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We hear you – mumbai guide

It’s difficult to gauge what goes on in the mind of a teenager living amid the pandemic and the silent crackdown on dissent, navigating the world of news and social media. Do they see the world, its problems and its many possibilities through a different lens? Aditi Agarwal, 17, a guest on the first episode of a podcast hosted by online resource centre The Magic Key Centre for the Arts and Childhood, gives us an insight into her feelings about the aftermath of CAA and NRC, when she says, “Those petitions had thousands of signatures. But to see that even a response of that kind can be quelled, really broke my heart. They [petitions] might not bring about direct change, but they inspire hope. For example, you know that what you believe in, 30,000 others also believe in.”

In a 15-minutes podcast, Agarwal, a school student who loves poetry, memes and writing, then goes onto pour her heart out about why she wrote an open letter to Dalit rights activist Dr Hany Babu after his arrest, and what it’s like to grow up amid the rise of global fascism. These are not conversations you expect to have with children, who we prefer to tuck away from reality. Yet their young ideas can offer hope for a brighter tomorrow. And this is what filmmaker, writer and educator Samina Mishra’s podcast, The Magic Key Conversations, aims to do — create a space for children to think for themselves and express it.

Samina Mishra (centre, in blue) with kids at a pre-lockdown workshop
Samina Mishra (centre, in blue) with kids at a pre-lockdown workshop

Mishra, who resides in Delhi, tells us that in an unofficial capacity, the centre has been alive for about a year through workshops. The author shares, “My interests lie in the intersection of arts, childhood and education. Having worked with children for years, it made sense to think of an umbrella space to consolidate all that work. I hope at some point it’ll be accessible in the form of a physical space where workshops are held for kids, and where it can serve as a resource centre for parents, educators, and others to re-imagine how we should address children.” But in the meantime, it has taken a formal shape online with the help of her interns, Neha Gupta and Saloni Singh.

Poem by Rashi Talwekar on what it means to be Indian
Poem by Rashi Talwekar on what it means to be Indian

Through the lockdown, the centre has been engaging kids through prompt-based poems, puppet-making, letter-writing and other activities. Amid scores of fun poems and colourful artworks, one can also spot useful tips for parents, for instance, on talking to children about harsh truths unfolding around us, such as the Hathras rape case. “The idea is to drive a conversation about childhood. Is it an anaesthetised space where problems of the world are shut out or do we engage with kids about it?” The podcast is a way to steer this conversation.

Poem by Janhavi Ramavat on the lockdown
Poem by Janhavi Ramavat on the lockdown

The upcoming episodes are expected to feature children from the government schools of Delhi, where the Happiness Curriculum is being implemented. “I’m looking to speak to kids in class 8 or above, who can talk about how they’ve been coping with the pandemic. I’m also interested in speaking with girls.” Among grown-ups, we can expect to hear from Sujata Noronha who runs the Bookworm Trust in Goa, and Dr Poonam Batra, an education sector expert, among others. The aim is to rethink education and make room for kids’ voices. “Self-expression is a key aspect of education, which isn’t just about knowledge-gathering. It has to be about understanding yourself and your place in the world,” she says, adding they’re open to hearing from young ones. Give it a shot?

Log on to Spotify for the podcast; @themagickeycentre on Instagram

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