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 ‘Life is like this – dark and messy but there’s light. You have to believe that.’

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Raju, an Akanksha alumnus, began art when he was just 8 years old through the weekend art classes at Akanksha. He stood out right from the start for his drive to get it right, to be different and to be meticulous in everything he did. He came in class with all his troubles and very often retreated within himself but he knew it was a space he owned. Whatever may be happening elsewhere, in his art class, he was the king.

Raju shares anecdotes from his childhood and journey as a mischievous child to a responsible adult whose career in art today defines his destiny.

“Before I joined Akanksha, I was careless and very naughty. I didn’t listen to anyone and drove my teachers up the wall! So one fine day, I simply decided to stop going to school! My parents were not happy with my decision. My friend Appuraja, who was an Akanksha student, approached my family and got me enrolled into Akanksha. Thanks to the didis and bhaiyas there, the Municipal school that I used to go to, agreed to take me back.”

“Akanksha was my home away from home. I rarely attended school, but I didn’t miss a single day at my Akanksha centre. Even though our centre timing was till 11:30 am, I would hang around till noon. My life at the centre was totally different from my experiences in school. I enjoyed every session, every activity, carefully planned by my didis and bhaiyas and was curious to know more.”

No one in class could surpass Raju’s brilliance and with the support of his teacher, he made it through a diploma in fine art through the Raheja College.

“I was passionate about art from the very beginning. And I was lucky because I was part of art class from the second day that I joined Akanksha! My school would actually misuse my talent to win prizes because I was the only child who stood first or second in all the drawing competitions. It was in Akanksha that my art was truly valued and respected. It pushed me to look at a future in this field and my didis and bhaiyas were the ones who got me into Art College and helped strengthen the foundation of my career in art. Today my work is my world! My work is enjoyment! My work has given me freedom!”

Today, at 27, Raju freelances as an Assistant Set Designer and Art Director, which he loves because it challenges him and keeps him on his toes. Things at a personal level have always been turbulent but he says that his art has kept him stable and sane. “Art has been there for me when I felt all alone and when there was no one else.”

Need we say more!

Support more children like Raju. Support art education.

Buy Raju’s art on our products at http://www.artforakanksha.org/shop-products/

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“Happiness Depends Upon Ourselves”

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Written by: Anoushka Agrawal

Story: Tanisha Nalavadi

Anoushka and Tanisha are young Art for Akanksha volunteers who’ve been with the organisation since they were 12 years old and have practically grown up with the Akanksha Art Lab students. Their love for art and their want and willingness to do something more keeps them connected to Akanksha in different ways.

Tanisha with the kids at Chidiyatapu

Aristotle once said, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

What do the children coming from the low- income areas of Mumbai that are a part of Akanksha have in common with the children living in the little hamlet of Chidiyatapu in the Andaman’s? It’s simple – they both share an immense understanding of Aristotle’s quote.

This is something that leaves 16 year old Tanisha Nalavadi in awe. She wonders how children who don’t share even a quarter of the privileges and luxuries she lives with and who live in conditions far worse than those that she lives in would ever be, are always so happy, so enthusiastic, so excited.

Sitting on the warm sand of Chidiyatapu, next to the clear, blue ocean, gazing at the endless sky that bled wonderful shades of red during sunset, she finally understood. She finally realised how the children of Akanksha always bore an immensely positive, contagiously happy attitude. It was because they had everything that they wanted, desired nothing more. And to them, that was more than enough.

During her one month internship in Chidiyatapu, Tanisha met people she described as the kindest she had ever come across, much like the children she worked with during her experience at Akanksha. These were the children of the tiny village of Chidiyatapu.

She was to put up a play with those children, concerning the theme of litter and its effect on marine organisms. Since Chidiyatapu was an insignificant, minuscule area, no garbage trucks were sent to it by the government, which was the reason for the major build-up of litter. With Tanisha’s help, the children were able to put up a fabulous performance in their community hall, which had an impact not only on Tanisha and the entire community, but on the government officials as well. After watching the play, the government finally agreed to send garbage trucks to Chidiyatapu.

Working with each youth of Chidiyatapu, Tanisha realised that she was able to understand them and connect with them. She knew exactly how to get their attention and how to guide them, solely because of her experience at Akanksha. Because she had previously worked with the children of Akanksha, she found that working with the children of Chidiyatapu was so much easier. They were always so eager to help, and wanted to do rehearsal after rehearsal while preparing for the play even before Tanisha asked them to. Their enthusiasm and joy made her want to continue spending time with them and working on the play with them, even on the days she was the most tired, even in the sweltering heat of the scorching sun that always covered the beautiful Andaman Islands.

Just like the children of Akanksha, the children of Chidiyatapu were always smiling and were never seen to be even the least bit unhappy. Being around them, Tanisha couldn’t help but grin.

When I asked her what she felt was the biggest similarity between the two sets of children, she said two things – their eagerness and energy, and their enormous love for art. Both of them taught her much more than she could ever teach them, they inspired her far more than anyone else has. Along with them, she found that she could actually make a difference to the people around her, and, eventually, to the world.

Tanisha claims that the reason her experience at Chidiyatapu was the best one she had ever had was because of her experience at Akanksha, since she learned so much from the children there and was able to implement that learning while doing what she loved to do. Most of all, she learnt that, to be happy, all you had to do was love yourself and do what you love to do, and believe that that is enough.

 

Reaching Beyond

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Our installation is an elephant with wings of a butterfly. It has been made out of plastic bottles and used tubs. The animal is decorated with glitter, mirrors, gift papers, etc.

Our students brainstormed on ideas around feeling light, bright, free and reaching beyond. The elephant is a thinking creature and is among the most intelligent species. The wise elephant seems to be bogged down by the weight of limitations that surround him.

The butterfly is free and light but may have a tendency to become flighty and vapid. So our animal is a hybrid of an elephant and a butterfly representing freedom and astuteness to reach beyond all internal and external shackles.

The elephant symbolizes great strength and intelligence but it is grounded by societal dictates. The butterfly wings symbolizes freedom without judgment but together they form an animal with the ability to reach within and beyond. We think that the world will be a better place if each one of us reaches beyond caste, religion, borders, nations and limits in order to live a harmonious and productive life.  The installation is an emblem of our children’s wish to reach beyond what is expected from them.

Created by:
9 to 13 year olds of Dadabhai Navroji Mumbai Public School –
an MCGM school run in partnership with The Akanksha Foundation 

If you love the installations and the hard work put in by our children and teachers, do send us your picture with our installation and a line on why you like it to art@akanksha.org. The best answers will win our art tiffin box filled with goodies. We’d love to feature you on our blog! 

Art Tiffin Box Give Away