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Wishful Ways of Seeing. Ways of Knowing. Art and Activism poem, narratives and a song.

Written and illustrated by Vedika Lall


Ways of Seeing. Ways of Knowing. Art and Activism A collection of a poem, narratives and a song.

Written and illustrated by Vedika Lall


Introduction Poetry Narrative Reports Song Photo Essay About the Book Acknowledgements


The course Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing walked us through different genres of creative writing. It was a five week course which laid it’s foundation in the idea of Art and Activism. Facilitated by the eminent poet Mamta Sagar, the students engaged in lots of poems and narratives dealing with the former topic. The students walked through legendary institutions like Vimochna, Kalamandira Art School, and National School of Drama. Inspiration sparked in students, when stories flowed in these field visits. The whole course was a spectacular journey where students learnt ways to evoke new ideas. With melodies of singer, Vasu Dixit, they also learnt the art of observation and listening. This course allowed discussions and the free flow of ideas. Overcoming language barriers, and mind blocks, the students started looking at things with a new perspective. Every issue that was raised in class, deeply touched them. The assignments kept the minds engaged constantly. The students learnt ways to bring out their own thoughts on activism and how to go about it creatively. From poem, narratives to reports and song lyrics, the students dealt with various forms of creative writing.



(Ajith Nishantha) Near the endless woods, spreading its bluish curls, the river flows as it wishes cooling down the surroundings.

Smiles of the waves comfort the tired banks. Amidst the noisy ripples, the silent voice of the river.

Leaving the mountain top, passing many plains and valleys, the river thus flows In search of freedom.

Quest I see an endless street before me. I have always dreamed of crossing this one. The hustle and bustle makes my feet tremble It’s a cornucopia of daunting eyes and condescending smiles I feel frail.

The deathless air tastes bitter, As it voraciously tries to suck me in. Turmoil begins inside me. A desperate urge, to break free. I fall, I fail.

A bed of thorns rises beneath my cold feet. Piercing through my shivering body, As I stand numb. The appalling crowd breaks in eerie whispers. And I break. (Response by Vedika Lall)


Wedding Day My tiny fingers trembled, as Ma forced those golden bangles down my frail wrists. There were butterflies fluttering all over my stomach. “Ma, where am I going? Why are you trying to dress me up? Are we going for the mela?” I wanted to catch a glimpse of ma’s face behind the pallu of her sunshine yellow, Chanderi sari. She failed to answer my questions and faded into the silence of my dark room. Tones of guests were pouring in our small house. Strings of jasmine and marigold adorned the walls. I rushed to Papa, hoping he would fill me up with the details.With a tear in his eye, he hugged his twelve-year-old daughter, and said, “You are going to become a queen.” Thrilled, I danced my way through the verandah looking for Ma. In a quaint corner of the busy kitchen, I found Ma sobbing bitterly. She hurriedly hugged me, and said “I am sorry, beta. I can help you no more.” “Ma, what’s wrong? What do you mean?” I exclaimed. Since that moment, there was no more school, no more playing on the swings,no more dancing. It was just an odd day. It was, my 1wedding day.

1-The short narrative is in response to the practice of Child Marriages in India. Bihar is the third state, with the most number of child marriages. It is about how, their childhood is snatched from them. No one comes to their rescue.


Tea at Vimochna The sun shone bright this morning. It seemed like a promising day. Every corner of that beautiful bungalow exuded positive energy. The pillars stood strong, reminding about the voices raised and the accolades collected. The roof was a symbol of the loving hands, those were always ready to help. Bougainvillea sprinkled all over, as a symbol of the smiles of the women who were and are a part of this dedicated organization. ‘Vimochna’ means ‘to release’ or ‘set free.’ At Vimochna, women from different places, communities have joined hands to help every girl and women from injustice. Walking headstrong on ideals and philosophy, they have stood tall since 1979. Some of the dynamic ladies founded this honourable organization, including Corrine Kumar and Donna Fernandes. With utter conviction and determination they have transformed innumerable women’s lives, by giving them a voice. In the current legal framework, in spite of the laws that are available to protect women, many a times they fail. Thus, the violence has escalated and tremendously intensified. Women are still falling prey to injustices all over the world. Back in the 80’s, Vimochna brought in lot of political pressure. They held protests and created lots of public noise. This was and still is their strength.

A relay of interesting conversations unfolded, as everyone devoured the glorious meal. They had welcomed the students with warm hearts and affectionate smiles. The eyes got wider and the eagerness grew, as the stories flowed in. First, came in the 498A (Dowry) law and it’s importance. It dealt with any cruelty, physical or mental caused by the husband or the in-laws. This law was recognized due to the women’s movement. Discussions turned up, including how this law is now being trivialized and there is no end to women’s violence. Next was the case of ‘Negotiated settlements.’ It was great to hear that the women or the girl is asked for her opinion and empowered and supported. This method believes in resolving the conflict in an amicable manner, within the family. In rural areas, they worked with Panchayats and other local bodies to provide support to the women and listen to their grievances. The afternoon was highly inspiring. Listening to stories of women who braved the society and stood on their own feet, brought in pride. The students spoke about their interests and how they would write in future and the session drew to a close over coffee, pakodas , and poems. Oh! What a wonderful day it was.

Tales from the Theatre

The sun shone as bright as ever as the day unfolded. There was a sheer chaos in the metro. There were footsteps , all aligned looking forward to their respective destinations. Some drifted off to sleep in this long journey, while some got down at the next station. The air was balmy and the dust engulfed the tired bodies. Kalagrama was a spectacular space. Further inside Kalagrama, lay the eminent institute, National School of Drama (NSD), Bengaluru. This renowned institution was spread across seven acres, with a beautiful aura attached to it. There were various small theatres, and an amphi theatre, all immaculately designed. Stunning sculptures adorned the lush green land around. The trees were singing their own song. The NSD building was quiet, but the props that laid everywhere had different stories to tell.

On meeting the director of NSD, Benguluru, C. Basavalingaiah, lots of interesting information unfolded. He talked about the syllabus, which was derived from traditional South Indian acting methods. The Bengaluru programme focused on south Indian folk art, theatre and theatre training. He mentioned the importance of Natyashastra and the four key forms- vachana, angika, bhavika and saatwika. He has directed great plays like Guna Mukha, Malegalalli Madumagalu(based on the book by Kuvempu), Gandhi V/S Gandhi and Devanooru Mahadeva’s Kusumabale.

These shows have been great hits and have collected lots of accolades. Kusumbale involved a hint of magic realism and there was tremendous use of local Dalit language. C. Basavalingaiah intensely used literary texts and brought the words to live, in his plays. A huge part in various activist movements, he was also a great supporter of women’s movement. In his plays he would overlook binary oppositions and gender biases and all the five elements of earth would be feminine.

India is a land of stories and Indians are great storytellers. During this hearty conversation, many important names in the history of theatre sprang up. Habib Tanvir, born in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, was an actor, playwright, poet and a dramatist. He has delivered some milestones like Charandas Chor. He had an ardent belief that true “theatre of the people”existed in villages. Known for working with Chhattisgarhi tribal, he founded the Naya Theatre in Bhopal. Next was an influential Indian dramatist and theatre director called Badal Sircar. He is known for his anti-establishment plays during the Naxalite Movemnent. He took theater out of the proscenium into the public arena. He also gave birth to the ‘Third Theater.’

Theatre holds a great value to it. During the Nationalist movement, it was an arena of political discussions, moral preaching and announcements. It is traditional and ritualistic. Street theatre had immensely contributed to the Dalit Movement as it reached the poor people. Lots and lots of political activists have been a part of theatre.

The warm afternoon had tales to tell. The group devoured over tea and biscuits as the conversations flowed. Thrown back into history, the minds were looking answers on stage. C. Basavalingaiah also spoke about his growing years and how much he respected his fearless mother. It was indeed a lovely afternoon and a treat to those who love drama and theatre.


Are you ready? Darling, I watch the world spin, As I count the stars There’s an ache in my heart. And it’s breaking apart. When I look, The moon shines. It takes my breath away, And asks me to stay. I am dreaming about the distance I have to wander. Screaming away from the pain and despair. It’s love, are you ready to spare? I long for a shooting star. It’s the darkest night after all. Still there is an ache in my heart, And it’s breaking apart. I am dreaming about the distance I have to wander. Screaming away from the pain and despair. It’s love, are you ready to spare? It’s love, are your ready to spare? It’s love, are you ready to spare? It’s love,are you ready to spare? It’s love When I look , the moon shines. It takes my breath away, and asks me to stay. And it’s love, are you ready to spare? It’s love. It’s love. It’s love.

P hoto Essay

The Journey

With a medley of innumerable thoughts in mind, the journey continue. A whirlpool of choices lie ahead, but what one seeks is focus.

Nature stands still, spreading its aura around.

A faint mist engulfs all, the belief that one would emerge out of it, should be strong.

The faith is enormous. The power is generous. Blurring vision, dwindling faith, it’s all a part of the undeterred journey.

In the end it’s all a jumble of emotions and actions, and there is victory.

ABOUT THE BOOK With gleaming eyes and my creative mind yet not satisfied, I have put down my thoughts in this book. Ladles of interviews, excursions, and observations have formed the content. The course “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing” led us through the art and activisim, where the brave hearts reside. The journeys of women, the leading directors, stories and narratives which mean something have all been bundled up in this potpourri of true thoughts. An umpteem number of ideas were discarded, until the right words followed through. The illustrations reflect the topics of my writing. The reader will witness lots of portraits which highlight the emotion of the poem and the narratives. From a twelve-year old dressed up to be a child bride, to an amalgamation of the mask and the man, every illustration tells a story. Watercolour being my favourite medium to play with, I have used it to show depth in each illustration. The cover page has branches of grey with a colorful dew drop, depicting the hope and strength every individual has.Every piece has been written with careful choice of words. The course “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing” got me at crossroads with different realities of the world. Who we choose to be and where we choose to go are based on our perception. Everyone has been born with certain rights and objectives. Now, oppression, patriarchy, violence, is encroaching these rights. During the process of making this book, I ardently read and listened to what people meant by feminism, activism, protest, theatre.Each of these practices is an art which can start a revolution.The book involves the use of different genres of writing, ranging from poem, narrative, reports and a song.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the people who saw me through this book. To all those who provided support, talked things over, offered comments, this journey would have been incomplete without you. My facilitator Mamta Sagar, for her invaluable feedback. All the people whom I met at Vimochna, Kalamandira and National School of Drama, Bangalore, for their warm welcome. I deeply thank them for sharing information and stories which triggered me to make this book. Vasu Dixit, and his melodies for inspiring me. My friends for their unflagging support and encouragement and for providing great suggestions. My parents and grandparents who always inspired me to see the beauty in every little thing. Thankyou.

In the wake of history, the voices rise. The grievances are heard, The dreams are fulfilled. Flaunting a ruthless art. The country shines.