ByÂ Bidhan Singh Chandra:
When I came to Pravah, I was a quiet person. I chose to remain quiet. I guess it was a fear that if I start speaking, people will get to know where I come from, people will laugh at me… I couldn’t even speak fluent Hindi. So in most of the workshops I remained silent. Somewhere along the way, I got involved in theatre. Theatre gave me a space that converted my silence into a fearless voice. When I used to go on the streets on a protest march, or when I used to sing songs in a workshop, I used to sing with a lot of passion. At times like that I never thought that people will laugh at me. And as I sang and did theatre I kept gaining more confidence in myself and who I am. It was also a journey of self-exploration.
I went to URMUL for my exposure visit and on the second day, I had to come back to Delhi… Sonjoy Ghosh who had left his work in URMUL, Rajasthan and moved to Majuli in Assam — had been abducted by the ULFA. Even though I had never met him, I was deeply influenced by him. It was a turning point in my life.
The workshops at Pravah and college at Jamia — this combination gave me a very new and different perspective. I went through a phase of relearning what society had taught me since childhood. I started asking myself, “is this really my own view point or have I been conditioned by my parents and schooling to think this way?”
When I went with SMILE to NBA’s Rally for the Valley, the first thing we were told was — Please use your eyes and assess the situation for yourselves. We were invited to build our own perspective on the issue. And that’s something I continue to do even today — I see, feel, discover and research the issue before I arrive at a decision.
After this 5th space journey, when I had joined Greenpeace India, we organized a protest outside the Chief Minister’s house against the upcoming port in an eco-sensitive zone in Orissa because they were a threat to the Olive Ridley turtles. By the end of the day, 3 of us were in Tihar jail. I was there for 4 days but I continued singing. And even got the inmates of Tihar singing with me! So I learned that life throws up a range of different circumstances but you have to fight it out.
Today, whether I choose to join an organization or start one, the 5th space has given me a confidence, a new way of thinking, the idea that before arriving at any decision, you need to inform yourself, the passion for asking questions, the ability to discern between right and wrong. If today I am a part of Greenpeace India and am contributing to the long term, strategic planning of the organization, my skills and the way of work have been greatly influenced by the origins of my journey with Pravah and 5th space.
“SMILE (Students Mobilization Initiative forÂ Learning through Exposure)Â is an initiative by PravahÂ where young people involve themselves in activities which help them to belong and take moreÂ responsibility in whatever theyÂ do and create their own 5thÂ Space journeys.”