Three board games, 13 students of urban design and numerous rounds of playing the board games with residents of Faisal Nagar slums in Ahmedabad. Don’t be mistaken, the students of CEPT University are here to understand various social and economical problems of the slum-dwellers and offer them solutions.
As part of the Play Methodologies Studio, a course offered for the time by the CEPT University, students of Bachelor of Urban Design were introduced to using games to understand the problems faced by the community, ranging from children dropping out of schools, water and electricity problems, and difficulties faced by vendors in the area.
“The idea is to understand design and spaces and what it mean to the community through a board game. We zeroed in on Faisal Nagar slums because the residents here have faced riots and structural violence. Such areas are neglected when it comes to providing basic amenities and infrastructure. So, we decided to get the students of urban design to understand the problems of the slum-dwellers and offer them solutions by engaging the community in board games,” says Kruti Shah, tutor of Play Methodologies Studio.
As part of the study, the students spent two weeks in mapping the area and understand the issues of the community. They then divided themselves into three groups and designed three board games — Safar, Lakshya and Bhav Tol — with the help of studio tutors, faculty members and game design experts from the National Institute of Design (NID).
“The city’s civic body has done very little work in this area (Faisal Nagar slums). So, the solutions that the students are currently working on in consultation with the community will allow residents to solve the problems rather than waiting for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to come and help them. For example, a student who is working on a khatla (cot) that doubles up as a solar panel in the day. Another student is working on lari (cart) that can be folded in a way that vegetables and meat can be kept in a cool space, while the other half can be used as a place to rest,” adds studio tutor Sebastian Trujillo, who along with Kruti Shah introduced the course in January this year.
Sharif Malek, a local community leader, echoes Trujillo. “Authorities do not visit our area and are not aware of the problems that we face — from garbage to electricity supply,” Malek says as he is hopeful that the students from the CEPT will able help solve some of their problems.
“The community was curious and then slowly started opening up. The board games were a revelation to many as they could discuss issues their day-to-day problems, something that has rarely happened as a group,” he adds.
Each of the three board games is aimed at gaining insight on a particular social or economic issue.
This board game is a jigsaw puzzle made of photographs of Faisal Nagar. The player has to put the pieces together in a way that he or she thinks is the best practice. The person whose answer the group agrees to scores a point . “The game is to understand the problem of school dropouts in the area and the reason behind it. We played the game with the children, women and men of the area. Based on the results of the game and discussions generated while playing the game, we are working on using the open spaces in the community to make mobile libraries and playgrounds,” says Aditi Mishra, a student of urban design, associated with the Safar game.
“While playing we learnt that over 100 dogs roam around at the entrance of the slum, and how children deal with them. The stories of dog attacking the children started doing the rounds as we played the game. The problem of garbage also came up often in the game . When we played the game with older children, we got to know about the spots from where they could get access to gutkha and cigarettes,” says another student Sparsh Patlan.
It’s the biggest of the three board games where players have to finish have to deal with obstacles coming on their way to the finish. Played with dice, Lakshya opens up like a map of the entire Faisal Nagar slums. “To play this game, we ensured that we get people from different backgrounds and ask them to deal with the obstacles they face in their lives. We got an auto-rickshaw driver and a homemaker to play the game together. To reach to the finish or his lakshya (aim), the auto-driver told us about the bad roads he would encounter on his way, garbage etc. The homemaker, on the other hand, explained her problems from her daily life to reach her goal. At a point in the game, the players have to help each other to reach the destination,” says Praswed Patel, a student, explaining the game.
The game was played with men and women in the area, and according to the students, the difference in their response gave them ideas to deal with the issues differently.
“The responses of both the genders were different and for us a great learning. While playing this game the community also realised that many of their problems were not being addressed by the civic body, and have now decided to reach out to the officials immediately,” says Shourya Dubey, another student.
Played by six people, this game of dice is aimed to understand the local market and how it operates in Faisal Nagar.
“The idea is to understand how informal markets in the area work. We took this game to the market space and played with the people there. We got a lot of data from vendors who sell vegetables and meat in the area,” says Anubha Tholia, a student.
“Many borewell operators told us about how they are forced to use illegal electricity as they do not have a proper connection. Even issues of unavailability of clean drinking water came up often in this game . Based on this discussion one of the team members is working on converting the otla (open space which is an extension of the house) into an RO filter point as well,” says Madhav Joshi, a student associated with the game.
While playing the game with the residents, the students came to know that most of the women in the slums do excellent embroidery work and sell them outside. “So we are working on designing a common place where women can come together and do their embroidery work. As a group, these women will be able to negotiate better price for their products and provide a variety of designs,” Anubha adds.