Dr. Avnish Jolly, Chandigarh:Mission’s journey down the years:In the past 15 years Theatre age crossed several milestones. Their children excelled in staging street plays. With over 1500 performances to their credit, Theatre Age became a synonym of street plays and Khan became uncrowned king of street plays.
Almost all plays were written, directed and produced solely by him. Besides providing entertainment, every play was aimed at creating awareness about one of the burning social issues like drug de-addiction, prevention of AIDS, female feticide, and environmental preservation etc. etc.
On education front too, slow and steady progress was being made, as every year some 4-5 new children were admitted to Govt. Schools. They had the privilege of being taught drawing and painting by Sh. Prem Singh, Principal, Govt. Arts College, Chandigarh; Sh. S.P. Singh, MD of CITCO helped by deputing his cooks for teaching cooking to children. A group of well wishers donated a three wheeler auto for collecting newspapers, State Bank of India donated 10 bicycles to facilitate movement of students. Apparently, river of Theatre Age was flowing calmly, but underneath, there was deep turbulence, for even after completing a decade of its existence, it had no place to call its own. All these years, survived like a vagabond, operating from under the shade of many a trees to vacant verandahs of several buildings of city beautiful.
The turning point came in – 2001, when Chandigarh Administration, recognizing their undying spirits, allowed them use of a portion of vacant grounds of Govt. High School, Sector 24, Chandigarh. Impressed by their dedication and outstanding activities, they were granted use of an abandoned store house and by now, they have two classrooms, with a kitchen and toilet attached at their disposal. For children coming from dilapidated shanties, the present premises is no less then heavens. Needless to say, now they can pursue their studies and hobbies in a comfortable and encouraging manner. They also partake a freshly cooked meal everyday. Entire work of running the society, starting from its upkeep, to maintenance to running of kitchen etc. is done solely by children themselves.
Raising funds for running of this society was never easy. Initially, Khan supported it from his own meagre resources. Later, some friends and well wishers too joined the cause, but the collection was falling short of meeting increasing expenses of children’s education. The break through came in 2003 when few of its members, who were erstwhile ragpickers, suggested collection of old news papers from public and selling the same for raising funds. The idea clicked and today Theatre Age has over 500 members in and around Chandigarh donating their old newspapers to the Society. Help, though in any other form is also equally welcome and thus many a kind hearted souls keep on donating books, clothes, food grains, grocery etc. etc. Besides, numbers of volunteers assist Khan in day-to-day running and administration of the Society.
At present, Society is supporting 12 children to pursue their formal education through regular classes in Govt. School, and an equal number attend informal school in evening. Raman, eldest of the pack, has reached class 12, six are in class 8, remaining five are in junior classes. Another 03 are pursuing their studies through National Open School. Over past 15 years a large number of slum children have successfully been brought in to mainstream of society in a variety of ways. Several have made it big in their life. Veerpal (Veeru), a shoeshine boy, is today a proud make up man with a TV channel. Vicky Raja, a vagabond is serving in BSF, Ajay Rana, a wayward boy is running a theatre school with Airtel. Vijay Machal, a slum boy is conducting theatre workshops for children in different states. The list goes on and will go on. A lot has been done and a lot more needs to be done. But two lone hands of Mr. Khan may not be sufficient to sustain the growth of mission. So you too can lend your helping hand to brighten the destiny of scores of children living in darkness of illiteracy and abject poverty. Mr. Khan can be contacted on his cell +91-9815145453, +91-9316132900, +91-172-22720105 / or you can e-mail him at email@example.com