By S.N. Venkatnag Sobers
They are not the neglected lot but the environment, circumstances and the social stigma has made them feel left out which has denied them exploring opportunities to flourish in the society.
We are talking about the children who live in the pourakarmika colonies across the cities. Though being a part of the country’s future, these children have been struggling to overcome the shadow of discrimination for having been born in a community, which is involved in a noble work of keeping our streets and city clean.
There are several programmes and schemes announced by both State and Central Governments, which have been encouraging these kids get access to quality education in some of the best institutions. For these children spending their summer holidays is the biggest nightmare as they do not have access to other summer camps as their parents cannot afford to pay for the same. Even the organisations which conduct summer camps have failed to provide space for these children to mingle with the other kids.
The Adidravida Tamate Mattu Nagari Samskrutika Kalavrinda headed by C. Manjunath, fondly called ‘Nagari Manju’ has been catering to the cultural needs of these kids by providing them training by qualified trainers in various folk forms to make these kids spend a delightful summer vacation.
The Association has been conducting summer camp for pourakarmika children called ‘Naavu Pouraru Maha Pouraru’ for the past two years. The camp which commenced on May 1 culminated on May 24 with a two-day programme organised at Kalamandira and in front of Palace North Gate. on May 24 and 25.
Around 400 children identified from 32 slums in the city were brought to D. Devaraja Urs colony at Vishweswaranagar and were trained in folk arts such as nagari, dollu kunita, kamsale, karaga, kolata, kangeelu dance, puja kunita, pata kunita, mallakamba, group folk dance and folk songs and other activities. The children were also made to play tug-of-war to add to the fun part of the camp.
For these children, nagari (drum) is a familiar instrument as majority of their family members are well-versed in playing this instrument. Most of the families living in pourakarmika colonies earn their livelihood by beating drums. In fact, some of them have even toured foreign countries to exhibit their talent.
“At a time when social evil like untouchability was rampant in our society these artistes were not allowed to mingle with others as the drums they used were made of animal skins. Now times have changed as there is no event or procession held without beating of nagari. We have been teaching this art to people belonging to other communities as well,” said Manjunath.
The Association has also plans to come out with various other programmes to ensure these children grow stronger both culturally and educationally. The organisers believe that making these children stronger culturally would help them in planning their future. Being strong in cultural activities could also get them meritorious seats in educational institutions. There have been several examples of students belonging to such communities getting seats under cultural quota and coming out in flying colours.
‘Naavu Pouraru Maha Pouraru’ event has been a great confidence booster for these kids as they got to perform in front hundreds of audience. Each of these children performed to their best ability and was treat to watch. The audience jumped in excitement and gave big round of applause in appreciation to some breathtaking movements during the rope dance. Later, the boys performed Mallakamba which received positive response from the people as well.
Similarly, the others performances such as group dance, group song, kamsale, karaga also received good response. The kids and the Association owe their success to Srinivas G. Kappanna, former Chairman of Karnataka Nataka Academy.
“We have toured USA and other countries to exhibit our talent. It has been possible only through Kappanna sir, who has been our backbone since years. Whatever he had taught we are passing it to our children” added Manjunath.
To take any art forward or to popularise the same is not an easy task. People involved in this art come from a poor background. Sometimes, it is difficult for them even to cater to their daily needs. And to purchase the instruments and costumes is out of question. But, the Association has made a decision to continue to conduct similar camps every year irrespective of them getting funds from the State Government.
However, the State Government has been good enough to release funds through State Safai Karmachari Commission, Department of Social Welfare and Department of Kannada and Culture. “We do not know whether similar funds would be released next year. As far as this year is concerned the Association is happy to receive the funds. But, whatever is the situation next year, we will continue to conduct the camps to ensure that our kids get to spend quality time during summer vacation”, says Manjunath.
He also added that not depending on the State Government for funds, the Association saves certain percentage of the money earned through various performances to organise the camp.
The Association has been lucky enough to perform during the 2011 World Cup held in India. Members performed at cricket stadiums across the country and beat the drums much to the delight of the spectators. This apart, the artistes have also performed during the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) as well.
Conducting the summer camp for children residing in various slums was inspired after city was declared the cleanest city two years in a row. There is no doubt that officials and local politicians have contributed for the cause. But, the people who were actually responsible for Mysuru to get clean city tag were neglected.
It was during 2016, that Srinivas G. Kappanna contacted Manjunath with an idea to conduct a summer for pourakarmika children. “The summer camp was conducted to these children to show people that even they had immense talent to showcase and were not less than any other children,” said Srinivas Kappanna.
During the first year, the organisers faced trouble as there was not much support from State Government. But, with the support received from friends and a couple of associations they were able to conduct the camp.
Kalavrinda, which has exposed these children to various folk arts, also plans to introduce theatre in future. Though efforts were made last year, it was not possible as they faced problem in teaching the correct diction.
Majority of children participating do not speak Kannada as their mother-tongue which is a problem for theatre training. However, the association hopes to introduce them to theatre in the coming days after preparing them well in advance. Such initiatives by the association and theatre stalwarts like Srinivas Kappanna will definitely help these children to get a confidence boost to achieve great feats in their life and professional career.
“This is the second year that I participated in the camp. Compared to the previous year, this year we got to learn various folk art forms. It is also an opportunity for us to showcase our talent. Such camps boost our confidence to come out and express ourselves not only in art forms but also in other issues as well,” says M. Amrutha, a resident of B.B. Keri in Mandi Mohalla.
“Summer camps conducted by Kalavrinda has been the best part. We were given the opportunity to perform in front of hundreds of audience both in Kalamandira and in front of Mysore Palace. It is a great platform to exhibit our talent and show poeple that even we can be the cultural ambassadors of our city,” says Srilakshmi, a resident of T.K. Layout.