Published: 01st May 2019
How Pallavi Chander's Art Therapy is helping Bengaluru's underprivileged kids beat alcoholism, crime
Pallavi Chander is using painting, drama, music and dance to help children from underprivileged backgrounds deal with day-to-day issues
Why should art be limited to paintings on walls or a play on stage? It can certainly be used as a method to solve problems which we deal with on a daily basis. Pallavi Chander is one person who thinks along the same lines. Since 2010, she has been using creative art therapy to solve some serious problems that children face. She studied Bachelor's in Visual Arts from Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath in Bengaluru. Meanwhile, her interest in acting drew her towards theatre. She started working with an organisation in Bengaluru that used art as therapy to connect with specially-abled kids. Pallavi went on to use theatre to not only connect with specially-abled kids, but to help them overcome the routine problems they faced as well. She realised the impact it had on these kids and continued to work with them for four years.
In order to pursue higher studies in the same domain, Pallavi shifted to Pune to take up the Art Therapy course from World Centre for Creative Learning Foundation. Further on, she went on to pursue her Master's in Drama and Movement Therapy from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. "I bagged the Charles Wallace India Trust Scholarships from British Council to study in London. When I completed my master's and came back to India in 2017, I decided that I must use art as therapy in a larger way and not just to find solutions to the problems of specially-abled kids. Now, I help kids who suffer from mental disorders, underprivileged children, and even women who face several issues and challenges. I feel that problems don't have a particular solution. Each person responds differently depending on the experiences they have had in their lives. My format of approaching problems is through art, drama and movement. This not only provides a solution to the problems of kids, but it also helps them explore art forms and find out which aspects they are good at."
Art healer: Pallavi has plans to use art as a therapy for kids who live in the remotest areas. She is already on her mission
Recently, with the help of India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) and Buguri Community Library in Bengaluru, Pallavi completed a Creative Art Therapy programme titled Creative Arts Expression. What started as a pilot project for children from marginalised communities last January continued for a year. Under this programme, she worked with 30 adolescent kids who came from marginalised communities. "Last year, when I shared my idea of conducting this programme with the team of Buguri Community Library, they were happy and agreed to conduct sessions in the library. This library is meant to inculcate reading habits among children who are from marginalised communities. Initially, we thought of conducting this programme for three months. But IFA and my friends provided funds to continue this project. Hence, I was able to conduct the sessions for a year," says Pallavi.
Some of these children who attended Pallavi's sessions had a difficult childhood. Pallavi observed that they were turning into alcoholics or drug addicts and dropping out from schools. Therefore, she taught them coping mechanisms through which they were able to deal with any issues. Here, the coping mechanism involved sharing problems with their friends rather than developing bad habits.
Art Movement: A girl draws a picture writes a message beside it during Creative Arts Expression programme in the Buguri Community Library
These kids who attended the year-long session presented their experience of participating in the Creative Art Expression programme through a book. Aye Reena! is a book authored by adolescent girls. The book informs about the menstrual rituals followed by girls during the first nine days of their menstrual cycle and why it is celebrated in certain families. Similarly, Oota Ayeta?, resplendent with illustrations of different recipes, is authored by boys. The dishes depicted in the book were prepared during the sessions at the library. Due to IFA's support and funds, they printed a few copies of the books in Kannada and English. They plan to print some more copies in the future, depending on the demand.
Scope for creative art therapists
Pallavi thinks that due to better exposure and trends of various jobs, several youngsters and children are opening up and talking about mental health and depression. "This scenario of mental health today is different from what it was a few years ago. Today, people are seeking help. That is the progress which has happened in the past few years. Hence, the profession of creative art therapist has a lot of scope across India and there is a lot of work that I need to do in this field," she explains.
Apart from working as a therapist for the Buguri Community Library, Pallavi has been associated with Action on Disability and Development (ADD) India for more than one and a half year. Through this organisation, she is trying to make a difference in the lives of children from rural areas. "There is a dire need of such programmes for children in rural areas. I got in touch with field workers associated with ADD to touch base with some of the most remote places in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. For instance, if a child has an issue with movement in the fingers, then we use painting to improve their motor skills. Children love to paint and draw. Their parents have also noticed a lot of change. But funds is an issue as I personally have to travel and arrange for accommodation. Therefore, now I have started training field workers to use certain art therapy techniques to help children reach their goals. In case of some critical obstacles, I personally visit the place to help children," she explains.
Young Authors: Aye Reena! and Oota Ayeta? are the two books authored by girls and boys who were part of the sessions conducted by Pallavi Chander
Pallavi, who is on a mission to help people find a solution through creative art therapy, needs help with funds and logistics. "I have conducted several sessions for children and they love attending them as it involves activities related to art. But logistics and funds pose a huge challenge. Though there are friends and well-wishers who provide us with funds, we are unable to run the project for the long-term. Renting space or having a permanent one is also another issue."