SNEHA’S STORY

I study in Bluebells school, and take an active part in co-curricular activities. I have been dancing since I was ten, and learning music for the last four years. I like both classical and Western music. Since I was in ninth standard, I have been clear that I want to become a chef. I like experimenting while cooking, and I am also interested in the aesthetics of food.

My family is very supportive. My father has researched the courses I can apply to after school. My father runs a design house which specialises in designing communication material for corporate houses. My mother is a Chartered Accountant. My older sister is in the final year of college. Our younger brother is in Class Four. All three of us are Bluebellians.

Participating in Tasawwur was an on-the-spot decision for me. The facilitator came to our school, and she got my attention within five minutes. The idea of combining social issues with theatre was so appealing! But I was the only one from my group of friends who signed up. With exams around the corner, my friends didn’t want to lose out on prep time and marks. But me, I am an average scorer, not a topper. And it’s not like I study much on Sundays anyway, so I had no problem committing 4 hours a week.

I was looking forward to the workshops…you see, it wasn’t going to be the first time I was meeting people from an economically lower class background. Our school promotes community service, and we also have children from EWS (Economically Weaker Sections) in our school.
After the first two weeks at Tasawwur, all the small groups got mixed up. We never did activities with the same people twice, the facilitator kept saying, “Don’t hang out with the people you already know!” Initially, I found the one on one interactions difficult…you see, I have always been the kind of person who will have a large group of friends, but only two or three people will know what’s actually going on in my mind. The first few times, I kept it very general, but I wasn’t connecting with my partners at a deeper level, so I had to push myself to do that.

The more I interacted with the others from different backgrounds, I realized that we all have common problems as teenagers. For instance, the girl issue…we all face it. But there are variations, of course. You see, I have always felt strongly about gender, because I have more experiences around it. For me, these have been things like girls not being allowed to go out at night, but not things like girls not being allowed to come out of their mother’s wombs. Of course, one reads and hears about such things, but it’s not an issue for me in my personal life. In the workshop, I saw that people face such deeper, more rooted issues.

During the privilege walk, I was shocked to see how different our starting points are in life…all because of factors like religion, caste, region, class….we really start at different points, so then why do we say society is equal? It really made me think: what makes me stand in front of those who are behind me? Am I more capable than them? Do I deserve what I have? But it’s not something I have earned, it’s not in my hands…it’s by chance. So whatever I have, am I respecting the fact that I have it? What is common and everyday for me may be a luxury for someone else. As a 15 year old, I have never had to worry about where resources will come from, I don’t have to worry about earning to survive…but for other friends in the group, it was a major concern. So maybe the things I think I need are not necessarily needs, but just things I want.

I remember another activity in which we were all blindfolded, and we came into the center of the circle and expressed what we were feeling, in any way whatsoever…and everyone else listened. You know, not everyone asks us how we are doing emotionally. When people ask us how we are doing, I wonder…are they formally asking, or genuinely…I mean, are they really prepared to know how I am doing? That day, we heard each other emotionally, and we were present for each other.

One of the most beautiful memories I have is the composition of the song “taaron ke bina dekho”, which was also in our show. We were al laughing and randomly adding harmonies to it, and suddenly, the song was ready! Sometimes, things that are not planned can also turn out to be so lovely.

I have made good friends at Tasawwur. I know the other girls from Bluebells better now, and I am also good friends with Ziya and Gagan. Even now, in the second round, whenever I am upset, Ziya senses it first…and comes upto me and asks, “are you OK?”

With the experience of the first round, it was different when I came back for the second round…this time, I didn’t hesitate. This time, I knew that I was walking into a room of people that I don’t know, but I somehow know.

I chose to come back as part of the leadership team, because I would be leading a couple of people this time. You see, last time, it took us some time to open up to facilitators even though they were very nice, they were still adults. So I thought if I come back to support others who are new, then they might find it easier to open up to me than to the adults. This is what I try to do…for example, we have a few participants who are wheelchair users…and so we have to adapt the activities so that they can also be involved. So when there are movement exercises, I tell them, “I am your body, you give me instructions,” and I follow their commands…this way, they aren’t left out.

There is a change in me after Tasawwur…I think I deal with hurt and anger differently. I put it out in new ways. If someone hurts me, I let them know that they did hurt me…not maybe in that moment, but later. Several times, people hurt each other unintentionally, and it’s important to point it out…because if you tell them it’s hurtful, they can check their mistakes and the cycle stops there.

Another big thing that Tasawwur has helped me in is self-acceptance. It’s important to accept oneself despite what others around us say…you see, all of us have moments when we feel low, and it boils down to accepting ourselves the way we are, not framing ourselves the way society wants us to. So if I like to have a boy-cut, it shouldn’t matter what other people say. I think it is harder for teenagers, because we are still confused about whether to be adults or children. While people say things for your good, it may or may not be right for you. On a personal level, I want to pull myself out of these stereotypes and learn to accept myself more whole-heartedly. Also, become that shoulder for someone else as well. And when I am older, to maybe become part of a larger group that facilitates this. This is what I want to do.​​​

As told to Kandala Singh. 

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