Reflections by Smrithi Nair
As part of the Dramatics Society in Lady Shri Ram College, theatre has made up a huge chunk of my life for the past three years. Last year, like everything else in the world, my life too came to a standstill. While trying to adjust to the world shifting online, the lack of human connection and a safe space, I felt lost and alone. Ironically, I was not alone in this feeling.
One of the very first things I learnt at Aagaaz was that everyone has multiple stories and reducing people to fit into your imagination of a single story is ignorant. Boxing people into categories is limiting and takes away from the diverse essence of human life.
I found Aagaaz at a point where I was extremely vulnerable. I was intimidated and nervous about attending the Drama Jam sessions. I had a very faulty and self-limiting understanding that my form of self-expression was supposed to somehow impress others. Then in the very first game I played at Aagaaz, all the participants had to give a false introduction about themselves. We could become whoever or anything we wanted to be. I chose to be an undercover superhero who fights crime at night. It was then that I realized how liberating exploring multiple stories can be, my own and others.
However, I wasn’t able to let myself be free completely. I was scared. New spaces tend to have that effect on me. I try to avoid being in new situations and so I did with Aagaaz too. I wasn’t sure of myself and my relevance to the space. It took a while for me to accept that this space made me happy but when I finally did, Aagaaz gave me the time and the necessary freedom to get comfortable. They only demanded in return my willingness to participate and engage with the process.
Meeting Akhila at Aagaaz was a second chance for me. She became a mentor, constantly reminding me of the importance of my contributions, appreciating me and correcting me. Even though I have never met her in person, in over twenty Sunday sessions I sort of found a friend in her. Akhila, Subu, Mudita and Swapnika conducted a month-long workshop for kids in February and Akhila asked me if my 6-year-old sister would be interested in attending. I remember telling my friends how I really wished to have found theatre as a kid as that would have helped me with my self-esteem issues today. Anyhow, my sister started attending these sessions and she was so excited for the whole week, eagerly waiting for the weekend. She would tell me stories of the snow-girl and constantly sing the “Zuzu song”. I felt really wholesome.
Another very important aspect I learnt by playing games at Aagaaz was that the aim of play is not to foster competition but safety. Creating non-threatening spaces doesn’t come naturally to us as we have been taught to fit into competitive structures in life. After spending this time at Aagaaz I got an opportunity to return to my Dramatics Society to facilitate an intercollegiate workshop. There I actually saw the manifestation of all the changes that happened in my outlook towards theatre. I tried to pass on the values I acquired at Aagaaz in my college team. We talked about the importance of listening and supporting each other and not always trying to outshine one another. We talked about how one’s creativity does not solely exist to impress someone else. We discussed how conversations, games and activities all involve people, and thus need to be treated with sensitivity as all of these interactions act as portals to the life of the people involved. Most importantly we together created a space to which everyone had something to contribute.
Smrithi is a hard working third year student of Lady Shri Ram College for Women, currently pursuing Political Science Honours and an internship with Aagaaz. She is a theatre enthusiast, and an avid reader. Passionate research work and reading occupy a major time of her daily schedule. She has always been fascinated by stories, by people, by language of the bodies and thus finds herself looking for an escape from mediocre lives, via theatre.