August 15, 2009

The Curtain Call

My CHOICE internship has almost come to an end. This is my last month. I have had a wonderful time working with SAPPHO and KALAM. Both the organisations offered me a space to learn and disseminate my own learnings. Whilst KALAM had me take a more creative role through the workshops i took and facilitated it also allowed me the ground for an ethnographic study of a certain community of children who come from the disadvantaged part of the society. This has helped me further in understanding and continuing work in this field.

SAPPHO took me to a whole new world. For the uninitiated its a lesbian support group and to actually be able to be part of their work, advocacy and mission was a huge boost to me. It allowed me to closely observe the nascent lesbian community in Kolkata. Look at and adress issues related to health, support structure and expression. I have been associated majorly with some basic archiving and data collection work and in helping with the Queer Conference which was held earlier this year. Both were extremely self satisfying and learning.

Today as i am about to complete my last few days of the internship i feel a bit nostalgic and sad that this had to come to an end, however i do feel privileged to have been a part of this learning process which gave me a first hand insight into the workings of a NGO model and practical fieldwork in undersatnding the people, community and children i want to work with in the near future.


July 18, 2009

The Last Shot.

The final stint at CHOICE has come to an end.
These are some of the photographs that the last photo therapy session produced.
We now have a treasure trove of such photographs which can be used n a variety of ways in the future. As reader's might remember, my project was to have ended in an awareness exhibition. However, due to financial constraints this has been shelved, for the time being. Instead I'm putting together a small docu using these photographs, health economics, and a bit of my journey. Ratna and Dr.D.Chatterjeeare being very helpful. Fun Fact: I still have to find an editor, who'll work for free! So that's a little worry.
I'm hoping to have round it up by mid-August.. Seagull Open House is coming up, so I'm really very excited!
Though my internship has come to an end, I have decided to keep visiting Lumbini at least a couple of times a month..
I feel inexorably linked to the place and the people.
But an expanse of bittersweet feelings surface with the knowledge that CHOICE itself will be winding up.. It's been over a year, and I've learnt so so very much from every person I've interacted with!
Without CHOICE and Seagull the photo therapy project would not have been possible. It's opened up several exciting avenues. I feel much more confident about the project and it's usefulness and perhaps even necessity. I think it's a great form of therapy and we've hit upon some brilliant photographer's :)
We all eagerly looked forward to Friday mornings, which is when we usually had photo therapy sessions at Lumbini. They gradually eased into the classes, and by the end of it, some of them were really looking forward to handling the camera and coming up with beautifully framed shots. I have to admit that I was tremendously shaky when the project started, but at the end of it, looking back I feel tremendously grateful and a great deal more confident.
I am eagerly looking forward to the completion of a documentary and future projects with photo therapy.
And if it weren't for CHOICE it wouldn't even exist..
It's been a great great experience working here..
Of course, we'll all keep running into each other.

July 12, 2009

Wrapping Up

As I sit down to write my last Choice post, I realize I'm not sure where to begin. Summing up a year's experience of anything is hard. Summing up a year's opportunity to work in a field you've been passionate about is even harder. I've said this before, but I'll say it again: I am and will always be grateful to the Choice programme of Seagull to have given me the support I needed to enter this field. I don't think I'd have been able to start working with Sanved sans a project like Choice. Yes, I'd known Sohini di much before I heard of Choice. I'd also worked as a volunteer for her and told her I would love to work for her on a regular basis. But Sanved is a small organization, and did not have the resources to create employment for someone like me. I truly believe that when you want to work in the development sector, where funds are low, and, even more so, if you are drawn to a small NGO because of the innovative work it does, it helps immensely if there is an intermediary organization/agency that acts as a link between you and the organization you want to work with. In this respect what Choice does is invaluable.

For me, the best part of being a Choice intern with Sanved was I got the chance to put into practice all that I'd studied as a graduate student. My work with Sanved was an uncanny extension of my final thesis. In my thesis I researched how performance can be used to rehabilitate and empower women who have been abused. While working with Sanved I used theatre as a tool for empowerment in my sessions with the girls at Apne Aap Women Worldwide. Almost every week I would take sessions geared towards making them more comfortable with their bodies and more confident as women. Admittedly, these were the classes I looked forward to the most. Looking back, I can think of a couple of girls who I saw transform in the course of my sessions with them. Nothing can beat that feeling when you see girls who were reserved, withdrawn and acutely self-conscious gradually become confident, articulate and comfortable with their identities. Another girl seemed to have a natural knack for acting and performing. Watching her take on roles in short skits we would stage in the class was so wonderfully rewarding.

Another reason why I will hold this year-long experience close to my heart is that it strengthened my conviction that drama therapy was the area I wanted to work in. There is always the possibility that when you actually work in the field, you realize that it may not be what you had thought it would be or that you aren't cut out for it. But during this year, I never tired of the work; nor did I feel I wouldn't manage. I kept learning on the job, thinking and rethinking session plans based on the responses I got. Gaining experience in preparing classes, changing modules according to the needs of the participants was additionally advantageous. Indeed, I think I managed to do nearly everything I'd wanted to do during this internship.

On a personal note, working with Sanved made me much clearer of my assets and shortcomings as a drama therapist (if I can call myself that). I'm a lot more confident about facilitating sessions. I don't know if I'm a good facilitator, but I know what I can do to become better. I know I need to develop counselling skills in the long-run because verbal counselling is an important part of my work as well. One of my future objectives is to enroll in a course in counselling.

In the next year, as an employee of Sanved, I hope to develop my skills in the area further and conceptualize at least one rights-based performance. I'm also looking forward to devising sessions for HIV infected children in my monthly classes with Offer, an NGO working with HIV patients. I'm sure there will be other projects that will come up as interest in alternative forms of therapy increases; I'm fortunate to be working with an NGO that is at such an exciting stage in its life. But none of this would have been possible had Choice not given me a grant to build my experience in this field. Thank you, Choice.

July 01, 2009

Chetana Resource Centre

One of the primary and important additions to Sappho since its inception has been its resource centre. It houses some of the best films and books on LGBT issues from India and across the world. It also archives News paper clippings, articles and journals related to Queer issues.

One of the duties i was given as an intern for some weeks had been to archive and make a proper registry of the library holdings. It was quite interesting since i love reading books and articles, and every time a name struck interesting to me i got the book and article out and keeping my work aside read them.

The library is free and open to anyone who is working on these issues or are just interested. It does not have lending facilities but you may read it there or get relevant portions photocopied. Not too many people know about this and i thought i should share this.

For more details check out:

June 16, 2009

Dialogues 2009

Dialogues- The Queer film festival organised by Sappho for Equality and Pratyay Gender Trust was back this year with a bigger bang. Due to my post- graduation hectic schedule i could not be a part of the planning session for the festival. However i was a volunteer during the festival and the crowd could at best be described as Mad.

There were some very interesting films that were shown. Parvez Sharma's Jehad for Love being a personal favourite. (which i incidentally saw last year at another film festival). What many people do no know is that Parvez used to live in our own city many years back before moving to the States. The film depicted islam and sexuality as opposing forces and how a group of muslim gay men wanted to reconcile them in their own ways. It was a beautiful saga. Poignant and moving. (Can i add at this point that i will be meeting Parvez in person later next month at the World Outgames Human Rights Conference. *wink wink*)

The short film section was very intersting too- Creative and informative. Films like 'Gender Trouble', 'Milind Soman made me Gay', 'Pablo' and the very brilliant 'Are we talking Straight' made us sit up and take notice. 'Are we talking straight' was a docu fature made in Kolkata on the occasion of Anti homophobic day. It was quite shocking to see youth voices screaming about the unnaturalness of same sex love and how it is a psychological problem that can be cured parallel to voices from other people who understand and support the right of individual freedom and expression. The film was a jolting revelation of the truth we fail to see in our own idealistic lives and the attitude of the general populace towards homosexuality.

Lastly but not least i would like to talk about Shameem sarif's 'The world unseen' a story of two indian women in 1952's apartheid South africa. The film was beautiful and laced with strong performances by Lisa ray, nandana sen, and sheetal seth. Last heard it still hasnt got clearance for a theatrical release in india but the festival allowed us to watch the film which we might not be able to see anytime soon.

The festival boasted of a strong mix of viewers- from Tv stars to activists, academics and film makers. It truly paved the way for discussion and debates on the stigma and celebration of love- two sides of the same coin.