Ride for Gender Freedom at Kovalam

Last night, Rakesh left Chennai and rode 40 kms to Covelong Point at Kovalam.

“Staying in a hut on the beach, where Murthi anna runs his surfing school. Olya, a Russian surfing enthusiast and Vicky and Dharani, surfing trainers are also here. This is going to be the base camp of the Ride for the next two days. Thanks Collectives and all the Chennai friends for your kind support and love to the Ride. You will always be a big strength to the Ride.” – Rakesh

Vicky also introduced Rakesh to Chandrashekar. His tailoring team has made a beautiful multi-coloured patchwork flag for the ride. The ride has been generously supported by many volunteers who have painted the cycle, made flags and puppets, offered transit points, and so on. The rider plans to stay in some community every twenty to thirty kilometres and travel using that as a base camp. He would like to use a variety of mediums to engage with the people he meets on this journey. So, here’s one more wonderful way you can support this ride – If you’re a filmmaker or if you have watched some interesting films that can be used in conversations about gender, please get in touch with the rider to organize on-the-road screenings. Call +91 8939592991.to take your film out on the streets. 

Ride for Gender Freedom at IIT, Madras

04:45 p.m. Rakesh reached the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. The students gathered at the Taramani gate to begin their ride inside the campus. They plan to break for conversations with staff and students on their way. This morning Pooja, John, and Nihal helped us paint the Ride for Gender Freedom cycle. Thank you so much guys for volunteering so readily and figuring out how to make new colours with me. Here’s a shot of the Gender Bender -

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Games for Actors and Non-Actors excerpt – The Nuclear Power Station

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a dance piece where the dancers dance in the first act, and in the second showed the audience how to dance? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a musical where in the first act the actors sang and in the second we all sang together?

What would also be wonderful would be a theatre show where we, the artists, would present our world-view in the first act and where in the second act, they, the audience, could create a newworld.

Let them create it first in the theatre, in fiction, to be better prepared to create it outside afterwards, for real.” (p.29)

Forum Theatre is a technique, or a compendium of methodologies, developed in the 1970s by a Brazilian theatre director, Augusto Boal. It creates a theatre where the audience is encouraged to be participants (spect-actors) in identifying and dramatizing the connections between socio-cultural problems, economic and political repression, and also internal and personal oppressions. First, a group of actors devise, rehearse and enact a play presenting a certain view of the world, with at least one political or social problem, which can be analysed during the forum session. Then, the spect-actors are asked if they agree with the solutions given by the protagonist. The actors then perform the play one more time, but this time the audience members can yell stop and take the space of the protagonist and change actions. Forum theatre plays can be surreal, linear, or in any style or genre that organically grows from the rehearsals, but the objective must be to discuss concrete situations. Games for Actors and Non-Actors is a collection of games and exercises that can be used in any space that needs discussion, dialogue, theatre, and action. Boal has written experiential notes along with the games, to give you the context of where it was developed, and how it played out. Here is an excerpt from the book, an example of a forum theatre play in Sweden, discussing many themes we have spoken about in Chai Kadai -

“In Sweden, the controversy over nuclear energy and the construction of power stations was very much a live issue. Some even said that the main reason for the gunning down of Prime Minister Olof Palme was his having affirmed that he would pursue a policy of nuclear gearing-up. His opponents said the opposite – and afterwards, they did it anyway…

1st action

Eva is in her office, at work. The scene shows friends, the Boss, day-to-day problems, the process of finding new projects to work on, the daily grind of a hard life.

2nd action

Eva is at home; her husband is out of work, their daughters are spendthrifts, they need money. A Female Friend drops round, they go out. They go straight to a demonstration against the construction of atomic power plants.

3rd action

Back at the office. The Boss comes in whooping with joy: a new project has been accepted! Everyone celebrate the news! Champagne is consumed! Joy unbounded…. till the Boss explains what this new project is about – the development of a refrigeration system for a nuclear power station. Eva is torn; she needs work, she wants to support her fellow workers, but this situation poses a moral problem for her. She gives all the reason she can for not accepting this new project, and her colleagues give their opposing reasons. Finally Eva gives in and accepts the job!

The forum

In this piece it was clear that the protagonist was going to have to commit an error and not be heroic. The audience almost cried when Eva gave in. And the effect of this was an extraordinary intensification of the fight – the game of actors/oppressors against spect-actors/oppressed – when it came to finding reasons for Eva to say no. Each time a spect-actor gave in and saw that she was beaten, the piece rapidly retraced its path towards Eva’s ‘Yes’. Passions in the audience ran high again till someone shouted ‘Stop!’; then the scene stopped a new spect-actor tried a new solution starting from the first action, or the second, or even the third. Everythin was analysed: the husband’s unemployment, the daughters’ mania for consumption, Eva’s indecision. Sometimes the analysis was purely ‘psychological’, then another actor would come in and try to show the political side of the problem.

Should we be for or against nuclear power stations? Can one be against scientific progress? Can the word ‘progress’ be applied to science when it leads us to the discovery of nuclear weapons?

And on the question of the disposal of ‘nuclear waste’: surely it could be satisfactorily disposed of in a social system whose central value was the human being rather than the profit motive.

I have already twice had the opportunity to take part in pieces of this kind. The first time was in the USA, where an analogous piece had been written about the inhabitants of a town which was producing the napalm used in Vietnam. In the end, in the American example, the inhabitants accepted the factory, reaching the conclusion that it would be economically ruinous to close it….. Ruinous for whom? The second time was in Lisbon, again with a similar model: there is a refinery there which is causing a noticeable increase in the occurrence for lung cancer…. but it is important for the economy. Here again, the residents give way and resigned themselves to living with pollution, rather than living without jobs.” (p. 26, 27, 28.)

Read more on the International Theatre of the Oppressed Organisation’s website: www.theatreoftheoppressed.org

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Ride for Gender Freedom Tambaram – Wrap Up

Today, on 19th March 2014, Bharathi Kannan, a filmmaker, had organised four meetings in Tambaram for the Ride for Gender Freedom campaign. Rakesh rode via East Coast Road, Kalaignar Salai, Shozhinganallur, and Medavakkam to Tambaram. He lost his way for three kilometres, but eventually found Madras Christian College by 9:30 a.m. There he had some valuable conversations with NSS, English department, and Social Work department students. Some students have expressed their interest in joining the ride when it reaches their home towns and a professor saw the possibility of making the ride an internship project. After two meetings and some conversations in the canteen, Rakesh rode to West Tambaram and had an open conversation with the women and young girls and boys from that locality. Later, Bharathi Kannan joined him as a rider and both of them rode around Tambaram for an hour or so before stopping for tea. Rakesh had planned a trip back to the East Coast Road, but it has been a really long day. So, Bharathi has kindly invited Rakesh to stay at his place for the night. Thank you Bharathi for all the help today. We hope to see the cycle back on the beaches tomorrow.

Rakesh will be thrilled if you join him for a small or a big part of his journey. To coordinate with the rider follow the Ride for Gender Freedom on this blog or this facebook page.

Good night.

Ride for Gender Freedom conversations with women in West Tambaram

06:00 p.m. Bharathi Kannan and Rakesh rode to a community meeting place in West Tambaram, where they had an interaction with the women and young girls and boys of the community.

Ride for Gender Freedom meetings with students of Madras Christian College

03:30 p.m. Bharathi Kannan had organised two meetings with students at Madras Christian College. Rakesh said he had a wonderful time interacting with the NSS and Social Work Department students. He even got to chat with some students at the canteen. The rider having finished a very eventful day in the college, has now begun cycling out to interact in two more meetings at Tambaram West and MEPZ SEZ. Thank you Bharathi Kannan and students of Madras Christian College for your enthusiasm and support. Call 08939592991 or 9940220091 to coordinate with the riders.

Ride for Gender Freedom entering Madras Christian College

09:30 a.m. Rakesh rode three kilometres in the wrong direction, but managed to reach Madras Christian College in Tambaram on time. Bharathi Kannan has planned a day full of interactions and cycling in Tambaram. From 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with students of MCC -> Bharathi Padippakam at 5:00 p.m. -> MEPZ SEZ at 6:00 p.m. -> Gandhi Park at 7:00 p.m. -> CSP Illam at 7.30 p.m. Call 08939592991 or 9940220091 to coordinate with the riders.

RGF: Birds and Buildings at Medavakkam

08:30 a.m. Rakesh spots a stretch of the Medavakkam marsh surrounded by construction.

Coconut Water on the way to Tambaram

07:50 a.m. Rakesh takes a break and tries coconut water on his way to MCC. Last night, Rakesh was telling us how surprised and elated he is to see so many women run daily shops, selling tea, groceries, tender coconuts, and so on, in Chennai.

Ride for Gender Freedom around Tambaram

06:50 a.m. Today, on 19th March 2014, the Ride for Gender Freedom first heads towards Madras Christian College, in Tambaram, Chennai. Bharathi Kannan, a filmmaker and alumnus of MCC, has arranged for an interaction with college students and staff from 9:30 a.m to 10.30 a.m. After the interaction, Rakesh will be accompanied by Bharathi Kannan and a couple of students from Madras Christian College. They will cycle around Tambaram locality, through the in-roads. Call 08939592991 to coordinate with the rider.