I have been a clown, a facilitator, a friend, a co-traveller, a prankster, a child, an artist, a designer, a student, a seeker… I have been all this and so much more at Purple Mangoes. When I heard this name for the first time many months and what seems like a lifetime ago, I barely understood what the term ‘facilitators’ collective’ could mean. Both words meant nothing to me at the time, and what appealed to me was the crazy, pattern-breaking imagination that the name evoked.
As a khoji (a seeker) at Swaraj University, I was already used to being different, exploring the unknown and enjoying the ride of getting to know it. It was at the peak of this exploration, on the line between faith and madness, that I chose to leave for Delhi – a city that I was completely unfamiliar with, because I felt like it, and landed at the Mangoes’ more as friends than mentors. When I did get here, I realised quickly that this space was different. It was unique and I loved its open ambience. I realised that this was an attempt for people to work in freedom, that elusive something that seems so far away from regular daily life.
When I started interning at Purple Mangoes, I was given that freedom – the twin sided coin which meant that I would be trusted to undertake my own actions and I that I held the responsibility to be accountable. I joined into whatever work came up. All three partners, Sukhmani, Sumedha and Nivedita would co-create spaces for each of them to hold, leading different projects, and then work together towards completing. I fast learned that waiting around for work meant nothing. If I wanted or needed something, asking for it would mean instant attention, but the onus on voicing my own needs was my own.
I learned here to try my hand out at a variety of things – learning when seemingly nothing of importance was happening. Just by being present and by looking at the way that the three women would navigate in different spaces, I learned so much. I learned to experiment in everything from art to facilitation.
A beautiful day comes to mind, which I now look back to in gratitude. Midway through my apprenticeship, I was going to reach out to local children for summer workshops and I was to take a poster out to the society garden where they play. I asked Sumedha to go with me, nervous about the reception such a poster and a stranger carrying it would receive. Gently but firmly, she told me that I should go and try it first, and she would always be ready to come if I needed her and gave her a call telling her so. Hours later, when I returned home giddy with the joy of playing with children uninhibited, she told me that she went past the garden earlier and did not want to interrupt our play.
Such is the support that I have received at Purple Mangoes. When I have wanted to try out things with art, Sukhmani has given me all her materials and let me play. Only after my experiments were done did I get any feedback, and that too as suggestions for the taking, given lightly and with love.
Not only have I received loving support, I have received opportunity. In the facilitation workshop that I attended with Nivedita and the Clown Workshop that I attended with both her and Sukhmani, I was given space to try out my own facilitation in the form of games. I was invited for the design processes whether or not I could contribute; but every suggestion I had to make was held completely on its own merit.
Here at Purple Mangoes, I received what I needed when I needed it. Support, love, guidance and sometimes a gentle kick on my backside to ensure that I could stand on my own. When I look back at the past months and all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve become because of this journey, I feel such a deeprooted sense of gratitude. The idea of facilitation, so alien to me at the beginning of this journey, now seems like a destination. More than ever, I feel like playing the roles that these women have played in my life for others, and dance with other seekers for a while, joining their journeys for growth. I understand now that facilitation is the joy of being there entirely for someone and knowing how to help them help themselves. Purple Mangoes takes this magic up as everyday work – of course they are brilliant!
More importantly, they take this work up as a collective - a non-hierarchical circle of friends, nay, sisters, hoping to live the reality that they want to see in this world. Is it always easy for them to do so? Is life peaceful and without any conflict whatsoever? Of course not. But that’s not the point either. This journey towards an imagined utopia of equality, love and fun is long-winding, with twists and turns along the way. There are other people to be convinced about the Mangoes’ own convictions, and a quest to keep up their own resolve in a world of doubt and questioning. But I rest assured that if anyone can move towards the land of broken rules and healed relationships, it’s the Purple Mangoes with their crazy, pattern-breaking imagination.
The road is long and I’m going to enjoy every bit of the view. For now, it is I who receives the light of the mango magic as an intern. I only hope to spread the love and walk along for a long while to come.