By Pooja Malhotra:Â
Traditionally we have occupied four spaces that have been sanctioned to us by our elders — family, career and institution/organization, friends, leisure & lifestyle. Adults largely govern these spaces and we, the young people of society, blindly follow the rules. At this stage in our lives, most of us aspire to create spaces that we can govern; a space wherein we are empowered to take our own decisions or at least a space which has an inclusive culture, where decision-making is a consensual process — a 5th Space!
Participating in workshops at Pravah and attending college at Jamia, gave Bidhan Singh Chandra a fresh perspective and he found himself relearning what society had taught him since childhood. His ‘self quest’ led him to reflect on ‘is this really my own view point or have I been conditioned, by my parents & schooling, to think this way?’
A 5th Space journey takes us through an understanding from what we know to what we don’t — exploring to understand ourselves better and discovering our true identities more than anything else. In the context of growing emphasis on individuality and differentiation, self exploration has arguably gained great importance.
When Chandra began his 5th space journey, he was a quiet person who chose to remain silent. He was grappled with a fear of ridicule and his fears were not completely unfounded. He felt that if he were to start speaking, people would know the background that he came from; they would know that he couldn’t even speak fluent Hindi. And then somewhere along the way, he discovered his true calling – theatre — a space that converted his silence into a fearless voice. From being a silent spectator to performing and singing folk songs in 12 Indian languages, Bidhan Singh Chandra has definitely come a long way. Embarking on a new ‘fearless’ journey, he has now been working with Greenpeace India for the last twelve years and has even been selected for Greenpeace’s future leadership program 2013-14 amongst 15 participants globally.
Similarly, IP Singh, who enrolled into the SMILE (Students Mobilization Initiative for Learning through Exposure) program in 1998, loved his experience because it provided him with the space to be himself and do what he wanted to do. He felt as if someone had stamped his passport with an entry that read ‘for any country, no visa required’. This new found freedom of thought, expression and action was so empowering for him that he longer desired to be manipulated like a ‘puppet’ in the hands of others. In fact, on his exposure trip to Tilonia, Rajasthan, he chose to be a puppeteer himself and joined the Communication Research Team of puppeteers. On returning to Delhi, IP knew he had found his true passion — Puppets! Today he firmly believes that life is not about money and how wealthy you are; it’s about how you have treated other people and what you feel about them. Using the skills that he imbibed from his exposure trip, meetings and SMILE orientation, he eventually organized a small festival in a school, where craft items made by children were displayed. Apart from being a senior producer and puppeteer at NDTV, IP is also a member of a Delhi based rock band — Menwhopause.
Thus, 5th space is not an exclusive domain to be constructed by development sector organizations, rather it is a realm that is co-created within any institution and built, brick by brick, by a community of young people. It provides a safe haven for us to grow and develop as individuals and facilitates our self exploration, enabling us to rediscover ourselves and build new relationships, while strengthening existing ones. It is a space that not only facilitates our personal transformation but also brings about social transformation, since we graduate to being active citizens, caring family members, sensitive friends, diligent students…and much more…a space that makes the other four count too.
Bidhan Singh Chandra and IP Singh are living examples of how young people, who successfully create a 5th Space in their lives, contribute to their communities and significantly impact other’s lives, while making a difference to their own!
Watch them talk about their journey: