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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Writerpreneur Chhaya Dabas On ‘Baatein’ & Upcoming Jaipur Expressions’ Workshop With IWB

  • IWB Post
  •  August 25, 2019

A child begins to express long before words come into play. Crying, laughing, smiling, babbling sounds, all without a thought or worry. With time we learn to speak, write, draw – and freely explore the world of expression. But when growing up has us meet with inhibitions, hesitations, distractions, is when the journey begins to disrupt… and away we drift from the playground of expression and the beautiful art of baatein.

Now I wonder if I had rather just stated my point, but well, that’s how I chose to express my thoughts. Which in my understanding, outlines the plot of the Expressions’ Workshop that Chhaya and Team Baatein in association with Indian Women Blog, are bringing to Jaipur on the 7th and 8th of the coming month!

My first conversation with Chhaya was about the very workshop, which I attended in Delhi earlier this year. And might I add, it was an experience to remember and relish. The founder and face of Baatein, Chhaya is a woman donning many hats. An alumna of King’s College, London and a TEDx speaker, she is a writer, a teacher, an entrepreneur, and a public speaker.

#Repost @official.wethepeople (@get_repost) ・・・ (Delhi, India) “As a child, I lived a very happy life – I had a family that loved and supported me, and a dadu who used to tell me stories every morning! What more can a 13 year old ask for? But one day, it all came crashing down around me. I came across a lump on my foot. I couldn’t even wear some shoes because of it and that infuriated me! My family took me to a doctor immediately. At the time, I didn’t really get the seriousness of the situation – I was just wanted everything to go back to normal! But it couldn’t…. The lump was cancerous. It was detected early, so it could be treated. My chemotherapy began and I had to spend weeks in the hospital, with just a day per week to spend time at home. On one such day, my hemoglobin dropped to a critical level, and I had to be rushed back to the hospital for a transfusion. I just lost it and broke down. That was supposed to be my one day at home! I asked my doctor why this was happening to me! That’s when she took me to the pediatric ward where there were these tiny babies struggling to survive on support systems. I saw their parents sitting next to them, praying….hoping their child would make it. She told me that this could happen to anyone, but I had one thing, that only a lucky few do – I had a silver lining, a chance to survive. It just changed the way I looked at life! That was the first time ‘words’ saved me. I beat the cancer and I went back home. During my recovery period, I started writing….started putting down my thoughts into words. And I never stopped. I wrote every single day and I still do. Recently, I penned down my experience with cancer on my blog. And it helped, it truly did. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that on days when medicines don’t work, conversations and words do.”

46 Likes, 0 Comments – C H H A Y A D A B A S (@chhaya_dabas) on Instagram: “#Repost @official.wethepeople (@get_repost) ・・・ (Delhi, India) “As a child, I lived a very happy…”

Chhaya beat cancer at the age of 13 – and in her own words – doesn’t shy from showing off her scar that carries the lessons and teachings of the morbid episode. Come, let’s have you know this powerhouse of a woman a little better.

Let’s first head back to the time when ‘Baatein’ came about. Tell us a little about those early years!

I was in college, studying at Delhi University. After a yearlong stint with theatre, I found myself with a keenness to try something new and with lots of time – vacated by the grilling theatre classes – to allow experimentation. Writing had been a pal since the age of ten. Born in a household of stories and storytellers – dadu (a Ph.D. in linguistics), papa (a voracious reader and brilliant public speaker), maa (a teacher) and nani-nani (remnants of the partition); I was naturally drawn to the style and art from a young age. So it was natural, and in a way also imperative, for me to start a platform where one could express all these collated stories.

It so happened that there was a need for a poetry/ storytelling platform for people to go and contribute to, and fall back on. So Baatein came as a respite to the growing drudgery of the common youth.

How was the experience of extending your understanding of expression and baatein to people?

The initial few steps stumbled, just like a child, but I didn’t hesitate to grab onto new opportunities, poets, and ideas of channeling conversations. I was a regular writer on Baatein’s Instagram-based blog, whereas, a gradual increase in guest posts helped it stay afloat. Soon Baatein began to gather attention, and around then began my search of a passionate team to help Baatein grow.

I am an overthinker – by Chhaya Dabas.

243 Likes, 10 Comments – Baatein (@baatein) on Instagram: “I am an overthinker – by Chhaya Dabas.”

Around that time Baatein got the opportunity to display poetry on various commodities at five Delhi University colleges, and also brought about 25 poets and storytelling enthusiasts to Ama Cafe, Majnu ka Tila, which marked Baatein’s first poets’ meet.

What did the first social media post of ‘Baatein’ talk about? 

Ah, that is a question that needs to stir a memory from the 2014 file. I believe it was a poem that I wrote on a girl visiting her house after many years and evaluating the decay from visuals that she observes such as the creaking stairs.

[A Delhi-based platform, Baatein is a confluence of poetry, stories, and conversations – a creative body of work that aims to revive conversations beyond linear and digital channels. Brainchild of Chhaya, what started as a poetry blog in 2014, transpired into a robust and engaging platform where many find an echo to their thoughts, and has today shaped into a beautiful community that fosters collective growth, laughter and love.]

The Expressions’ workshop – how did this vertical shape up?

Growing in a digital environment, I was consciously aware of the growing apathy and lack of communication in the offline spaces of our lives. Baatein, too, whilst being an online initiative, needed to create offline spaces for conversations to brew. Another factor that contributed to the designing of this workshop was the existence of the world outside the digital boundaries, which had no platform to express it. Our expression is our bridge that connects our knowledge/ thoughts/ questions to an audience. And as we grow up, becoming an adult often curtails the expression. We don’t laugh freely, we don’t cry freely.

#Repost @indianwomenblog (@get_repost) ・・・ “To me, storytelling happened at a very young age. When I was 13 years old, I dealt with cancer. That’s when writing became all about expressing. I needed to Express to understand what cancer was… to deal with the medical procedures at such a young age, and to move on after that morbid episode with positivity and strength.” shares Chaya Dabas on the journey to finding her expression, in an Insta live chat with Indian Women Blog. @chhaya_dabas, the founder of Baatein, is a writer, a teacher, an entrepreneur, a public speaker, and a cancer survivor. She beat cancer at the age of 13 and shows off a scar that carries the lessons and teachings of the morbid episode. She is also a TEDx speaker and an alumna of King’s College, London. @parniikaa, the Creative Head at Baatein, is a graduate student from Miranda House College and is a theatre enthusiast. A versatile, ferocious and brilliant poet and writer, she has performed on various notable platforms and is now steering Baatein to its own expression and art production. After delivering several successful workshops at The Great Indian Film and Literary Festival; Half Baked Beans; Mash Project; Smile Foundation; Punjab University, and Global Entrepreneurship Week to name a few, @baatein, in association with @indianwomenblog, is coming to Jaipur to conduct a workshop focused on self-expression and storytelling. The 2-day workshop will be exploring different art forms for self-expression through direct, group engagement and immersive activities to nurture raw expression into a more nuanced exhibition of one’s literary pursuits. __ Dates: 7th & 8th September Timings: 11 to 5 PM` Venue: Olive Restaurant, Opposite OTH_OnTheHouse, Ramesh Marg, C-scheme, Jaipur To register, VISIT LINK IN BIO and Stay tuned for more updates.

32 Likes, 0 Comments – Baatein (@baatein) on Instagram: “#Repost @indianwomenblog (@get_repost) ・・・ “To me, storytelling happened at a very young age. When…”

Baatein wanted to help this situation to the best of our capability. And hence we conceptualized the Expressions’ workshop that ropes in elements of poetry, storytelling, body language, oration, theatre, leadership, and articulation to invigorate minds and channel emotions to help a person become more cognizant of themselves and their environment.

Considering one receives as much as they give out in an experience as such, how have the workshops contributed in your journey of self-discovery and expression?

We have done over 10 workshops in the last year and each workshop has borne fruitful results and overwhelming responses to how this workshop helped the participants become better communicators, made them feel deeply, and express uninhibitedly. For instance, at our last workshop with ITC Hospitality Management Institute, a particular activity revolving around ‘painting one’s emotions’ brought the class to tears (a release) as they all painted memories from their life that they cherished, loved, or longed for. This workshop acts as one of the bridges that one needs to walk across to be more cognizant of one’s feelings and expression,  and we are continuously trying to take it to people across the country.

You talked about how Baatein helped keep your home warm and family bonding strong; tell us about how you have made others to not overlook the role of this component in the family dynamics?

Hannah Gadsby said, “Stories hold our cure.” And our stories begin at our home – where we took our first steps and laughed our first laugh. These stories and the distinct characters that make it memorable and worthy of a recall are best served by our family – those who have been there for the thick and thin and have seen you grow, fall, stumble, dust off and fly.

Tag it with people who make your home, a Home. #todaysstory

58 Likes, 0 Comments – Baatein (@baatein) on Instagram: “Tag it with people who make your home, a Home. #todaysstory”

Family teaches you the teamwork, selflessness, empathy, and care. All these values are centric to being able to express oneself to one’s best capacity. All our activities act on these values through different interventions.

And lastly, some quick questions! Answer with ‘Your Expression of ____’ for the following: 

  • Kindness: to be a good listener
  • Anger: to remove me from the situation
  • Feeling too much / overwhelmed: Self-talk and deep breathing
  • Self-love: appreciating the little victories in life
  • Disagreement: trying to calm down and listen to the other person

Stay tuned for our next conversation with Parnika Bhardwaj, the Creative head of Baatein, and meanwhile check the Workshop details (below).

The 2-day workshop will be exploring different art forms for self-expression through direct, group engagement and immersive activities to nurture raw expression into a more nuanced exhibition of one’s literary pursuits.

Workshop Structure:

DAY 1 – Emotions and Expression
11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

What is an expression?
Understanding Navras
What do you mean by it?
Is it a general/ universal/ subjective/ personal term?
Various forms of expression
Can expression take any form
Let’s explore our expressions today

Lunch Break

2:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Overcoming the Barrier of ‘Self’ in self-expression
Creative process of transforming your expression into a story (Part – I)

DAY 2 – Theatre, Poetry and Storytelling

11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Exploring different ways of expression
Act it out
Rewrite a story
Writing a story together
Being a storyteller in various ways

Lunch Break

2:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Creative process of transforming your expression into a story (Part – II)
When your story becomes a part of a cultural/ideological/social movement

Dates: 7th & 8th September
Timings: 11 to 5 PM`

Venue: Olive Restaurant, Opposite OTH_OnTheHouse, Ramesh Marg, C-scheme, Jaipur

To register, CLICK HERE.

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