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Maya… Manifestation of Transformation

Day 1: Auditions… The hall buzzing with many more children than expected all asking the same question, “Didi, what is Maya?”. Overwhelmed with the turnout of students at the auditions, we gave them a one-line explanation “Maya is the story of a princess and her journey through which she explores the values of courage, compassion and wisdom.” On that day, these were just words describing what the play was about. Today, each participant rehearsing for the show stands to tell the story of Maya not through their words, but through their transformation.

It has been three months since we began the planning and rehearsal for this grand production at Epiphany School in Guruwar Peth. The main cast that consists of a total of fifteen characters began as a bunch of hesitant, bewildered students. These are the same kids who now lead the run-through of the entire show. Not only are they confident with their own dialogue delivery, but they have also memorized the dialogues of all the other characters in the same scene so they can remind and support each other. It’s funny sometimes, to watch these competitive kids who used to compare each other and their different classes come together as one unit and work relentlessly towards the same goal.

I am not sure if it was the guest workshops, the rigid rehearsals, the Teach for India values of having faith and grit, or the storyline itself that has remolded these kids into more outgoing, self-assured individuals. “I have always been a shy, introvert boy. I don’t talk much in class, too. But because of Maya, I have had a chance to meet such different type of people. I have become more comfortable about myself and I don’t find it as difficult to take the first step in a conversation anymore” says Parth, a standard 8 student who is playing the character of Ekraj. Whether it was finalizing the language of the script or the methods to raise funds, these kids have shown such sincere investment and involvement in the core decision-making process. Another note-worthy progress in the attitude of the children was their response to feedback. Although dealt with individually, some students didn’t take feedback too well during the initial days. With time they realized the importance of these feedback points and amazingly were quite self-aware of the same.

With almost all instructional time being consumed by rehearsals, most of the teachers were concerned about these kids losing touch with academics. To our surprise, the sense of ownership in these kids is thoroughly inspiring. They manage to find time to complete their notes and workbooks during rehearsal breaks. No wonder most of them will be collecting their awards for academic excellence on the same evening as the play. This also refutes what I remember being told as a kid, jack of all can also end up being the master of all. At this young age, if these kids know how to strike a balance, then for adults like me it’s a big lesson that I need to learn.

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There have been several challenges that we, the cast and crew, have been tackling… absenteeism, lack of funds, inadequate resources, last-minute script changes just to name a few. Despite these, what seems to be the bright light is everything that each one involved in the play is going to take away with themselves. The courage to speak their heart out and follow their passion. The compassion towards the people and the environment around them. The wisdom to form their own definition of right and wrong, and to sternly abide by these.

Maya is always going to remain a bag full of interesting memories, of little moments that leave big footprints. Their shining eyes when they walked in to a recording studio for the first time, performance pressure when they repeatedly got a dialogue wrong, unending laughter at the bloopers, pressing intensity of the deadlines, and so on. For me, the story of Maya will not end on the 2nd of December. It is something that will keep seeping into a lot of my lessons, my learning circles, my morning meetings, and my normal interaction with people. I don’t ever want the essence of this story of transformation to fade, not for me and not for my kids. Thanks to brilliant attitude of initiative that the kids have picked up during this play, I’m hoping to see a lot more of student-led classes and campaigns in school. I wish to see a little bit of Maya in them every day, finding their light, being brave and climbing mountains!

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