-penned by board member Mrs. Alo Pal

“In small proportions we just beauties see;

And in short measures life may perfect be”

Ben Johnson

Session I

At the tsunami quarters – rows of identical little matchbox houses.

Manuel : Close your eyes, think of Nature, what do you see?

Women and children in a Community Art exercise, draw snow-peaked mountains, forests, gardens, the park.

Manuel: Now close your eyes again and think of nature closer to you

This time they look around themselves. A sapling through cracks in a concrete slab, a flower pot, a bright-coloured bougainvillaea, birds on trees, insects, a stray dog, columns of ants – summer is upon us.

And then they draw their lived experience of Nature. Their awareness becomes fine tuned, even if briefly to Her abundance even in the small and miniature. Happy mothers showing and explaining the art work by their children, reliving their childhoods with them in a simple collective exercise. A short two step process to look within, to look closely and experience their own space.

Session II

Jayalakshmi  draws the outlines of a tree and asks the women and children to breathe life into it. Slowly roots appear as do branches, leaves, blossoms, birds, soil and grass. And what lives life they are asked – love, is the answer.

Manuel plays them music asking them to imagine a forest, with all living things dwelling inside, then asks them to see Nature close to them. Think of the smallest of things. And then each is given a piece of paper with a seed drawn on it, and now they have to help the life inside the seed express. Always inspired by what they see around them. Some draw a plant, some a plant with a flower, some a giant tree, each to his own interpretation of life and Nature.

Then they are asked to draw visitors to the plants and trees and birds, insects, butterflies.

The men don’t paint. They watch their wives and children express themselves. They have smiles on their faces. They participate by watching their loved ones. Manuel has helped them look at their surroundings differently too.

No pictures were taken during this exercise, nothing at all was there to distract the families. Children aged 2 to 17 participated. Every scribble was valid, each was free to express as they felt.

We’ve all experienced such quiet collective magic with our dear ones and our community. In fact, I’ve had fun with colours in the office to celebrate Holi. We’ve now regained our seats with colour and a smile on our faces, there is an ambient atmosphere of gaiety. So too with the children, women and men at the tsunami quarters. Manuel hopes they carry that laughter with them all day, husbands and wives treat each other better, feel a collective bond with their families and community and dream of their childhoods once the day ends. Even if this moment passes and the humdrum quickly sets in, it may well be that next time a tiny flower blooms from the cracks of concrete, a man, a woman and a child will stop a while and look at it.