As the two-wheelers screech to a stop before the gate of the milk federation campus (locally known as Doodh dairy) and about nine youngsters start to get down, a bunch of kids from the adjacent poor settlement (also known as Doodh dairy locality) come running by and encircle the youth.
Asking the kids to get more of their friends, the youngsters enter the open ground of the Doodh dairy office and finding a relatively clean place in the otherwise partially littered campus, they put down mattresses and bring out lot of paraphernalia – drawing sheets, pencils, erasers, colours pencils, balls of different sizes and even water bottles.
Soon at least 25 kids rush in and take their places on the mattresses. The art weekly art classes of ‘Umang – kucchh karne ki chahat’ initiative under Changeloomer project of NGO Synergy Sansthan undertaken with support of UNICEF office of MP are on. Kids of different age group engage in different activities as the young ‘art teachers’ themselves students of art classes conducted by siblings and anchors of Umang initiative – Antima and Nitesh Thakur, guide them with enthusiasm and total seriousness. The smallest kids learn to draw birds from numbers – thereby learning their basics of Mathematics too. Some make sketches on ongoing Measles-Rubella campaign, others on importance of water conservation and colour them vividly. In between the youngsters keep telling them details and importance of the drawings they make.
A look at the entire setting makes it clear that the youngsters led by Antima and Nitesh are trying to introduce the underprivileged kids from the locality to the world of art and thereby on social issues. “We want bring out their latent artistic latent – and we found a lot in them – and also to make them aware of the issues related to them and the world outside and of their rights. So we teach them drawings and encourage them to draw on social issues. They come out with beautiful posters and have started understanding about education as basic right, gender equality, good touch bad touch, importance of social etiquettes, conservation of water, cleanliness and so on,” Antima says.
The kids also play some games with the boys in the young volunteers’ team leading them with their moves on modified cricket, football, handball and what not. The involvement of students from her art classes in the initiative was a brainstorm that is a hit. The young art students have evolved themselves after becoming art teachers for these kids. “The enthusiasm with which these children learn is a lesson for us too. Because they do not have easy opportunity, they make the best use of this initiative. They can do very well with some guidance and it’s good to give that basic guidance to them. It is easy to say we can teach anyone, but difficult to implement, but we are getting that chance here,” Shivani Morchhale, a young volunteer says.
Akshat Jain, another volunteer says that he has got full family support for what he
is doing despite fact that this is first time that he was ever visiting a poor settlement and that too that with a bit of ill repute like Doodh Dairy. “The kids look forward to these sessions and we have started looking forward to give fillip to their enthusiasm and talent. Today we had guests at our place, yet my parents allowed me to come,” the class 9 student says. He says that his social outlook has changed due to this experience and it would have a lasting effect on him in his life.
“We love when the didis and bhaiyyas come and teach us drawings and play with us. They also teach so many important things. Even if our parents try to stop us, we ensure that we attend the weekly classes. We learnt about good touch and bad touch here,” Priya Solanki of class 4 says. Tanisha Kulhare, her 9-year-old neighbor says that they have learnt that they should play for half an hour every day and study and go to school regularly. Faizan Ali says that they have learnt that they should speak well,respect elders and not use abusive words.
As for Antima and Nitesh, the initiative has been life-changer. Nitesh, who was earlier indecisive, is now sure he wants to make a career in fine arts. Antima has become more self-evaluative and finds herself a more confident and better person. She wants to combine art with entrepreneurship for women as career and also to expand the current initiative by incorporating the social angle of art in the course that she teaches.