Sebanti Chatterjee, PHD Scholar, University of Delhi
I got introduced very recently to the of Khirkee Collective of Mobile Mohalla Project initiated by Revue (Sreejata Roy & Mrityunjay Chatterjee). The artists gave me the opportunity to be a part of the creative writing session, directed at the teenage girls and young adults, who live in Khirkee and its neighbourhood. These young folks are from different ethnic background. Among them majority is from Afghanistan and who visit Bosco (Refugee centre run by UNHCR) for various courses.
Twice a week we meet in Bosco to have our session for the creative writing.
The idea of this creative writing is mainly to engage in a dialogue with the young minds. Amongst the regulars, we have one boy who is happily maintaining a daily sketch book, two girls, who in past have demonstrated commendable photography and video skills and a few others who enjoy writing. Of course, some like to do more than one activity.
This group of young adults comprise mostly Afghan refugees, who have fragmented memories of their homeland. We also have a Nepalee girl, all of 16 years. Designing a creative writing workshop around a community is something that I am doing for the first time.
To be fair, my earlier experiences with children’s libraries and bookstores, or events surrounding story- telling, made me plan few of the sessions around reading.
So far, we have read Malavika Navale’s ‘Treasures from Tibet’ and the Khasi Folk Tale ‘U Sier Lapalang’ [retold by Joshua Rynjah and illustrated by Alienleaf studio].
While the first story talks about making memories with the little things that we encounter daily, spanning across (memories from) Tibet and India, the second one is a story of a young, daring fawn’s journey to the Hynniew Trep (the land of the seven huts). It recounts how the young fawn’s mother’s grief for her son’s death, taught the Khasis, the art of crying.
Each day, two of them read out each of the stories to all those who were present for the workshop. The idea of fairy tales and folk tales made them revisit some of the stories that they grew up listening to. The idea was also to elicit some reaction from these youngsters. There was excitement, wonder, confusion as well as boredom.
In a way, I found a way to connect with their worlds, and they with me. I have been really happy with the progress made by some of them. They long to return to a past, which has now been marred with conflict and turbulence. At the same time, they also express their determination to do something meaningful with their lives, wherever they are. The memories remind them of who they are, where they come from. However, it does not allow them to forget the cruelties and the politics ordered around those. With new associations, they have learnt new skills and socialities. I look forward to an exciting engagement with this group.