NGO ties up with school in Dehradun to revive traditional puppetry with innovative teaching
Amid the Covid19 pandemic that has forced schools to adopt online teaching, an NGO is trying to leverage the new normal by introducing traditional puppetry in the teaching process to present the children with an innovative way of learning and revive the centuries old traditional art form.
The NGO named Humans for Humanity, led by a 26-year-old social worker from Dehradun, Anurag Chauhan has associated with a school and is in talks with other schools in Dehradun to provide online lessons through puppetry The lessons of the syllabus would be narrated by the traditional puppeteers through puppetry and videos of which would then be used by the school for its students.
Chauhan who has been providing help to the needy people during the lockdown, said he decided to revive the art of puppetry while helping puppeteers in Delhi’s Anand Parvat area where they have been living in a ‘sorry condition.’
“During the lockdown, I used to visit their area where they are staying after being displaced from their Kathputli Colony a few years ago. While helping them with ration and food, I witnessed the condemnable state in which they were living. It was then I thought to help them,” said Chauhan.
Chauhan said that as the art of puppetry is on the verge of dying, the puppeteers were already finding it very difficult to earn a livelihood, and ‘then the lockdown made it worse.’
“I then decided to find a solution which would not only revive the art but also provide them a livelihood. Hence the idea of associating with the schools came to my mind,” he said.
Chauhan said he had initially spoken to a school in Dehradun and roped in three-four puppeteer families.
“Under the project, we spoke to a Dehradun based school-- Summer Valley School and asked them to give us the PDF files of the stories in Hindi subject. We then narrated the stories to the puppeteers we are working with, who adapted them into their puppetry art. Our members recorded the puppetry in Delhi and then sent the videos to the school in Dehradun,” said Chauhan.
He said the school would show the videos to their students in online classes.
“The school welcomed the idea very much as it’s an innovative and interesting way of teaching the students. Also the management thought that it would also help the dying art to revive,” said Chauhan.
He said, “Initially, we have reached only one school, but will associate with other schools of Dehradun in the coming days.”
The puppeteers are also happy with the project as they feel that it would help saving the dying art and provide them a livelihood.
Bhagwan Das, a 70-year-old puppeteer living in Anand Parvat who claims to have performed in many countries, said, “We are very grateful that Chauhan has spared a thought for us and is doing something to revive this art.”
“I have performed in about 60 countries around the world. Despite that, today my family and I are living in a place like refugees. Amid that, when Chauhan came to us with his project, we are very thankful to him to think about our livelihood,” said Das.
He said that he hopes that the project will “save the 500-year-old art form from dying”.
His wife, Sharbati Das, who too is a puppeteer and helps him in his performances said, “I came to the puppeteers colony in Kathputli at the age of five. Since then I have been associated with this art.”
“Today it really hurts when we see that not only the puppeteers are being neglected but our art too which is a part of the Indian culture. I sincerely hope, Chauhan’s effort won’t go in vain and would revive this art,” said Sharbati.
Abhaya Wasu, director of Summer Valley School in Dehradun, which is the first school to associate in the project, said, “When Chauhan came to us with the project about 15 days ago, we found it very interesting and agreed to work with the puppeteers.”
Wasu said, “So far we have provided stories from Hindi subject of classes 1-8 to Chauhan and his team for puppetry narration. We will soon include the stories in English subject also.”
She said that the school will also gradually provide the stories from English subject of senior classes.
“We are also planning to invite the puppeteers to school once it opens for the students. We are grateful to be associated in this project as it is helping the art to be revived and also providing a livelihood to the puppeteers who are a significant part of Indian culture,” said Wasu.