Sanskriti is about loving your home town. It is about decentralization. It is about empowering youth and facilitating learning processes. It is about taking initiative. It is about art and creativity. It is about redistribution of opportunities. It is about reclaiming the right for the city. It is about Birgunj.
Kathmandu hoards all the attention because everything is centralized in the capital; leaving the rest of the country feeling abandoned and rejected. A group of four young Birgunj residents have taken matters in hand. They want things to change in their home town Birgunj and that is exactly what they have been doing since their inception in March 2013. All in their 20s, Manish Paudel, Ronit Singh, Sudeep Shakya and Sonal Agrawal, are those change-makers. They are the forces behind Sanskriti.
Sanskriti conducts creative events in the fields of photography, music, street art, literature, movies, dance and such to engage the youth of Birgunj. The supposedly ‘cool’ stuffs that were limited to the capital residents are now happening in a city outside the capital and that too in full throttle.
“We formed Sanskriti because we want Birgunj to be self-sustained. Every year a good number of young people migrate to Kathmandu after SLC to hone their creative skills; our mission is to make the required provision in Birgunj so that people stay home. We want knowledge to be accessible to Birgunj. We want the youth of our city to get all the exposure that was hitherto reserved only in the capital or elsewhere but here,” commented Manish who is a photographer himself. “Thus we have conducted workshops on photography, street art and various other forms of art. We do movie screenings every month; for that we collaborate with Film Southasia.” They do at least two various programs every month. “We do everything centered around youth so that they learn, become skilful and if they desire then pursue it as a career,” added Sonal, who is an artist. For the fruition of their mission, they work very closely with schools and colleges in Birgunj. “We want to update Birgunj on the things happening in the outside world. We want Birgunj to be informed,” she explained.
The youths of Birgunj were deprived of any such activities prior to the establishment of Sanskriti. It is feeding the creative minds with enough resources. They regularly invite experts in the trade to motivate and teach the young minds in Birgunj. Art Lab and Saran Tandukar were in Birgunj to teach and work alongside the interested candidates in the field of Street Art. Award winning documentary photographer Shailendra Kharel also conducted a photography workshop very recently. They regularly host Photo and Art Exhibitions. The group also succeeded in roping Yubakar Rajkarnikar to conduct a motivational session.
The largest scale event Sanskriti facilitated was the ‘Kutumba Live in Birgunj’ concert. “Anything of that scale hadn’t happened in Birgunj and people participated in huge number,” Manish briefed. Sanskriti’s calendar is filled for a year. Birgunj is going to have eventful years ahead.
“Initially we were unsure of the kind of response we would get but the locals have been very supportive,” Ronit said. “We always have good number of participants. We discovered that the locals are very eager to learn and they are ecstatic that these sorts of things are happening in their city,” Sudeep said. The group has been in operation for just five months but the number of activities they have been involved in is astounding. Each is engaged in study or work or both apart from their responsibilities at Sanskriti but so far the group has managed to work without hiccups. “Each of us has a definite responsibility. Manish looks after sponsors and coordination sections along with Sonal, whereas Ronit handles logistics and Sudeep is good at crunching numbers. But when the situation demands we switch responsibilities and do every kind of work required to get the job done,” they said in unison.
However what might trouble them is the financial aspect for sustainability. “We charge nominal amount to the workshop attendees. Making profit is not our primary aim. But we need funds to sustain and continue doing projects. We are working in that aspect. Also we need to increase the number of the team-mates,” explained Sonal.
The initiative is commendable and could be a model for others. It is up to the youth to act and not just complain about things that are not. Youth should pave ways to better and brighter future and Sanskriti is proving to be doing just that.