One hot summer afternoon I got a call from an unknown number. A lady who spoke in a very soft, subtle and sweet voice was on the other end. I presumed it would be another call from one of my customers who wanted me to perform for them at some event. But this wonderful lady surprised me. She introduced herself as Mrs. Janki Vasant from Samvedana foundation.
A couple of days later I had my evening tea with her at her office. It was one of the best evenings i had spent in a very long time. I was delighted to know that there were such organisations that did so much for the upliftment of the less privileged people. That day I had decided that I would too, do my bit. I was aware of the kind of backgrounds the girls at Samvedana came from. On discussing further with Janki I realised I wanted to work with the kids on a play that would help empower the girls and make them bolder and stronger. I decided right then that I would name the play “I will write my own destiny”. That is what I literally wanted to teach them. I wanted them to realise that no one else could decide what their fate for them. Their actions would make or break their lives.
I started working with a group of kids at the Samvedana Happee summer camp. The first day when I entered the class I was greeted by a group of children with heaps of love. I discussed the theme with the children. They were extremely excited about the whole concept. There were so many story and capable young boys and girls I was thrilled and very excited to work with them however in the hustle and bustle happening in the class I noticed a little girl sit quietly in one corner. She tucked herself so quietly in one corner that I would have almost missed her presence. I wondered why she was so silent and reserved. My heart fell for the little girl. I went to her and asked her name and asked her if she would like to be the lead actor in the play. She seemed very shocked. As if this was the first time someone approached her with such an offer. She then softly replied that I don’t think il be able to live up to your expectations. My heart sunk. But then quickly covering my emotions I toughened up. I told her that there is nothing u can’t do. It’s all about believing in yourself. I grabbed her hand, stood her upand announced to the class that she was going to play our lead. I already saw a change in her. There was something I did that brightened her up, something that gave her confidence.
We spent the next couple of days working on the dialogues and practicing the play. When she started she was hardly audible. But that was what I wanted to change. I knew it would take long and it would be a challenge but I was ready to face all odds. I still always wondered why she was so quiet. What was it that was pulling her down?
During one of our sessions Janki visited our class. She was shocked to see that I had chosen little tejasvini for the lead role. She later told me that tejasvini was living the life of an orphan inspite of having parents. She had been abandoned by her abusive mother at an early age. Poverty stricken father who could barely take care of himself, tried but could not do justice to this girl. Her aunt who lives in ahmedabad, whose three daughters are students of samvedana, sheltered this girl. The little girl went through a hell every day of her life. Unfortunately she was deprived of all a girl needed at a tender age of 12 –love! Her misfortune created a wall around her. She closed herself to the outside world and preferred to stay in her own world of self pity and depression. Even though she never opened up spoke to us about anything that happened in her home I could see the pain in her eyes. I strived every day just to make her a little more louder, to make her a little more stronger, to make her a little more confident.
I specifically remember this one scene where I wanted her to get emotional and cry. Every day I would tell her “ show your emotions, express how you feel”. My efforts were merely to help her unfold her pent up emotions, her to realise that she had an identity of her own and she was responsible for everything that will happen in her life. On the final day tejasvi reserved a permanent place in my heart. When she performed the final scene on the stage i saw her tear and just looking at her I could not control my emotions. We both shared a wonderful moment, her performing on stage and me sitting in the audience just watching her with utter delight. I was so proud of her that my emotions poured out in the form of tears. This was one of the biggest achievement of my life.
- Bhavini Jani
Theater celebrity, leading Gujarati Television artist, Gujarat.