Kuch Karo

When the group reassembled in the morning, it lacked the level of responsiveness it had possessed before it had dispersed yesterday. It was probably just the morning blues, something nobody can be blamed for. Some of the Core Team members weren't all that cheery themselves. (Have you ever been in a car with a grouchy Maliha?)

So, to rev things up, Maliha banked on the success the vocalization activities had had the day before. "Rauf was an aaloo wallah yesterday," she told the kids. "Now you are all aaloo wallahs." Like any respectable street peddler, they were expected to call attention to their wares as loudly as possible. "Your aaloos are the best!" Maliha encouraged them. "Sell your aaloos." Once again, this activity was a success. A loud cry of "Aaloo wallaaaaay," rang through the Idea Room. 

Once Maliha was satisfied that the group would be able to sell its hypothetical potatoes, the discussion turned towards the topic of identity. "What defines you?" Maliha asked the kids. "What makes you different from everyone else?" Attributes that might define one's identity were listed down. The blackboard filled up - fast. Nationality, gender and religion came up the most. 
From here, the session meandered towards generalizations and how the natures of a few individuals cannot and should not be used to make assumptions about the group said individuals belong to. 
Examples of such assumptions became apparent during a role-playing activity that focused on the importance of the question, "Why?" However, this time, it is the participants who had do the asking. In one scenario, Ashar and Maliha Asad adopted the roles of parents of teenaged twins played by Bakhtawar and Usman. The situation involved both kids asking their parents for permission to go hang out with their friends. Usman was granted permission without much fuss while Bakhtawar was not. 

"Why?" she asked her parents as instructed by Maliha, who mentioned that if transparency in decision-making is not apparent, it is one's right to ask for it, as long as one remains within reasonable boundaries of respect for the authority. 

Not everyone was convinced of this tactic. Rehan, skeptical, said, "Everything shouldn't be questioned." Rauf agreed, grinned, and added, "Yes, and there's always the danger of a beating."

For a while, Bakhtawar's mother deflected the questioning with, "Because I said so." However, she soon relented and explained that it wasn't safe for her to go out. Bakhtawar, still not satisfied, asked why.  

"Because girls are naturally weaker," someone spoke. There were murmurs of general agreement from the male half of the group. Lightning-fast, Ruqueia protested and made sure all the girls did so as well. She rallied everyone who disagreed to raise their hands. Using examples, Maliha showed the women could take care of themselves, too, and that, in a truly dangerous situation, men would be equally as helpless. One by one, the boys began to raise their hands. 
Another scenario regarding transparency was acted out. Here, Ayesha played a teacher who had to choose between two candidates for an upcoming debate competition. While both candidates were well-spoken, one of them happened to be Ayesha's niece. Maliha showed that picking either candidate would be a good decision, since they were both talented. However, it would be wrong for Ayesha to pick her niece solely because of her extra relation to her. 

"She might be her aunt at home," commented Tamkeen, "but she's her teacher at school."

Sticking to the topics of decision-making and authority, the group's attention was focused towards democracy and voting. Maliha explained that, as citizens, it was everyone's duty not only to vote, but to be able to distinguish the right person to vote for. A mock election, in which both biryani and daal chawal contested fiercely to be the kids' favourite food, was used to demonstrate the power of a single vote. The group was explained about the importance of individual efforts and how they affect the system. 

After a quick lunch of aaloo kay samosay, the group was handed out an excerpt from J.K. Rowling's 2008 Commencement Address at Harvard University titled: "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination." 

Before the reading began, the participants were asked what they thought about failure, whether they felt it was good, bad, both, or if they weren't sure. The mixed opinions were tactfully used as a segue to some powerful questions which Maliha asked them to think about. Can we live with people who have differences in opinions? Is it necessary for everyone to have the same beliefs and ideals for there to be peace?  
Is it fair to force someone to change their opinion? Is it even possible? Can we have an opinion police? Would life even be interesting if everyone agreed on everything? 

It was no surprise that the session was over before the excerpt had been fully read. Maliha instructed the participants to work on it themselves, underline whatever they didn't understand, refer to dictionaries if need be, and note down their reactions. "I want this to be completely full of stuff," she said brandishing her copy of the hand-out. "I want it to look filthy." 

- Asad


06/20/2012 4:11pm

Excellent. Especially love the activities and the content of the workshops. Kudos to the team, looking forward to see where this goes!

06/21/2012 3:13pm

That is all Maliha's magic. Really. Zohra, Ahad and I really don't have any idea of what the next day's session will consist of. It's really cool how she quickly utilizes things that come up in the workshop as organic segues.

Saba Anvery
06/20/2012 4:52pm

Very cool :)
Who won in the elections?

06/21/2012 3:10pm

Daal chawal did. Strange, no? I thought biryani would win hands down.

06/20/2012 10:28pm

This is awesome! Sounds like you all are doing some very important, thoughtful work. I especially found the piece about differences in opinion and peace valuable. Keep up the good work!

06/21/2012 3:14pm

Thanks for the comment and support, Sophia!

08/22/2012 12:37am



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