Comfort in the Collective

ProjectOnHerOwn had its first focussed offline event on Tuesday, 6 August 2019 with 22 women facilitators working with Buzz Women. Buzz Women trains low-income women in financial literacy so that they can be drivers of prosperity. Three of the four people on the team have below average to poor Kannada skills that we make up for in smiles and enthusiasm. Apart from the nervousness of not being able to respond in a common language, we were also anxious about how we would say what we want to, will anyone be as excited as us about this thing, and why should anyone even talk to us? 

Turns out games are a good way to make shy people smile, awkward people more awkward, and a group of 25 women make a huge amount of noise. After a round of names and a short introduction to the project by Thej, we started with a complicated game of ‘stacking’  involving advanced hand-eye coordination and memory skills as an icebreaker. Though this exercise was absolutely useless in helping us remember each other’s names, it did help us get a sense of the group’s enthusiasm and set the precedent for the rest of the hour. 

We then dove straight into the project, by playing a recording of one of the stories on a speaker to the circle of listeners. Very important note to self – must do a tech rehearsal and sound check beforehand. However, we had a very patient audience who listened to two stories on the speaker. 

One of the things that I’ve found works well both in groups of adults and children, are exercises where individuals are prompted to think on their feet and reveal something small about themselves without having the time to filter their answers. What this does is open up entry points into discussion without putting anyone in a vulnerable position. So to open into a discussion of why this project mattered, and what could its scope be, we had a quick rapid fire round. Our questions were who do you call when you want to talk about something?  Who reaches out to you when they’re in need? What word describes the feeling of a shared conversation on the phone? 

We moved very quickly from the rapid fire to a game where we had two minutes to share a story with a random partner. The story or incident could be one’s own, another woman’s, anything that came to mind. 15 minutes later, we gathered in a group to recount our experience of listening to someone else, and a word that popped up multiple times was ‘samadhana.’ 

Now while a lot of times that means relief, it also means comfort. There was comfort in listening to someone else, being able to speak to someone else. Comfort in the collective.

Written by Sunayana Premchander. Sunayana is a theatre professional based in Bangalore. She is part of the #ProjectOnHerOwn team.