Walking with Rama

Medhavi Gandhi

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“Sriram, I am here.”

It took me a while to figure out Medhavi’s office. After some initial reluctance I called her to help me with directions.

“Hey there,” I said after noticing a petite girl waving at me from a distance. She led me to her desk alongside a longish glass window with a gorgeous view of the lush vegetation outside.

Medhavi Gandhi, is the founder of Happy Hands Foundation based in Delhi. Her organisation trains youth in traditional craft forms like Dhokra metal sculptures from Jharkhand, Cheriyal scroll paintings from Telengana, Bidri craft from Andhra, Jadupatua paintings from Bengal under the guidance of master craftsmen. After training, these young people make use of the craft works and paintings to tell stories about heritage to school students.

“Traditional art works speak of stories, customs and rituals from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and folk lore. Our children are hardly exposed to any of these stories or these beautiful art forms,” she said.

I was impressed already.

She continued, “we also train artisans to create newer designs, improve their marketing skills and find new customers.”

Before I proceeded, a little rat paid a visit, probably curious to know about her work like me. But the hairy visitor’s sudden arrival got one of her colleagues riled up.

“We are now very excited about our new school programme on the Vijayanagara dynasty where we would get children to learn history through art, craft and puppets,” she said with the excitement of a little girl.

“I would love to start a travelling museum that would travel to our schools to teach children our heritage. Perhaps even an institute where people of all ages can learn these art forms.”

“How do you stay motivated in this lone race?” I ask.

“When I see a handmade craft, I see simplicity, I see grace, a story waiting to be told, an art dying to be promoted and I know there is a large audience waiting to hear these stories,” she replied confidently.

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Walking with Rama

The Beginning

Three weeks ago, quite whimsically I decided that I would go on a tour across India to meet  artists, musicians, dancers, actors, craftsmen, and schools who teach arts to children. I am hoping that my meetings with these men, women and children would help me make connections, learn about their work and find ways to use them at NalandaWay.

But I also see this as a pilgrimage, a journey for introspection and search for meanings. The journey which I foresee to be short travels through the year, does not have a goal. Atleast not yet. I am calling this nomadic tour, “walking with Rama.” This Rama has nothing to do with the husband of Sita. It just implies, “walking with myself.” My name is Sriram too, just in case you did not know.

I intend to write about my conversations and my reflections here.

My walk with Rama began in Delhi this weekend where I met some incredible women, men and a dog. Their stories will follow soon.

Be nice, read and do comment.

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In medias res

Study tour

I am planning to go on a study tour on arts education across India. I would like to meet artists, musicians, dancers, actors, craftsmen, and schools with experience in teaching their art forms to children. While I prepare my schedule, which I foresee would be short travels through the year, can you suggest names of people/institutions that I should meet? Also looking for fellow travellers who would like to join me on this pilgrimage. Hit me if any one is interested.

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