Pune: Play to fight anxiety among slum dwellershttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/pune-play-to-fight-anxiety-among-slum-dwellers-5675806/

Pune: Play to fight anxiety among slum dwellers

It was a result of one-and-a-half years of field research and interaction with the community in Suraksha Nagar. The stories in the play were from the community itself.

Pune: Play to fight anxiety among slum dwellers
A scene from the play. (Express photo)

Solidarity and compassion keeps a community healthy and prosperous, and the story of one such community was told through a short street play at Suraksha Nagar, Hadapsar on Sunday. But this was neither a ‘nukkad natak’ nor just an entertainment piece. It was an attempt to start a conversation on mental health of migrants
in Pune.

The play was part of an international research project led by De Montfort University (DMU), Leicester, United Kingdom, which focuses on the mental health resilience of migrant slum dwellers. It was a result of one-and-a-half years of field research and interaction with the community in Suraksha Nagar. The stories in the play were from the community itself.

Professor Raghu Raghavan, head of the project, said, “Mental health awareness has certainly grown in the mainstream but resilience in migrants slum dwellers was an area barely explored. They have never gone to a psychologist or even heard about them. So we had to start slowly. During our time here, we made sure that we are not intervening in their lives but are here to listen to them and help them. These one-and-a-half years, we interacted with them, found out about their issues, listened to their stories and created this play.”

A theatrical twist always helps bring stories to more people. The university took the help of Swatantra, a theatre group based in the city. The group heard the stories, combined them and made a play. They also decided to bring in the children of the community to act and design the play. Some of the songs and props were made by the children with help from the team and some adults from the area. Every child danced, sang and acted in the skit.

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“Even though the people were a little paranoid about us at first, the children helped us sell our cause. Not only could we talk to their families but through the play, they became part of the storytelling,” said Raghavan.

The play had an underlining theme. In the three stories from the community, the protagonists go through stressful situations and feel alone, members of the community enter and help them overcome the situation. The skit hinted towards one of the ways to tackle mental health issues — seek help from the people you trust because compassion and teamwork will help you out.

The research is funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Global Challenges Research Fund.