Text by Gitanjali Sharma, Photos by Martin Pheiga
On September 16, 2017 when we first visited the M-Power Study Centre — a beautiful, spacious, red-tile roof structure in M-East Ward of Mumbai — the excitement was palpable. The Centre was dressed up in streamers and balloons, set to begin the celebrations of the Youth Mela, a platform where youth from the local residential community come together, get to know each other and explore opportunities. Community participants were racing up and down to make the final preparations before people walked in. Tables were being set up where participants could help visitors decide and register for the various courses and facilities offered by the center. “We were here till 11 PM last night doing the decoration so that the center looks beautiful for the Youth Mela,” said Aksir, a local resident and youth mela participant.
The M-Power study centre is a part of the Transforming M Ward Project at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. The project was first initiated in 2011 by TISS with the ambitious goal of transforming a ward with the lowest Human Development Index and some of the poorest populations in the city. An initiative by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), and managed by TISS, the centre promotes higher education and prepares youth from slums to break the glass ceiling of higher education. The Youth Mela, a one-day celebration organised by TISS and community members of M-ward, was one of the first events held at the Centre.
The event had several stalls, games, performances organised and created by the residents of M-Ward and TISS, including one by I-Call, a helpline located at TISS that provides counselling over the phone. The stall made the students and the community members aware of the kind of help they provide and that anyone can get in contact through the study center. There were also stalls by instructors and students from Dharam Bharti Mission Vocational center, showcasing the skill of mehendi and stitching. Apart from these, there were also a bunch of students explaining various experiments undertaken by them during the CUBE lab lecture. Some of the other lectures conducted on the day included a session on CV building, a session called Science and Magic that explained kids about the reasoning behind science and urged them to question facts and not take them for granted.
The Youth Mela and all the fanfare would not have been possible if it wasn’t backed by community support. The community from the neighborhood has worked tirelessly to make the mela a success. Towards the culmination of the youth mela there was a short cultural program in which there were two Lawani performances. With the performances the Youth Mela came to an end, with a large number of registrations for courses and an overall overwhelming response from the community.