time when things were wonderful, or, to how someone else is in a worse situation than you, and how they are tackling it, better than you are.

You will realise how fruitless it is, complaining about your situation, for the simple reason that….

Some day, Life will change, and it will be better, all over again.

The cycle of good times and bad times will go on and on, until we leave this world.

It is so necessary that we let go of what happened; let bygones be bygones.

And, learn to live in this moment–this moment that is LIFE!

 

 

Try it and let me know how you felt. I know, I am going to play this game, for sure!

 

Love,

SHILPA…

Let go of stuff for your peace of mind