| PICTURE SPEAK |
|RELEASING THE SPIRIT:Alam with TALENT members |
In a dingy room in Shahjahanabad-the Walled City of Delhi-a group of children is at their afternoon lessons. Close by, another group is animatedly discussing a play they are about to stage. These children are all part of talent, an organisation founded by social workers Irshad Alam and the late Deepak Bharadwaj, to provide underprivileged children a platform to develop their talents.
Launched in 1998, talent (Team and Association in Learning Education and Natural Theatre) works with children from the Walled City area, whose parents are paan vendors, mechanics, waste dealers and the like. The organisation provides education through the performing arts. The aim is to channelise the energies of these children who are extremely restless and hyperactive. Says Alam: "Young children are easily influenced by destructive and communal ideas. Through talent, I want to equip them to deal with these challenges."
Alam, himself from a family of kabadiwalas, was famous as a troublemaker in school. More than books, it was theatre that enchanted him. His first tryst with the stage was when, in class IV, he enrolled in a school play to get away from the boring curriculum. Later, with proper training, he learnt to use mime and dramatics to communicate effectively with people and change their rigid mindsets. "Theatre is a medium which easily reaches out to the people," says Alam. "It has helped me distinguish between right and wrong, and develop my personality. I hope it will help these children too."
Children from talent's theatre workshop regularly stage plays and some have also performed on pogo channel. Vijay, 12, a talented actor in Alam's group, says, "Through acting we develop confidence and feel more sure about expressing ourselves in public."
Among the many youth development programmes, like computer and tailoring classes, which talent supports, is one that involves drawing a detailed map of the Shahjahanabad area. "By charting the maze-like lanes of this area, the children discover the history behind the names of these lanes and get to know more about their heritage," says Alam.
With such efforts, Alam has succeded in reforming many a juvenile pickpocket and miscreant. However, with plans of starting special classes for differently abled children, Alam's to-do list is nowhere near its end.