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The intimate environment, where the audience surrounds the performer and participates in their art or is simply an onlooker, helps
Picture a room full of people, none of whom know each other, sitting cross-legged on the ground. A round of poetry reading works as ice-breaker, and is followed by applause. The next thing you know, it's your turn to take the stage. You can recite a poem, tell a story or even share a memory. And, nobody is going to judge you. Writer-poet Neha Bahuguna started Bol The Collective because "we have forgotten how to communicate with others". The intimate environment, where the audience surrounds the performer and participates in their art or is simply an onlooker, helps. The first such baithak was hosted at The Artisans' Art Gallery in Kala Ghoda back in 2017. Each year, up to six events are organised and open to everyone. "It's mostly recitals and discussions around women-related subjects that we plan, because there is just so much to discuss there. You can use the platform to vent, send a message or start a conversation."
And, it is not mandatory for everyone to speak. "We give people their space. Sometimes, we get children from NGOs, and they are usually shy. We let them take the stage, but if they are not comfortable, we let them be. At least, they can listen and reflect on this experiences later," she says. Bahuguna chooses art galleries, quaint cafes and restaurants to hold the baithaks. Snacks and tea make the rounds to ensure everyone loosens up. The only requirement? Come with an open mind, and be accepting of another's views.
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