Friday, September 3, 2010

The Film!

Here, finally, is the link to the film christened The Playing Wall.

This has Part 1 and has most of the film. Part 2 will soon be uploaded, there is a technical glitch which is holding it up. Will update the link once it is up.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

..And the Big Picture Emerges!

We wound up finally on Sunday morning. After the finishing touches were put, we all had breakfast together out under the big blue sky and the idlis and dosas tasted especially delicious!

Afterwards we met up indoors and celebrated the conclusion of a splendid week together with a huge round of applause for ourselves and for each other. The sense of pride the children felt in their work was palpable. They will feel good every time they look at their wall. That I guess is the power of creativity.

The mural tells you, among other things, that the big picture that emerges is made up of all the tiny bits that we all put together.

Here's a round of applause for everyone who did their bit, tiny and otherwise - Jan, Trina, Sandhya Auntie, George, Namrata (that would be me), Farah, Amrita, Manjula, Suneetha, Sneha, Pushpa, Pulla Reddy Uncle, Suresh, Vimla Auntie, Karen and of course the SUPER DUPER KIDS AT AARTI HOME!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Everything Falls into Place..

Work went on. Sketches from the drawing books were scrutinized, chosen, cut up and stuck mentally with another sketch, edited and merged, teams chosen to work on a particular picture. There was a carnival-like atmosphere. Groups of children were working together on different pictures. Tins of paint were consumed and more ordered from the store. Littler ones were weaving in and out of the scene, running around in the playground.

Some folks from the local TV channels and newspapers popped over to get a piece of the action. Like any self-respecting journalist they thrust the mike in front of anyone (grown-up folks) willing to talk and asked Aapko kaisa lag raha hai? type of questions!
You can get a glimpse of the drama that was unfolding in the background.

The entire process was being captured on film. The children though were so involved in what they were doing that nothing mattered - not the heat, not the camera, not the scribes, not even the dinner-bell! Some of them were asked to tell the camera what was going on in their minds, what they felt about it all, what shelter meant to them.

What did they say you ask? Well, wait for the film!

Friday, May 7, 2010

From the Drawing Board to the Wall Canvas

A big bunch of paintbrushes had been bought along with supplies of paints and other paraphernalia. We proceeded to make friends with the brushes - they were handed out and the children passed them around. For fat lines use the wide brushes we said and for detailed fine work, the thin ones. Then we all marched outside and bowls of white paint were handed out. The next hour or so was spent 'painting' with the white paint on the white walls so that the children would get used to the idea, and when it came to the actual painting they'd be comfortable with it.

Kadapa summers are HOT. 45 C is not exactly conducive to painting under the open skies. So we decided to start work at 6 in the morning, going on up till about 9. After this a session indoors and then a much-needed break. Finish pending work/chores, bathe, eat and sleep through the blazing afternoon. Start back at about 4 when the sun begins to get kinder.

We were staying at Sandhya Auntie's house and enjoying her hospitality. You have to taste the mangoes we hogged to understand why it is called the king of fruits!

When we reached Aarti Home at quarter to six in the morning, we found the children up and about, waiting for us. Sneha and Manjula and the rest of the team who looks after them had filled up their tanks - they'd all had a nutritious drink of ragi malt and a banana each, and were now raring to go!

We assembled in the meeting room and talked about what we'd do. Went outdoors and discussed which picture we should work on first and what could come where. The thing to note here is that it was the children who decided the stuff mostly - we were merely facilitating the process. The first picture was chosen. With a bit of help from Farah, work began with gusto (as you can see in the picture) to scale it up and draw it on the wall.

We realized there was a section of the wall near the main gate that had not been white-washed and soon there was a total Tom Sawyer-like situation!

The sun was climbing higher. Suddenly someone found a little kitten. There was much cuddling and cooing over it. A bowl of milk was produced from the kitchen, the kitten however was clearly not interested. A comfy bed was made for it and the bowl left next to it.

The drawing and painting continued in the evening session. As it started to get dark, we hired some floodlights and had them fixed. Work continued till almost nine. You must note that all of this was spontaneous. The concentration and focus with which they were working had to be seen to be believed. This was beyond mere 'fun'.

There were many goosebumps-inducing moments in the week. The way the children packed everything up at the end of the day with no one instructing them at all, for instance. Even the little ones pitched in by folding up the mats. The camera was left in the middle of the ground every now and then and yet not one child touched it. No adult was around asking them to do this or not do that - they seem to have a strong sense of right and wrong. On the other hand they are confident and feel secure enough to challenge anything you might say that they don't agree with - in a polite way. This balance I bet is something every parent strives for and here in this big family of about a hundred children you see it in action.

For the hundredth time, hats off to Sandhya Auntie and her team!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Moving Outdoors

For the last three days, the camera had been lying untouched. The children were putting down the images inside their heads down on paper. We were witnesses to the process of their thoughts evolving. A picture is worth a thousand words - I'd like to correct that - its worth many thousands of words.

We moved outdoors into the wide space enclosed by the Aarti Home building and the school block. The mural would go on the wall at the ground level on the school building. We had got it white-washed earlier and now it was time to get the children introduced to their canvas!

We played some more games and then the children had another session with Farah. The idea was to get them comfortable with the space.

We now zeroed down into what we wanted next - ideas for the mural! Much brain-storming and animated discussions happened. We used a whiteboard to jot down the ideas that were being bounced around. At the end of the session we had more than forty completely unique ideas - all depicting the idea of shelter. What a long way we had travelled from the boring picture of two hills with a rising sun and a house, and this was just half a week later!

The children drew their ideas - we had got them a sketch book each which they had been using to sketch out their thoughts, to learn drawing techniques and to preserve all their memories of this week.

We collected the books in a pile and then all of us went through each of them, capturing the images in our heads in an effort to cobble up an idea of what would eventually go on the wall. The dinner bell went off but the children simply refused to budge till the last book had been checked out. All the books were laid out on the floor like an art gallery - with the picture they'd chosen facing upwards. We would start off on the wall the next morning - we couldn't wait!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Next Couple of Days..

..we all worked together.The children were shown various techniques of drawing. The emphasis was on HOW to draw, NOT WHAT to draw. We saw the transformation, they were starting to express what they felt on paper. One of them drew a house with two children in the foreground, holding hands. Friendship is a form of shelter, he said. Great going! A little girl showed us the sketch she had made - that of a mother with a child in her lap. Amma odi or mother's lap is shelter she said, and the woman in the sketch is Sandhya Auntie. Wow!
Yet another girl's sketch depicted a baby abandoned outside the gates of Aarti Home. Shelter is the hope that Aarti Home gives such children, she said.

We were humbled by the children's intelligence and sensitivity. Touched by their sense of loyalty to Sandhya Auntie and Aarti Home. Floored by their enthusiasm and sheer zest for life.

We felt grateful to have got this opportunity to work with them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Starting Off

We began on Day 1 by introducing ourselves and Farah the artist-lady to the children. We gave them an overview of what the project was all about.

We then asked them to put down on paper what their idea of 'shelter' was. Sheet after sheet had the same stereotypical landscape - that of two hills with a rising sun in between and a house with a sloping roof in the foreground! This was what they probably thought was expected, we however wanted what the children actually felt and thought.

We brain-stormed and came up with a few games to help them understand what the whole gig was about. For instance the children were divided into four teams and each team was then asked to 'build' a house using themselves as the material. It was amazing to watch what they came up with - we even had a deity in one of the creations, complete with a priest! Once a team made their house, a couple of children from another team sketched it on the whiteboard - as it would look if made from normal building materials. Look carefully for details we said. The idea was to teach them to visualize and put it down on paper. Much laughter and enthusiastic cheering ensued.

The rest of the day was spent in more such exercises which broke the ice between us and them, helped them come together as a team, emphasised the importance of observation and concentration and were great fun!