Kuch Karo

Monday's session began with an activity borrowed from the following scene in the brilliant movie, Dead Poets' Society. 
The participants, to their bewilderment, were asked to step outside the school building. Maliha instructed Taha, Usman and Tamkeen to walk around the school’s backyard as if they were a group of friends strolling about in a park while the rest of the group looked on. Sure enough, it was not long before the three began to keep pace. Maliha pointed out how they had subconsciously begun to follow each other.

Back inside, the group was introduced to the concept of conformity. Conformity, it was explained, is something people do naturally and reflexively. Conformity is neutral and, like most such things, can be both good and bad. In some ways it keeps society knitted together. However, it becomes counterproductive as soon as people begin to blindly conform and do things a certain way just “because that is how it’s always been done.” Conformity can stop people from thinking and simply give up their personal opinions and choices because it is convenient.

Another concept introduced to the participants was that of coordination. Coordination, Maliha explained, is a good thing. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing - as seen in flash mobs and synchronized swimming - but also practical and efficient - as seen in soldiers. Change, too, cannot arise from uncoordinated pockets of well-intentioned activity. 

Coordination, however, is difficult to achieve and often requires a lot of effort, especially in a large group of people. To demonstrate this, the kids were taught how to do the Cha-Cha Slide, a fun little jig that involves following the singer's instructions and performing actions such as clapping, stomping and sliding. It was only after a number of attempts that the group began moving somewhat in synchrony. 
Next, the group did a reading of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, a nonsensical poem that appears in his book Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Everyone read one line each. Maliha told them that most of the words in the poem did not mean anything but that a sense of what the words could possibly mean could be obtained from paying attention to the way they sounded. The poem was discussed in context of Alice in Wonderland and its deliberate weirdness. Alice's own reaction to the poem was discussed too, just to make it clear that the poem did not really have much meaning to it. 
After that, the group read - and sang - Sehba Akhtar's Main Bhi Pakistan Hoon. Maliha drew everyone's attention to a verse in the song that says: 

Main bhi Pakistan hoon
Tu bhi Pakistan he

Maliha asked the participants why they thought Sehba Akhtar had used the word "Pakistan" instead of "Pakistani," and why emphasis was but on both main and tu.

"Pakistan comes from us," piped Ayesha. "If we weren't around, there would be no Pakistan."

As the kids got up for their lunch break, Maliha informed them that their break would be extended; the team had to go to Sehba Akhtar Library to make measurements for a paint job and to meet with government officials. (More about that later.)

After an hour we returned to Lead High School and everyone regrouped in the Idea Room. Maliha then showed the participants a picture of a hypothetical park entrance with many unreasonable rules. The park was sandwiched between a museum and a block of flats and did not allow loud music, picnics, ball-games and food and drinks. She had the kids read out a sample formal letter of complaint and then divided the group into a Park Committee - that consisted of Ruquiea, Taha, Usman and Alishbah - and the general public. The general public, unhappy with one of the rules, was to write a formal letter to the Committee requesting for the rule to be removed. The kids earnestly requested that Maliha not laugh at their incorrect English and, once they had been reassured that she would not, they set to work. The team left them alone (we needed immediate sustenance since we'd skipped lunch). 
After about twenty minutes, the team returned to the Idea Room. Maliha called an official public meeting complete with formal recognition to speak. At first, members of the Committee began to argue among themselves. Maliha quickly pointed out how this resembled the National Assembly. She explained how easy it was to start fighting and not reach consensus and how it would be completely unjustified and hypocritical for the Committee members to blame boisterous political leaders for doing the same on issues with even higher stakes. 

Grammatical errors aside, the letter presented to the Committee by the public representatives was brilliant and impressive. It had been written regarding the rule disallowing picnics in the park. The letter acknowledged that noise and litter were probably the reasons behind the rule, and further acknowledged that these could disrupt things in the nearby museum and cause harm to residents of the flats next to the park. It gave very reasonable suggestions to allow Sundays to picnics (when the museum would be closed) and to heavily fine littering. 

The letter left the Committee with little to say. However, Maliha pointed out that the letter did not define what a picnic really was. Without clarification, she said, both parties might as well be talking about two different things. For the time being, however, the public claimed victory. It was decided that another official meeting would be called the next day to decide matters once and for all. 

"They think they've won," Maliha later said to us, "but this shouldn't have winners or losers. I guess we'll fix that tomorrow." Ideally, the government should have the public's best interests in mind when making laws, and the Committee had probably put thought into the seemingly unfair laws they had made. No, this is not about winners and losers; it's about having your concerns heard, about cooperation and compromise. 

- Asad 
Saba Anvery
6/25/2012 04:50:35 pm

Very curious to know who designed the workshop. It is quite brilliant :)

6/26/2012 03:42:39 pm

Maliha did. Although things rarely go according to what she schedules for any given day.

Seema anvery
6/26/2012 09:44:39 pm

I am really impressed with Maliha's schedules,ideas and the manner she is conducting all this, Shabash baita

Seema anvery
6/25/2012 08:07:57 pm

Very impressive, keep it up and encourage others to follow

Mohsin anvery
6/26/2012 01:45:41 am

Acha likhta hae

8/22/2013 06:43:20 pm

This web site on learning is doing a great job out there. The method and tricks discussed on this web site regarding learning are very good. I am a teacher and have book marked the web site for future reference.


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