PEACEWARDS : Reflections of the Rapporteur .......................... Day by Day | Participation | Photos

The Met department had delivered its warning. June 26, 2009, was to be one of the danger days that would flood Bombay and assault the legendary spirit of the ordinary Mumbaikar. Citizens for Peace (CfP) would have none of it.

St. Pius College, a little known campus in Goregaon, north Mumbai, was the favoured location. Participants were requested to bring along adequate protection against the rain and ubiquitous insects. A torch too, as an afterthought. Living with differences. Residing on campus with socially committed strangers through sheeting rain. It could go anywhere. Best to pack in an extra book.

Day 1, 8 a.m. Reporting time. As I drive into the St. Pius College I realize, already this workshop’s worth it. A slight drizzle, rain-kissed trees, chirping birds, winding roads and the smell of earth – I could get used to this. Quickly pick up keys from a smiling Rajni at the reception and head to room – surprisingly un-musty, even cheerful. Leave bag and head to conference room where a tireless Gulan is endowing every table with handfuls of mints and sweets. Offers of assistance are quickly dismissed and breakfast is signaled. Which is, as a sign of meals to come, delicious.
Post the mandatory technical glitches and delays, we get to work. Enter Dr. Monica Sharma who launches us straight into the “My name is … “ introductory exercise. And within minutes we realize this workshop turns accepted notions about identity, values and transformation right round leaving us facing ourselves – the first step towards effecting any social change.

As the day progresses, the 60 odd participants work through methodically and meticulously planned exercises. Team-work alternating with personal reflection and technical tools and techniques interspersed with Monica’s anecdotes and inspirational experiences. We looked in and then out, around us and beyond us only to come away, day after day, session after session, with a heightened awareness and deeper sense of compassion. Forgiveness and listening, leadership and change – abstract concepts became real and immediate. Strangers became confidantes, obstacles turned into stepping-stones and confusion spawned ideas, innovation and creation.

If Day 1 was about examining self, Day 2 gave us the chance to source our inner power for social transformation. And by Day 3, we were ready with our individual projects – projects devised within the realm of principles and values, system shifts and deliverables. We were all speaking the same specialized and rigorous language that just a few days ago seemed strange and forbidding.

But in between these challenging and demanding sessions there was always time for a song or a relaxing exercise. Asha’s singing punctuated sessions as did Dr. Anand’s heartwarming and inspiring anecdotes. Naseer’s dream of everyone living “happily ever after” struck a chord with the group as did Tasneem’s “I like to make people smile” comment. Helping Tasneem in her mission was Prateek – during and after sessions. CfP’s Pervin’s gospel-like chants and Beth’s enthusiastic singing and conducting provided some valuable moments of leisure and entertainment. Nilovna clicked away through the workshop and her beautiful shots give us a great photo commentary of all the action. On Day 3, Bala and Suman displayed a hidden talent – that of writing poetry. In between, we saw the multi-faceted Gulan, while keeping everything running, fashion a fascinating headdress for herself that you can find her sporting in the group pictures. Dolly, the self-professed dilettante, regaled all with her easy charm and feisty spirit. Rajni when not elucidating key concepts with quirky analogies was the official translator.

June 29, 5 pm. Key submitted, farewells made, photographs taken. As I drive out, I realize the Met department, once again, had got it wrong. The weather the past three days was beautiful. Every day, after the sessions, people would gather in little groups and walk around the campus, or just take off on their own. Discussions about the day’s events gave way to personal reflections and interactions. Young Irvin, a BE student from Goa chatted with Bishan, working with the Seagull Foundation for the Arts, Kolkata. Tanveer, from Aman Biradari in Delhi exchanged notes with Zenoby, an Anglo-American cultural anthropologist, currently based in Hyderabad. As geographical boundaries melted away, so did false identities and mental blocks. Walking away from ‘Sarvodaya’, the location of the workshop, I find that I can no longer see names and faces and designations. All I can sense is an aura of essences and true selves. Thank you Monica, thank you Gulan for setting me, and all of us, on this journey Peacewards.



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