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The College & the Academy

by on August 17, 2013
The World College

The Military Academy

16 to 19 year olds from over 60 countries, living together in a ‘bubble’ outside the city, with the mission of an education that works toward creating global leaders for peace and sustainability.

17 to 21 year olds from over 15 Indian states, living together in a ‘bubble’ outside the city, with the mission of an education that aims to form the nation-state’s future military leaders.

When the students walk into a performance space to watch a production, we’re lucky if all of them show up on time. They walk in in varied attire, hanging on to each other, touching, lounging, at ease…

The students assemble at the auditorium half an hour before the show begins. They sit ‘in attention’, in uniform, staring before them with unflinching gazes till the Head of the Academy raises his hand – a gesture that the performers can now begin their show…

If you ask them to create little improvisations about their lives, they talk about transparency at the College, about gender and sexuality, about the juxtaposition between the ideals of their bubble and its realities.

The students improvise pieces about discipline and punishment – the many different ways in which a cadet at the Academy is liable to be punished; punishment that is accepted as part and parcel of the place; punishment that will make them better warriors.

They speak in lingo specific to their bubble, to their context – a language that needs to be understood before relationships might be formed; a language that educators constantly have to re-learn so as to connect with their students.

And so went my first day of teaching theatre to cadets at one of India’s armed forces’ training academies – an endeavour to understand where gestures of art might intervene in spaces of military education, where war is seen as being a marker on the road to peace; an attempt that exists alongside my other endeavour of teaching theatre, to international students who want to work toward peace without (violent) war.

It is a time of reflection and learning – of attempting to understand the function of art in spaces within which my coloured lenses of left-leaning liberalism have to be negotiated differently; of attempting to compare and contrast my students at the College with my cadet students at the Academy; of attempting to create spaces for theatre in educational settings where the goals of that education converge and diverge at every step.

The College and the Academy…the journey begins.

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