The Peoples' Institute for Re-thinking Education and Development

Pitaara Memoirs

When I look back at it, I feel Pitaara was like an idea that found me to help me unleash my own treasure. It gave me a deeper peek of my own abilities. The way this unconference took place and the idea evolved itself was just amazing. When I look back at it, I am still amazed that it happened. And it happened so fast. I remember how I was prototyping Self-Designed Learning Alliance Platform with few friends when one of them expressed that it is too overwhelming as there are way too many features. He suggested that we might like to consider designing our prototyping in a way such that people can experience one feature at a time. I chuckled for a moment, but a moment later I thought, why not?

Few more calls in the next few hours and we were set. I call it a pop-up team. I called an acquaintance who is a dear friend now to share what I was thinking, and with slight hesitation about the timeline, she came onboard. I messaged another acquaintance, explaining to him the idea very broadly, and there we had another core member. The way they say that universe has its way, I still feel it was some force working parallelly with us which made this event possible. Quickly I had a team of 7 adults+ 3 kids who came together to build this event.

We designed the event, all the communications and started moving. When I sent out the first email of the event, requesting facilitators to come to an offer a session, I was thinking to myself that can I still back out. Those thoughts which always comes to me while making any decision, or rolling the ball. And only 15 minutes later, I got an email from an unknown person, appreciating the initiative and offering their professional Zoom account as a gesture to host the event.

I was so gratified and encouraged by this gesture, the slightest apprehensions I had, dissolved. I think the rest was teamwork. Everyone in the team did more than I could expect. I first time witnessed so many people in motion just because they believed in the idea. It helps me understand the power of common ideals. How people can come together without any ulterior motives if they believe in a common cause. We had the highest quality of design done by my friend Ashik who took upon himself to design every creative for the event. Ashita would look at the content of our webpage and all the communications, at any moment asked and ensure that it is near perfect before it goes out. Muzamil took up the Live OST board. Arti ensured that we have enough facilitators and volunteers and Simran would be there bringing in her critical lens to look at things. Everything happened without too much thought, in a flow, from heart maybe. Satyam offered Chaitanya Kul account to hold contributions complemented with his advice on how can we structure the event. I think everyone took up more than I could imagine. There was always support for any idea that came to me. When we needed How-to videos for the event, my kid's committee took up the responsibility. Our latest member Qudrat came up with beautiful ideas and made an introductory film to make the entire conference more fun. Another dear friend took up marketing and blasted the digital world with the news about Pitaara. And to top it all, every single person I requested to take up a session, took one. I precisely remember it was two days before the unconference and we haven’t still planned for the orientation. We spent the night before discussing it without reaching anywhere near a conclusion. In the morning I called Sukhmani and asked her to just take up the orientation piece, apprehensive a little whether she would agree. And a moment later, she took off all my anxiety. She not only did her piece, but she also designed the orientation with Freeman and Shubham, two other beautiful friends who graciously supported me organise this.

Another thing that makes me grateful and more confident about humaneness in people is that no one for a single second showed any concern for money they would get. They all were there to share their gifts with the world. We were showered by their generosity. A mother of one of my kids’ committee member called out of the blue and offered to do a playback theatre for our children. We were overwhelmed with the love forthcomingness that people displayed. I think one thing I attribute to myself and our core team is our open hearts. Everyone who came to us was received with love and respect. We were figuring out how to accommodate all the facilitators and the events till 31st May, a night before the event. We had registrations going on till June 1. At one point Manyata and I went really crazy communicating with all the participants though it was all worth.

I still find it unbelievable. The way the two days went by was absolutely brilliant. The joyous energy that children filled in those virtual Zoom rooms was tremendous. Children played the entire day in the Welcome room, they had one game after another for almost 8 hours. A 4-year old took a session on How to put a lipstick, which was an absolute hit. There were workshops on papermaking, happiness circles, animation, storytelling, coding, gaming, sustainable living and whatnot. And everyone had their pick. We had playback theatre in the evening followed by a session led by Qudrat where unschoolers came to together to talk, to ask questions, to express and to bond. Along with this, we had a Dad’s talk where they were discussing the environment. The day 1 ended on a super high note, setting up a higher benchmark for day 2. We started day 2 going deeper into the importance community. Shubham brought in the power of connection-making and Sukhmani added garlic to our stone soup. We witnessed several pop up sessions took up by children on Day 2. Everything went smoothly.

We had our own moments when the heart beats dropped. At one point while launching the event, the OST board crashed. This was the worse thing that could happen which I never imagined. I quickly reached out to my coder who fixed it 2 minutes, but for a moment I did think that what if it doesn’t works, we had over 100 participants waiting. I feel we had a divine and not so divine support ensuring that everything goes well.

There is so much more that happened during those two days. The children never wanted the unconference to end. They had their share of friendships and fun. There is so much more that could have been done. And there are so many more ideas in our minds right now. I have received so many heartfelt messages from children inquiring when are we hosting the next one. The answer to that is still brewing up. I haven’t done much in the past week. The way this event happened, it also took quite a lot of our energies. I never estimated that it will be so well received and will have so many people participating. Sometimes I feel as Pitaara evolved itself, using me and my core team as a medium to come to this world. And when it has to happen next, I am sure it will find a medium. So I am hopeful. I am sure these children who were part of the unconference will take up something and surprise me. And we will have more exciting work going on.

This account is more like a small gesture, a thank you note to all those who helped. I want to express my gratitude to all the team, the facilitators who opened up their gifts, volunteers who supported, the children who brought in their innocence and freshness and the parents for their support.

In hope of more beautiful, joyous times!

Prachi! Mittal

For more photos, visit here.


* Note: Many friends from LSUC came together to help facilitate and co-host this event.