The thing that stayed with me most in the first few weeks of working with the core team of Aagaaz in the park was that no one knew the names of things but everyone knew how to make them up. We were introduced to games that seemed to have bizarre names: something about a chicken, something about spotting, something about laddus. These games themselves were familiar that I had perhaps played as a kid or in some theatre workshop, but the names had betrayed my understanding of them. Dog and the bone but not quite. Gol spot was Ghum ghum stop. That one I recognised.
But working with this group is always quite like this: a familiar sensation, the warmth of a playground, and an invitation to a microcosm of its own. I think I’m the only person who hasn’t worked with everyone closely before. So I’m still discovering the little shared gestures, the common jokes, the slight indications that someone wants control, the glance that says I am bored. But each time I find some pieces of the puzzle, and it’ll probably come together eventually.
I’ve realised I really like being led. Three sessions out of four in a month are sessions where I get to be a participant, to be led. To be asked to run and jump. I am far more nervous about the sessions I need to plan for. I normally begin by thinking about exercises that I am comfortable leading and then about how a bunch of them can come together. I usually find myself grouped with two people who seem fairly confident about where their activities fit in the session, how much time they will take, and why they fit in the overall focus of that day. Sometimes I come across a ridiculous name and I resist asking so I get the chance to discover what that is during the session. Laddu Daddu was worth the wait. Sometimes, one of them will say I’ve invented something that lasts twenty minutes and sometimes, while everything would’ve been planned, one of them will invent something at that very moment.
Perhaps that’s how you build a good microcosm: you experiment, you add and remove things, but somehow, it makes sense in that space. The narratives, tangents, and arcs keep moving but that world remains consistent. It’s what makes you trust it, invites you in and convinces you it will be there even if you look away. I’m learning that if you believe in a fictional world strongly enough, you can trust that your actions will fit right in. I’m learning that even if I am scared to lead an activity one day, I can begin by giving it a ridiculous name.
Urvi Vora is a performing artist based in New Delhi. Following her training in philosophy and dance anthropology, she has created works that have toured India and Europe, notably S.K.U.M. Manifesto (India, 2019) and This Is How You Move Them (Europe, 2018). Her work exists somewhere in the overlaps between dance and theatre, with a focus on the body, the body in politics, and intimacy. She remains fascinated by what the body can do.