I spent the initial years of my life in a village near Jaunpur in UP. Life in the village was fun…we used to play in the fields and the river, all of us friends. I moved to Delhi in 2nd or 3rd standard to live with my parents, and found the transition very difficult. The level of education in the village and over here was very different, so I had to go back a few grades. I started doing badly at studies…and in Class 6th especially, I performed very poorly.

Then, two years ago, some people from ROPIO (Reach Out and Pass it On) came to our slum in Ramesh Nagar, and started teaching us. Soon after that, I started going to the ROPIO office, and my grades began to improve. I also loved the workshops, especially the ones on art and craft. I learnt quilling here, which I really like. I enjoy the satisfaction it gives me of having created something.

One day, the coordinator here at ROPIO told me about Tasawwur…he said that there will be a theatre workshop, and that I should go if I am interested. I have acted previously in skits and I have always enjoyed it, that’s why I came to Tasawwur. You see, my role model is my uncle who is an agricultural engineer, and I want to be an engineer as well…but I also want to be an actor. Acting is my hobby. So I came.
The first time I went to Bluebells school for the Tasawwur workshop, I was in awe… I had never been to such a big school before. I wasn’t sure how to speak to such high-class people (itne bade log). Even though people were speaking in both English and Hindi, the conversation was moving very fast. I didn’t know much English, so I was hesitant to speak. I wasn’t sure whether I was speaking correctly or not.

Gradually, I opened up. I started interacting with the other participants, both within the sessions and during breaks. I remember an activity in which we had to make up a song to a tune, and our team came up with tere mast mast do nain…that got everyone talking to each other, and I spoke to one of the girls from Bluebells school. Once, I was dancing during the break, just like that…I have always been fond of dancing, since my childhood. When the DJ used to play his music during functions in the village, I would really dance! So I was dancing during the break, and one of the boys came up to me and asked me if I am a professional dancer. So we started chatting.
I learnt that everyone has different problems. I didn’t know that boys from upper class houses (bade ghar ke ladke) drink! On TV, what we usually see is that they live decently. Another one of the boys, he was from Afghanistan, he told me that he was once fired from a job because he was a Muslim and an “outsider”.

I remember my birthday celebration…I was in shock! When I arrived for rehearsal that day, no one was there, so I turned around to go home. But then it turned out everyone was hiding behind pillars to jump out and surprise me! My birthday has never been celebrated so well before. I was so happy.

I learnt a lot about acting as well, and it was great to do the show. Enacting a violent father in the domestic violence scene during the play…that was difficult. You see, I have seen domestic violence only in films and serials, and I found it very difficult to do. But the two friends I was acting with told me that they would never forgive me if I messed it up….so I had to do it well! My parents came to see the show as well. I remember I cried towards the end because I did not want to part with my friends.

When I go back for the next round, I will meet people with full tashan (style)! I will tell the new kids, “Look, if you don’t speak English, speak in Hindi…don’t hesitate!” That’s what Tasawwur has taught me… that one should speak with an open mind and heart. I definitely opened up during this process, and have started talking more in public. Somehow, in the process of interacting with so many people, it just happened. I believe that one can change by listening to other people’s stories…after listening to my Afghan friend’s experiences in the city, I know that strangers to our country get treated differently, and that we should help them.

Tasawwur also taught me that one shouldn’t be scared on stage, and how to move, how to express, …I felt after this that maybe I can become an actor. I think I am going to give auditions as an actor along with becoming an engineer. Let’s see what follows, but my fear has gone now.

As told to Kandala Singh.

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