If you would like to view just the workshop report, click here.
This week I travelled with Praveen, the administrator for Citizens Initiative, the organisation through which I conduct my theatre workshops. Permissions from the PTF for my programme come easier if I go through a formal organisation like CI, but even so, it’s not always that easy!
The ExpoRail journey was the same as always (now that I travel every week I have fewer and fewer ‘new’ things to write about it) except that this week they played an epic Tamil movie about this policeman living in Tamil Nadu, whose one goal in life is to rid the area of the crime that plagues its inhabitants. Naturally, his antagonist is a hardened gang leader, and his girlfriend (who mysteriously becomes his wife later in the movie) eggs him on to display his remarkable physical prowess, nearly getting killed by aforementioned hardened gang leader in the process. I believe I have watched more fine examples of (Indian) Tamil cinematography in the past few months than I have all my life.
I really do believe that Mr Kamal doesn’t really listen to a word I say when I talk to him on the telephone – I’m wondering whether to complain about it to Mr Kanapathy, or to let it slide. I specifically asked for a van at 7am (since this week is Epic Craft Session I) but when we got to the hotel, he cheerfully told me the van would arrive at 7.30am. Foiled again! But this week my room was pre-cooled (!) and the pillow wasn’t the size of a lumpy mountain, so I decided to count my blessings.
The next morning, I had my usual two tea-buns (the truth is I can be grumpy for the first half-hour that I wake up, and if I’m antsy about the van getting late I can easily take the two tea-buns with me), but I felt it unfair to impose my bun-policy on other less grumpy people, so Praveen had stringhoppers. We were facing a large movie poster (photographic evidence below) whose production was sponsored by Thai Hotel! Some of the actors and actresses were hanging around the place, too. However, the van only turned up at 7.50am (and had to stop as usual for diesel on the way) so I was super antsy. Also, despite my asking several times if Kamal Jr aka Driver-Kamal would be available, the driver was someone completely different (turned out Kamal Jr’s father was not well, so I thought I shouldn’t fuss!). Fortunately, even though the driver couldn’t speak Sinhala, one of the new employees at Thai Hotel, Kodis, could. So he was bundled into our van as well and away we went.
I forget our driver’s name, but he was fast. We were in Chiraddikulam by 9.30, and most of the kids were already assembled, even though (for once) there were no army personnel in sight. Seems like they’ve deemed me harmless. There were several additional kids today, though, whose names I haven’t taken down – a girl and a boy who I believe were relatives of Vanoja, and who just come to ‘look’, a little girl who was visiting Chiraddikulam (I didn’t even know that was possible in this heavily army-overlooked village) and three tiny boys who I think were little brothers of Nirmala. If Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee were triplets instead of twins, and if they were Sri Lankans instead of Wonderlanders, they would have looked exactly like these three little rapscallions. Even though they sometimes made a bit of a racket, I didn’t have the heart to send them home (even though I mock-pretended to when they got really shouty). The little 6-year-old girl with the dreadful cough and cold who I think is Pavithra’s younger sister, has become a standard feature; she says nothing, but looks on with big round eyes.
Having learned from my experiences at Kakkaiyankulam, I commenced the workshop with the cutting/gluing activity – we finished almost at 11. A few things to note – Sarujan, last week’s 9-year-old addition, is super spaced-out when it comes to games, but cuts much quicker (while still cutting neatly) than most of the others. Anosanth and Kumanadas arrived late, and were given a condensed version of the exercise. This reminds me – a lot of the kids ended up having to cut and paste on the floor, since there really wasn’t enough room at the tiny pre-school tables. For next week’s exercise, I may have to request to use the Nattankandal school. The children generally cut ‘well’, if slowly and somewhat awkwardly (my super-mother’s pre-school education meant that I could man those scissors like a pro before I was six – but I’m learning every day that I was an unusually lucky child, and that I shouldn’t gauge most children’s abilities by my own standards). They tried quite hard, though, and I was both pleased and grateful that they cared. Prasadh (former truant) has an angelic temper, and distributes his smiles quite freely – so I’m really curious to know how he was capable of being such a thundercloud a few weeks previously). Also, the kids were a lot more creative with how they placed theircut-outs than their compatriots from Kakkaiyankulam – I was surprised but quite pleased by the (relative) lack of copying, and the patterns that ensued.
We broke for buns and Milo before the activity was over, which in retrospect was a dumb idea, since I should have finished the Chemifix section too, but I was getting jumpy about all the paper they had left strewn on the floor, and the only bag I had to collect the rubbish was the bun-bag! I will bring more bags after this, and I really need to bring a huge garbage bag for when we start the ‘building bridges’ segment of the workshops.
My experiences with Kakkaiyankulam have taught me that the children can’t handle theatre games that require intense concentration, so even though I had about 40 minutes left after we’d completed the craft activity and I would have liked to go into a few games that explored emotion and action (the Chiraddikulam kids are a little behind in this respect) I decided I’d gruelled them enough. I let them play Dog and the Bone instead (a game they already know – I’m glad to see that some things are universal to all Sri Lankan children!), and finished with a game of Fruit Bowl.
We left sharp at noon, but Anonymous Driver’s driving skillz meant we were back at Thai Hotel by 1.30pm. Shower and lunch, as usual, but no English movie this week. The huge movie billboard had been taken down, and the LCD screen was back in its place of honour, broadcasting the best Tamil films that Dialog TV had to offer.
An uneventful session, although now I wish my Building Bridges proposal had just been to play games with these kids – it’s such a lot of fun!