Ekatva: Oneness Show with 16 Slum Children
Perhaps the best way to describe the project is to read this letter from the visionary behind Ekatva, Nimesh Patel, on Jan 30th 2011.
It has been over a year now since I moved to Ahmedabad. The journey has been a blessing and continues to unfold in beautiful ways.
Over the past year, I have been working closely with 16 slum children (started with 250, over the year narrowed it down to the final 16 children), from 4 different slum areas of Ahmedabad through our Gandhi Ashram-based NGO, Manav Sadhna. Children, whose families (family sizes 5-9) are all living off an income of approximately $1 to $4 a day. My goal is for us to provide a transformative experience for these children that plants seeds of love and selflessness, positivity, confidence and strength in these children.s lives and hearts.
We have titled the experiment 'EKATVA' (Oneness). From an objective standpoint, we are working on creating a 90-minute theatrical dance production on the message of Global Oneness. Mallika Sarabai and her Darpana Performing Arts Academy are helping us creatively train these 16 children in dance and drama and helping us co-create the actual EKATVA show. Our intention is to eventually tour the show across India and maybe across the world, if God blesses us with the opportunity.
However, most important and really the purpose of this experiment is the day-to-day journey itself; the daily interactions and experiments that the children, Bharat and I are having, that are providing a self-transforming experience for these children as well as myself. (Bharat is 24 years old, living with his mother in the slums, father has passed away; he used to boot polish for money on the streets of Ahmedabad when he was younger and now through his development at Manav Sadhna is a great dancer and leader helping me with this project and the kids. One of my hopes is to help him advance his career in dance after this project is complete.)
A typical day for our 16 kids is: go to school in the morning, then tuition class provided by Manav Sadhna in the afternoon, and then we meet from 3-7pm, 6 days a week for our EKATVA project. Daily, we start and end practice with prayer, meditation, and a circle of sharing of stories from our daily lives. The kids are developing and feeling more comfortable in their meditation practice. (We now meditate together for up to 5 minutes sometimes. I've coordinated with the local Ahmedabad Vipassana center, and we'll be a doing a one-day Vipassana course for the kids on February 27th.) Then in practice we exercise (children are always complaining about the pain J), do dance practice, drama practice, and once again end with prayer, meditation, circle of sharing (where we are all free to share stories from our daily lives or anything on our mind), washing our hands with soap and then eating a healthy snack together after practice (milk, bananas, nuts, etc.).
Aside from our day to day routine, we are constantly involving ourselves in various activities that can deepen the children's connection to Gandhian values, the spirit of Oneness, and exposure to the larger world and universe.
A few of the activities that we have done together, include:
- English Class three times a week
- Dedicated walks of peace in Ahmedabad
- Street cleaning
- Random acts of kindness
- Dedicating time and effort to making others smile
- Taking care of animals and nature
- Slumber party, 20 of us, in my little apartment (cooking, cleaning, playing, helping neighbors, etc.)
- Spending time with mentally challenged patients at the Mother Theresa Ashram
- Anonymously decorating people's houses with flowers
We have been blessed with so many beautiful people that come to the Gandhi Ashram that spend some time and share their stories with our kids. This helps expand their minds and their interconnectivity with the world. Thus, getting them closer to the possibility of feeling Oneness with the world.
Well, few weeks ago we had a very beautiful and moving event. For the first time, our 16 children's parents came to the Ashram for our first EKATVA family meeting.
It was a beautiful event and I thought would be worth sharing with you.
This is a small blog I started so that I could archive some of the small experiences and experiments we continue to take part in along our journey of Ekatva: Oneness.
Wishing you all so much love and peace, contentmnet and good health, as we keep walking.