I continue to think of The YP Foundation as an organization in the present tense, and not really a figment of the past. I think it holds relevance to me personally, and certainly to my work today. I can say the same for many others whom I have known, worked with and interacted with over the course of my association with the organization.
I remember my first meeting at Tarini Barat’s house over 4 years ago, with team facilitator Harsh Malhotra, both of whom now alumni of the organization, and also dear friends today. To me this is the true relevance of TYPF – it creates lasting relationships and relevant situations for young people to converge and converse, and to create conventional, and sometimes exceptionally unconventional change.
I never believe in pivotal turning points in time, an “aha” moment – they is illusory. One of the key values I learnt during my time working with TYPF as a team member and staff member was perseverance. I worked in the Facilitative Branch (project on the Indian Education System), and as the Administrative Coordinator (2007-2008) with a host of projects. Subsequently to leaving the staff team, in 2008 I worked on another project of which I am very proud – a cultural exchange project with Afghan students in Delhi through film, art, literature and dialogue. TYPF gave me 100% freedom and creativity to source, compile and edit and design a 180-page magazine featuring work on the issue of “Understanding Afghanistan Today”. I can’t think of any other organization that would do that!
I never fancied myself a management oriented person (most of the time I still don’t!), but that experience though challenging, really helped me understand what goes into creating and sustaining development work, particularly in an urban setting, which is volunteer oriented. Though only with research, practice and experience have I really learnt what volunteer management, project management or program development are – I cannot honestly say I would have had the confidence to move out of TYPF and begin Music Basti. I owe the staff team and projects at TYPF for their trust in and encouragement to me.
By mid 2008, I had realized that I wanted to go back to music, but to also carry forward a social conscience, which was growing within me, which still is. Writing now, two years hence I realize that I have learnt so much, yet so little since that time. The struggles become easier in some respects, and harder in others. Most people will scoff at this reference, “We’re never gonna win the world, we’re never gonna stop the war, we’re never gonna beat this, if belief is what we’re fighting for. What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand? Belief can” (John Mayer, “Belief”)
I find myself confronted constantly with the dilemma of not knowing what is enough, when to stop. I started Music Basti as a collective – to collaborate and create music to make a difference and to change people’s lives. Is it enough? Truthfully, sometimes even I really don’t think so. But it changes people’s lives – and that is what matters, and continues to matter.
In 2008 when Music Basti began implementing workshops with the “Dil Se” Campaign, Aman Biradari along with many key artistes, musicians and mentors, it made a difference to my life, and to the attitudes of everyone we worked with. It unraveled a world often unvisited by us; it triggered conversation, laughter, tears and most importantly lasting relationships. TYPF played a critical role in assisting Music Basti to launch its program, through infrastructural support, planning assistance and volunteer help. Music Basti’s first public program at India Habitat Center in November 2008 was co-hosted with TYPF – which was a showcase of a documentary film about the pilot project Music Basti, a concert by supporting band Advaita and a photography exhibition documenting music- workshops by Shiv Ahuja.
With the completion of many successful projects in 2008-2009, I graduated in 2009 and have been working full time with Integrated Development Education Association, of which Music Basti is a part. The program has scaled up its activities; outreach and most significantly, broadened its vision. TYPF has been a constant actor and support in this process, along with many other organizations and institutions who have joined in to support Music Basti including Aman Biradari, Bridge Music Academy, EFICOR, Gibson Foundation, Project Ahimsa, Furtados Music India among others. Music Basti was selected for the Change Looms (DAC program) in July 2009 (Pravah and Ashoka).
What encourages me is the process we believe in – to give children voices where they have had none, to give our team of volunteers and musicians an engaging and distinctive musical opportunity and to promote the shared vision of these voices. I believe strongly that children’s voices need to be heard – that they have important things to say. There are many ways to listen to these voices and music is one.
Music has the unique ability to transcend differences and to promote cooperation, positivity in the group and self, laughter and enthusiasm. The right to expression exists on the premise that participation and inclusivity exist, which unfortunately they often do not, particularly for children who are marginalized from society or subjugated by it.
An example of a project Music Basti is currently doing in July 2010 Music Basti is doing a project with UK based producer Ian Wallman, with Andrew Dubber and Jez Collins who are members of the Interactive Cultures Research Unit and are behind the Music As Culture project, to record an album of children’s songs, performed by children affected by poverty, homelessness and abuse. The album will be released online to showcase the change music effects in these children’s lives through music.
This piece will never be a cohesive one. Its timeline swings back and forth to reveal an outstanding relationship that is important to me personally and professionally. I still value my commitment to TYPF in the time and capacity I can offer, and work with assisting their projects and teams when possible. TYPF and its Founder, Ishita Chaudhry have consistently supported my programs, events and mission from the inception of Music Basti. I admire organizations that are carried by individuals with a vision and a perspective for change, and those who are armed with perseverance, because this work is far more often not easy than it is effortless – TYPF is one such organization.