Friday, May 27, 2011

From on the Streets to a Loving Leader: Happy Birthday Bharat

About 17 years ago, Bharat was bootpolishing on the streets of Ahmedabad barefooted, raggedy clothed, trying to make a few cents to contribute to his family’s daily income. A family strapped with problems, he has grown a lot and has become a loving leader at Manav Sadhna and in our EKATVA journey. I will save his life story for a later post by our dear friend Pooja. But for now,  we celebrate his growth, his birthday and the potential that he represents in all of us, even the most underprivileged.

Day before yesterday the kids and I decided we’d pull off a surprise birthday celebration for Bharat’s 25th birthday. When Bharat was not around we all split up tasks for what we were to bring early the next morning at 7am, to decorate and set up for Bharat’s surprise before he got to practice at 830am.

Chandani and Prinyanka balloons and confetti.
Devram and Sanjay, flowers.
Krishna, Payal, Bharti and Nikita, small gifts, lighted clock gift.
Nitesh , chocolates.
Dipmala, Asha, Bhavnik, Vicky, Dharmaji, Vishal, a Jesus Christ pendant.
He loves music and dance so I got him an ipod and speaker system.

We decorated the entrance of our practice area at the Gandhi Ashram and locked the door, and when he knocked, we bumped his favorite song “Dinka Chika Dinka Chika” (seriously that’s the title) and starting dancing and celebrating, a big party of dance and music that lasted about 45 minutes.

Twas’ beautiful to see how much love the kids have for him and how he has grown to become a loving leader for them.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"We have a Surprise for you"...

So everyday for the past year or so, I give our children rickshaw or bus money to get back home after practice. There are people like Sanjay and Devram, who live in Jamalpur, which is quite far from the Gandhi Ashram, but with the use of a Shuttle rickshaw (group rickshaw) and Bus, they are able to make a round trip in 30 rs. It may take them 45 minutes to an hour to go from home to practice.
Then there are our Shankarbhuvan Slum kids (Dipmala, Dharmaji, Vishal, Asha, Vicky and Bhavnik) who all squeeze into a rickshaw and get to Shankarbhuvan for a 30 rs. Rickshaw ride one-way. That’s a little distance away.
Chandani , Priyanka and Gaurang all have unique ride situations, for they all live even farther away.
But there are 4 girls, Payal, Bharti, Krishna and Nikita, who live closest to the Gandhi Ashram, in what is known as the biggest slum in Gujarat, Rama Pir No Tekro. Now these are four really tiny girls, who, when we started were afraid to walk to practice without an escort. Now they go back and forth by themselves.
But a fun interesting thing happened today:
Well, yesterday I gave them 20 rupees for their rickshaw ride back home.  They were supposed to take the 20 rs. rickshaw ride to the further entrance to the slum which is closer to their homes and then walk to practice in the morning. It’s 106 degree weather right now, I definitely don’t want any of them walking in the afternoon time in the sun.  So I suggest they take the rickshaw in the afternoon and walk in the morning, since they are close enough.  Basically I don’t want them to feel that we can just spend money whenever and wherever our comforts desire.
So anyways, today I had to come to practice late because of work I had to get done before reaching. When I came to join the kids for lunch, all four girls tell me they have a surprise for me after lunch. A surprise from our girls! Love it! And sometimes they get creative with their gifts to others.
After lunch and before practice ended, they say “Nimesh Sir, please wait, we want to give you your surprise”. Hah!! I’m cracking up. They’re too cute. For like 2 minutes, all four of them are shuffling in Bharti’s purse, searching for their surprise.
Finally…..(drum roll please)…They pull it out. It’s fifteen rupees. Then they look at my face for a reaction. I don’t give one. They ask, so do you know what the surprise is. I said, “No”…I was trying to think how they reached home yesterday and came to practice today on only five rupees. Something was not adding up.
The girls in an excited voice finally told me, they all hopped on a bus (India busses are rough and this was a highly unexpected maneuver by these girls!) to Vadaj, and then walked from there to home to save money and also try something new. And then they walked to practice this morning (8am, so not as hot then).

I was excited. They all truly broke out of their comfort zone and were happy and proud of it.  This group of 4 girls, tend to get scared the most and would never have gone on a bus by themselves and then walked from the big bus station to their homes. A beautiful suprise it was!!
Small things...Beautiful to see them grow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meet Gaurang...

“Some people just have it in their blood,” said Bharatbhai, one of 12-year old Gaurang’s mentors at Manav Sadhna, as Gaurang rapped his fingers against the sides of the metal dholak, or drum. His head leaned to the left with each beat; his eyes fixed in the distance.
Rhythm, which has manifested in his love for dancing and playing the drum, is in his blood.
             Gaurang stays in the children’s hostel at Gandhi Ashram with his younger brother Jatin. His family lives nearly two hours away in the village of Dholka. The distance has been hard for Gaurang and his parents, even after three years of staying at the hostel.
            “It’s always hard to be away from my home,” Gaurang says. “But for a good education, my parents say it is worth it.”
            For Gaurang, bright and focused in his studies, staying at the Ashramshala hostel has been worth it for more than his education.
            “If I have never come to Gandhi Ashram, this opportunity to be in EKATVA would have been lost.”
            A naturally talented percussionist, Gaurang hopes that EKATVA will be a step toward his dream of becoming a professional dhol player and dancer one day.
            When he was just six years old, Gaurang remembers listening to his uncle beat the dholak for hours during celebrations in their community. He was left in awe by the power of the instrument – the ability to energize the crowd with the simple, rhythmic sound.
            He would come home and create his own patterns and beats on an improvised dhol he made from an empty oilcan, encouraging his friends to dance as he drummed his fingers against the metal.
            Gaurang’s parents recognized his amateur talent and encouraged him to learn from him uncle. He began lessons, refining his natural dexterity and sense of rhythm.
            Through EKATVA, Gaurang has grown to appreciate his talent through dance.
            “When I hear the music, I listen to the beat carefully,” he says. “It is easy for me to dance to the rhythm. I understand how the rhythm will go because I play dhol.”
            During his vacation from school, Gaurang’s uncle takes him along to play the dhol in wedding processions. Even after of two hours of continuously striking the drum, he doesn’t feel tired.
            “I feel energized when I see people dancing to the beat that I’m making,” he says. “I cannot stop, even if I am tired. How can I ruin their fun?” 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back From Break

Today was the first day back from break. Well really the kids have a two month vacation till the next school year...But we only gave our kids 10 days off...Back to the daily grind. 8am everyone reaches the Gandhi Ashram. 8:30am prayer starts. 9am Excercise. 945am practice and show rehearsals. This week we will start to focus on using props also in our practice so the kids start getting used to that. In a few weeks we will also need to start making use of Costume changes during practice. It was a good day of practice. Practice goes on until about 12pm. Remember it gets to about 110-115 degrees F by afternoon, so morning time, though still warm is at least not scorching :) After practice we had a wholesome and filling lunch that was cooked by our lovely Manav Sadhna cook, Kamaraben, who is sacrificing her 2-week vacation to help out :) After practice today, Deenaben held English class for the kids. And then we all headed back home. by 3pm.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meet Chandani...

             While playing barefoot in the Gandhi Ashram one afternoon, a thorn pierced the sole of Chandani’s foot. Her playmates carried her, short and petite, into the shade without difficulty. Her naturally glossy eyes gave the impression of tears as she cringed.
            As Chandani bent over her foot in pain, her younger brother Kamal hurried over with concern. But as his expression began to crumple in worry, Chandani put on a brave face and shooed him away, reassuring him that she was not hurt badly.
            Although Chandani is small, she is strong. When she and Kamal walk side-by-side through the ashram, the 12-year old stands barely a hair taller than her younger brother. Still, she manages to pack great confidence and compassion into her petite four-foot frame.
            When Chandani left home to live in a children’s hostel two years ago, she initially felt very lonely. The Ashramshala is a hostel in Gandhi Ashram for children from the so-called “untouchable” communities. Most children, like Chandani, come from uneducated families that have done cleaning jobs for generations.
“I decided that I want to learn, even if I have to stay away from my parents,” Chandani said, “but at first it was hard.”
One year later, her parents sent Kamal to the hostel as well, with the hope that the brother and sister would support each other while getting a good education away from home. Chandani immediately assumed the role of her brother’s protector from larger, bullying boys, and advocate to teachers who overlooked his quiet nature.
“People tease him because he is small,” she explains, “but I just tell him to forget about it. I say, ‘Just because they say something mean doesn’t mean you will become that way.’”
These small grains of Gandhian insight she has gathered during her EKATVA journey have made Chandani even stronger.
“Before when anyone teased me, I would feel bad about myself and tease them back,” Chandani says. “Now, I see there is no point. I’ve learned to let go of my anger when others say mean things.”
After nursing her sore foot for a few minutes, Chandani dove into dance practice. Thorns, like unkind words, may sting for a moment. But along with EKATVA, Chandani has developed the confidence to persist toward her goal despite what others may have to say.

There was an error in this gadget