This weekend saw two big celebrations in India, especially Delhi. Friday marked the 67th independence day of the Republic of India. Politically, it’s a somber event, lacking the fun and festivities one associates with 4th of July in the US. Our equivalent of a day filled with parades and festivities is on 26th of January, the marking of the establishment of India as a sovereign republic in 1950. But culturally, this doesn’t stop people from celebrating! Over time, kite flying has become associated with the holiday and in the days leading up to it, one can see skies across northern India smattered with a colorful array of fluttering and flying paper.
Two days later, the Hindu calendar celebrated Krishna Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu the preserver and one of the Hindu Trinity of the divine. The festival has cultural as well as religious connotations as Krishna was a young, playful god, whose mischiefs and shortcomings make him one of the most accessible deities removed from the revered pedestal of awe that many others are placed on. The festival’s celebrations include musical enactments of the life of Krishna and recreating his famous mischievous antics of youth.
These two days are very big on Adhyayan’s calendar as the kids hold a performance filled celebration. Shows are put up every year, completely choreographed by the students themselves for the neighborhood and guests from outside. When I was conceiving my own project with Adhyayan, I had wanted to hold a pop-up performance in the community, which could act as an attractor for our ongoing project and be an experiment to test our way-finding interventions in the streetscape of the community. The overlapping of these festivals was a great coincidence and opportunity.
The week leading up to this long weekend of holiday and fun had the kids get quite caught up with the kite flying and the preparations for the plays and musicals performances and we slowed down our work on the project for a few days. My first week of mapping exercises with the students had produced some incredible graphic directions to their own homes. It was their first introduction to a mapping exercise, where by concentration only on the streetscape most pertinent to reaching their own homes they were learning lessons in identifying landmarks, both visual and sensorial, and understanding choice of movements when faced with multiples routes. They were also most importantly, identifying physical spaces that they realized would be uncomfortable for an outsider to navigate. In the process, they had created some beautiful drawing and maps of the village streets.
I had been trying to find a way to display these creations as well as make them accessible to more people outside the community to generate awareness. I decided to use this time to create cards out of these maps, something small and cheap enough to be mass produced, could be used as a stationary by Adhyayan in sending out invites/ notes for their events and which could generate an interest in the streetscape and neighborhood of Zamrudpur. This was an attempt at creating awareness flyers for the project, having a use as well. Additionally, the NGO tries to sustain itself without donations as much as it can, where most of their revenue comes from having created a small business of candle making, art and curios made by the kids themselves during various workshops, which they sell during the annual Diwali time festivities around the city. These cards also make an excellent stationary item for sale, which could add to their self-funding.