Monday, 29 April 2013

An Experience - part I

A couple of weeks ago, my university celebrated its annual cultural festival. Being part of the arts club, I had quite a lot of work to do in its preparation.

The arts club try to do their bit of charity by raising funds for needed groups. This time they wanted to contribute to the Navachetana institute for the mentally challenged. The plan was to raise money by selling artworks created by the people of Navachetana institue. A couple of us were made to go and get those pieces of art made. I was a part of them.

Before I continue I should state the fact that I had never indulged in any sort of charity work apart from donating clothes or books. So it is understandable why I would be hesitant to participate in this event. Apart from that, I had never interacted with any mentally challenged person till then. So, what I was about to step into was a completely uncharted territory to me.

I was actually reluctant to go because I had a lot of pending work. But upon insistance of my superiors in the club, I agreed.

So a team consisting of five of us headed towards the institute. The ironical part was that none of had any experience in dealing with the mentally retarded. All we had were some paints, markers, crayons, paper and our ever friendly glue. I hate to admit it, but I was not enthusiastic about visiting the place even when we were enroute. Buy all that changed in due course.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by who seemed to be the head of the institute. I say so because of her obvious dominating character. She lead us inside and gave us some simple instructions on how to interact with the children and adults of the community. She told us that without any help, they didn't stand any chance in creating any sort of presentable art. So if we wanted results, we would have to guide them, however tedious it might be.

Having soaked in what she said, we stepped into that unknown land. We split ourselves into two groups. One tending to the adults while the other managed the children. I took on the adults.

I approached a group of adults that sat in the corner of the room. They consisted of a female and two males. Due to my anxiety, I failed to ask them their names. My conversation with them was carried out in Kannada (the language spoken in my state). I asked them if they wanted to draw or paint. The lady was more proactive unlike the males. She told me that she would love to do so, as long as I guided her through it. To which I replied that, that was my intent. I placed a brush in her hand and held it. We dipped the brush in black paint and painted an elephant. She was terrifically pleased with what she had done.

I, then turned my attention towards the males and asked them what they would like to paint. But I got no answer. I assumed that they were just scared. So I took my brush and placed it in one of their hands and guided it through the paint. We painted stick figures. By the look on his face I felt that he was amused.

Soon after we finished, the head of the institute came and announced that it was lunch time. She advised us to use the time to plan out what to do next, now that we had an insight into what we had to deal with.

And plans we did make. We cut out certain shapes for them to colour and stick on. We thought that was an easy and simple way of accomplishing what we had sought out to do. But through out that break, even while we were planning, my mind was else where.

My mind was too busy trying to comprehend what had just happened before the break. I'm afraid, I still don't have the right words to describe what I felt. Hopefully I will be able to convey my feelings in my next post...

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