Chharas teach theatre to IIMA students.
Members of the community, once known as a colony of born criminals, are conducting classes on Budhan theatre
– Dhwani Pathak Dave,
Posted On Thursday, February 10, 2011 at 03:01:21 AM
Chharas, who were once labelled “born criminals”, are now conducting classes at one of India’s premier management schools. A group of youngsters from the community are teaching Budhan theatre to students of Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, (IIMA). Remarkably, some of these youngsters have never attended school, but they are now visiting a campus known for academic brilliance.
Learning Budhan theatre — a powerful tool that Chharas have been using to highlight a range of community issues and bring about social change — is part an elective chosen by IIMA’s PGP-II students. The course, known as participatory theatre for development, is a component of the institute’s Public Systems Group.
Chharas, students share their problems
A course coordinator at IIMA said that Chharas started taking classes on February 4. “It’s a 14-day programme,” he said. Interestingly, no textbooks are involved. Students and Chharas sit together and share their problems. “Empathy cannot be taught. This is an effort to create a society with empathetic leaders, communicators and decision-makers. There is no textual way to do this,” he said.
The coordinator said that Budhan theatre was not a traditional medium where actors played different roles. “It a powerful form of political and development theatre where enactors are part of a social change. It is a form that involves more group processes,” he said. Radhe Shyam, an IIMA student who has opted for the elective, said that he always wanted to be part of an activity aimed at bringing about social development.
Another student, Meenakshi Deogram, said that Bhudhan theatre was more about reacting than acting. “In the traditional form, we just blurt out dialogues given to us. We don’t react. In Bhudhan, we try to understand what the other person has gone through,” she said. Meenakshi has found friends in Chharas visiting the campus. She, in fact, plans to gift them a computer after completing the course.
Chharanagar, IIMA two different worlds
“Theatre is a medium that touches everyone. It instils a lot of confidence in participants,” Kalpana Gagdekar of the Budhan theatre group said. She pointed out that IIMA and Chharanagar were two completely different worlds. “Chharas who are conducting workshops at IIMA have never been to the campus before. In fact, they had not even seen the institutes’ gates. Visiting the campus and interacting with students has boosted their confidence.”
Kajal Sashi (20), who is a part of Budhan theatre group, said that she was initially nervous about interacting with IIMA students. “When I first came here, I didn’t know how I would talk to students and share my issues. However, now I have made some friends with whom I can discuss my problems,” she said. Sangita, also a Chhara, said before she joined the theatre group, she had seen little of the world outside her home.
Chharas who are conducting workshops at IIMA had never even seen its gates before. Interacting with students has boosted their confidence – Kalpana Gagdekar of Budhan group
When I first came here, I didn’t know how to talk to students. However, now I have made some friends – Kajal Sashi of Budhan theatre
I always wanted to be part of an activity aimed at bringing about social change – Radhe Shyam, IIMA student