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  • Project Hyderabad Week 4

    This week has felt a little like the moment the trapeze artist lets go one swing but has not caught the other and has to trust in the momentum that they have created.  The moments of moving into a space of improvisation with full concentration and focus on the task seem to bring life to the group. Trying to establish a structure which is free enough to allow creative sharing, whatever group it is in, seems to be our task at the moment. Singing “Twinkle twinkle little star"...a song that the teachers regularly sing, we introduce dynamics to the music, taking away the feeling of rote learning from it. As each teacher leads us in tempo and it slows us down to a point of nearly stopping and everybody really has to focus on the leader, the pause and anxiety brings us all together for one of those magical musical moments.

    Somesh came up with a wonderful exercise which brought enthusiasm and creativity to the group - although simple it captured the imagination of the children as we danced with our hands in the air. I asked him later if he had done it before, and to both our surprises he said no. We wondered where it had come from!

    As we struggled to engage some of the children with very high energy levels i was reminded of a poster in the Arms centre entrance/office which read.

    “ When i asked god for strength

     He gave me difficult situations to face”

                              by Swami Vivekanada

    One particular child there had certainly focussed our attentions as he found it very difficult to engage, often disrupting or leaving the group and could not share the instruments. This week however we were able to create a safe space where we could calmly ask him why he found it so difficult to share. He could not answer, but he certainly listened attentively to the question. In the next session after about 20 minutes we arrived at the same position when it was time to hand the drum round. With gentle support from the teachers he was able to share the instrument with one child.

    In our last week we will hand over to the teachers to run the sessions while we observe. This is of course and anxious time but also very interesting and potentially rewarding as we begin to prepare to leave for home allowing them to carry on the work.

    Alastair & Somesh

  • "Learning is experience, everything else is just information" Project Hyderabad: Week 3

    As we get into the swing of things maybe we have reached a tipping point. As everyone finds their place within the simple structures of the music sessions they begin to assert themselves and test the space. The tension between individual and group comes to the foreground, or are we just becoming more aware of it? The wish to modify behaviour by reward is the first stop - can we resist it and stay with the process allowing everyone to have a voice, are we strong enough?

    Another holiday is sprung upon us. It seems the local holidays can be changed or decided upon according to need almost at the last moment. Somesh explains that the local governing bodies are more flexible with holidays taking account of the weather conditions and needs of the various religions. There is method...

    At Patashala, where communication is more of a challenge there was a wonderful moment of collective spontaneous decisiveness by the teachers. When we asked the them if they would like to see the video, discuss issues they had been facing within sessions, or do musical exercises there was a sudden clear group choice to do the musical exercises. We were encouraged by their enthusiasm and assertiveness. As we go through a music activity and play with “following and leading” it becomes clear that using music is by far the best form of communication.

    Who is teaching who we wonder ?

    Later Somesh quoted Einstein  “Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.”   

    The various Ganesh processions have taken place in the streets accompanied by drumming and dancing well into the night. However as not all the power cables were cleared or raised the power went down for several hours, which of course just added to the festival atmosphere and chaos.

    Alastair & Somesh

  • Project Hyderabad: week two

    Well, Hannah went today and the Umbilical is cut. Somesh and I are on our own now... except of course for our skype support calls.

    I thought - at least in India they drive on the same side of the road - some common ground, however things are not quite the same here and maybe this can give a bit of an insight into how to work with boundaries.  We do get to school each day, and on time, i just don’t understand how.

    We decided to use the space created by the morning yoga session at the Arms centre for our sessions and it is surprising how many of the gestures and concepts from there are reflected in our sessions.  The theme of self and group seems to be emerging from our discussions and practice. Many of the activities that we create in the groups with the children resonate in our discussion later with the teachers and parents. Although the teachers run a separate group from the parents we join together at the end of the day for our training workshops. This allows for a real sharing of issues that are raised within the groups with the children and much is shared between teachers and parents that i suspect is lost in translation to us. However this means that the teacher/parent group are able to take a degree of ownership of the process themselves.

    At Patashala school because the needs are so different we are using a different format. Somesh suggested a larger workshop for all nine teachers working towards some basic body percussion and singing exercises that they can all use at the beginning of each class. The intention being to bring a degree of playfulness and creativity to the curriculum. We also work with four teachers with an identified group of children that need extra support.

    And did we mention, we are in the middle of Ganesh Chaturthi - a Hindu festival in honour of Ganesha. A range of brightly coloured plaster cast  figures abound, and from what i understand they will be paraded through the streets and deposited in the lake at the end of a period of prayers and celebrations. Apparently many overhead cables have to be removed from the streets as some of the figures are so large!

    Alastair & Somesh

  • First week of Project Hyderabad

    Dear all, a quick update after our first week in Hyderabad. This certainly feels like a well supported project with input from various charities and people. After Hannah’s initial contact with Zoe Kennedy Hughes, who has been involved with, the charity which supports Patashala school, she was put in touch with the “Arms Centre” one of two schools run by

     Somesh, a Music Therapist from the course in New Delhi, and i have visited both Patashala and the Arms Centre in the first week meeting teachers, therapists and children and begun to get a clearer idea of what we will be able to offer. It’s always an interesting challenge  to work in a new setting and learn about the local culture as we try to engage. As you will see on the Abhayacare website, at the Arms Centre they use yoga as part of their work.  We joined in the morning yoga session, which included everyone, gently facilitated by a teacher, and despite being outside, this had many of the trappings of a well contained therapeutic group. Learning about different styles of boundaries feels like a main feature of the work.

    The two schools face very different challenges and it will be interesting to see what we learn through these in the coming weeks.

    One of our hosts had discovered a local supplier and we enjoyed a couple of hours at the shop choosing two small kits of instruments for the schools. We also tried out a few  guitars ...  As a professional tabla player Somesh’s experience was invaluable when choosing the various percussion instruments. On Saturday evening we enjoyed our first “Jam”  when our host Harish brought out his guitar - a good omen for our continuing working relationship and a nice way to unwind. Hyderabad has much to offer in our time off and we look forward to telling you more next week.

    Alastair & Somesh

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