Living Amongst "Criminals"

I have been in Ahmedabad for two weeks now, and it has been my absolute pleasure to live and work with Budhan Theatre and get to know the vibrant and lively village of Chharanagar.

If Chharas are criminals, then let me tell you about my experience with these criminals. They welcome you into their homes. They feed you. They hug you with open arms. They share their experience without reserve, and they express themselves honestly. If this is what it means to be criminal, and how people behave when they have been completely rejected by society, then perhaps we should all be considered criminal.

In doing some minimal work on this website and trying to catalogue the work and experiences of Budhan Theatre, it is difficult to express just how much heart has been put into this organization. The members are passionate, and their sole purpose is to gain rights for DNTs, rights which should belong to them, because they are human beings. I witnessed firsthand a few interactions in which certain community members were targeted by authority figures, or asked to explain their position in society in great detail. It is challenging to watch someone have to justify his or her upbringing and background, when I know that person's character can only be described positively.

I firmly believe in the thought that when we engage marginalized communities, we should not be working to bring the marginalized to the center. Rather, we should work to eliminate the margins. By engaging on such a human level and being so open and honest in their expressive work, Budhan Theatre is making a purposeful step in this direction.

I only had the opportunity to stay for two weeks, but the experience was nothing other than fascinating. It was interesting and educational, and it is an experience I would not trade for anything. I only hope that others get the chance to have such an experience, and that in our daily lives we strive to recognize the humanity of all people, just a little more.

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I took this photo just after a film screening in the Chharanagar library this past week. I sincerely hope (and expect) that Budhan Theatre members remain so committed to their work and continue to engage young people and community members on this level. The dialogue they have created is a conversation worth having, and the energy with which they conduct it is admirable.

Chharanagar and the experience with Budhan Theatre will always be a memorable part of my life, and I am eternally grateful to them for allowing me to play a small role in theirs.

So, as I said, if the Chharas of Budhan Theatre are born criminals, then I have been deceived and misled, because it is people like these...honest, kind, and good...that the world needs more of. I look forward to the day that more people get to realize that.

--Written by Chloe Forman, visitor to Chharanagar and Budhan Theatre

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