In 2010, I met the spirited young Nkoko Skete from Johannesburg, we were doing our MPhils together and he was the ‘big thing’ in theatre. Cambridge was overrun with posters of his ‘thinking’ face and the iconic role he played as Anthony Study. I never did see the play and he never did of course forgive me, but we had one too many wonderful lunch dates to care.
It was on one such lunch date at the St. Michael’s Church cafe, while breaking bread over delicious thick carrot soup that I told him all about The Lucknow Book Club, about JOSH and how Lucknow was a little secret because nobody really knew just how much potential it had for creative expression, what it’s heritage held, how proud and wonderful our artists are and just how badly we want to be abuzz like maybe Delhi (only better!). Being passionate about development, talk came to children and NGOs and work I had been involved in and around Lucknow. Stories about children who had no real futures, forget culture, fun, games or even access to school… Nkoko was quiet. He brought it up. He was the tour manager for the famous Cambridge Rickshaw Theatre Project or ‘RTP’ for 2011, he would be travelling to India- to Delhi and then Nepal with a group of crazy young students from the University, bringing smiles and laughter to the lives of children without… would we like to have RTP come to Lucknow?
OF COURSE! And without thinking twice, I said yes. JOSH and LBC would do it! And we did… Pravin, Masto, Ananya, Nitin, Dok Saab, so so so so many volunteers from JOSH and around Lucknow made RTP 2011 a reality. We worked with the wonderful children of the Mamta School, SEWA and Puran Shiksha Kendra. Deepak Saha of envisage communique and ACC cement made it possible for us to have a stage show, kids who had never been on stage found themselves in the spotlight- equal with and finally ‘above’ all.. who can forget the mad laughter, dancing, brilliant acting and tearful goodbyes? In 2012, because of the awesome response we had in 2011, RTP returned! To work with Puran Shiksha Kendra and Ehsaas with maskmaking workshops and more fun for kids at Mamta and games with KHEL. We also found a fabulous friend in Naheed Verma’s ‘Lucknow Homestay’, a safe home away from home for our volunteers from Cambridge who can afford to volunteer and live in Lucknow for 2 weeks only because of Naheed’s generosity and excellent yet cheap services! And now, in 2013, RTP returns for a third time! Lucknow and KHEL inspired RTP members to start another project, the Rickshaw Sports Project to play indigenous and international sports with kids as well as teach them life skills. RSP started its first ever workshop from Lucknow earlier this month. On the 25th, the RTP team will return to work with three partners, Puran Shiksha Kendra, Make A Difference (MAD) and Ehsaas.
We hope the team in 2013 has as much fun and makes as big an impact as the teams have made in previous years. If you would like to know more about the Cambridge Rickshaw Tour and read previous year’s reports visit- http://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/centres/cce/awards/rickshawtheatre/ if you would like to volunteer in the Lucknow leg of the tour or recommend a NGO that works with children in the 8-16 year age group or if you would like to donate to the cause and expenses related to doing the final show on the 6th of september, please contact Nitin Prakash (9839015751) or Masto Gaurav Srivastava (9336670006).
We welcome you to attend the final show put together by the RTP team, JOSH and LBC volunteers and the little star children from the NGOs on the 6th of September. Your presence and cheering would greatly encourage the children as well us the youth who give 14 days every year to make forgotten young children feel confident, happy and equal.