I came to Kahani Mela with very little information about the project. I was attracted by the aspect of ‘Kahani’ and thought that we would visit schools and do storytelling with students. But after reaching Ajmer and having our orientation, I was left even more excited as not only were we telling stories but we were going to facilitate students in developing their own stories, plays, puppet shows as well. I worked with different students and I was amazed to see the talented children in the village of Kalyanipura. I played various games with them, formed stories from a few words, did community walks and many other things. Working with the kids was something I was really looking forward to and OELP gave me an amazing opportunity to do it here.
Organizing the Mela itself after all the preparations was fun too. Even though it became a bit stressful sometimes due to workload and hot weather, it was exciting and encouraging to see everyone working together as a team to bring the event to life.
When I talk about working with community, it was really interesting to see how receptive and welcoming the community and village people were to our presence. They took us into their homes, gave us food and water, and talked to us even though we did not share a common language. This was really special to me as I realized that you do not always need a language to communicate, just love, affection and the will to communicate our feelings is enough. I gave my best to involve community people in the Mela as I took part in rallies, lead a rally myself, visited people’s homes, met the Sarpanch of the village who is a very strong women and a role model for young girls, and invited them all to the event. Also, I tried to involve the youth as much as possible by delegating them responsibilities so that they can become more confident and develop leadership qualities.
Few things that impacted me the most was the love given to us by the community. On the first day in the village, we were supposed to have our dinner in the village too, and then leave for our head office where we were staying. But when we got very late after dinner, the people offered us to stay in their home. It was really special, as I have never seen such love and trust between people in Delhi. They offered us to stay even though we were strangers to them.
Another incident that I found interesting was how excited the children were to read the storybooks from “Kahaniyon ka khazana” in the Kalyanipura Mela. Usually, we see that the teachers blame the students that they do not want to read due to their unwillingness, no interest towards reading and even their low socio-economic background. But here, it was seen that students were clearly interested and enthusiastic to read, they just need proper guidance, facilitation, and encouragement to read. Also, the women and senior citizens of the village community took part in Mela and appreciated it. I think that parents’ own interest and support towards child literacy will help a lot in developing more literate and sensitive citizens.
Some things I liked the most was that the teachers in the school were making efforts to include children in various activities and tasks for the event. They were using different methods and styles to make the tasks more interesting. The teachers were trying to use students’ experiences as learning resources and also giving them the opportunity to explore more about themselves, the village they live in and the local village stories which were collected from the elderly of the village in the form of ‘Gaon ka Itihas’, ‘Gaon ki lok kathayien’ and many more collections. Rather than using traditional approach, teachers were using different pedagogy methods to include children in different activities.
The challenge I faced during working here was that only few students were selected and being repeated in different plays. Other students did not get equal opportunity to take part in stage performances. When we tried to change it, the students refused to come to school stating that they had worked on the play for 15 days. Due to lack of time, we could not prepare new plays or change the actors in the current plays may be this was because some students did not take part in the process initially due to hesitation and low motivation So, I think that the teachers should motivate to all students rather than few selected ones.
Another reality and the most important one that really disturbed me was that when I visited the community and interacted with people, I realized that there are lots of child marriages still taking place in the village It really affected me deeply as these children are so young and their childhood is being snatched away from them due to this social evil.
Overall, my experience in OELP was very enriching and the whole journey was beautiful. I would love to volunteer again for OELP and have more such experiences again.
Written by- Tanya Mittal