A new term takes us all back to our school days. Making new friends and catching up with old ones, getting bullied by seniors and punished for no real reason, having a crush on a classmate and dealing with the awkwardness of everyone knowing, curiously sitting through sex-ed class and not understanding anything, buckling under pressure during exams and forgetting everything learnt the day after…the circle of life at school might seem endless, until one day you no longer go back to school.
Here’s what the good ol’ days felt like until you grew up…
WHEN YOU WERE DRAGGED OUT OF YOUR BED TO GET READY FOR SCHOOL
BUT ON MOST DAYS, YOU DIDN’T FEEL LIKE
WHEN YOU DISLIKED BEING AT SCHOOL
BECAUSE IT WAS A LAND OF DO’S & DON’T’S
WHEN YOU HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SIT THROUGH A BORING CLASS
BUT REJOICED EVERYTIME THE BELL RANG
TO DIG INTO YOUR LUNCH BOX
WHEN YOU WERE BULLIED IN SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME
AND YOUR FOE TURNED INTO YOUR FRIEND
WHEN THE CLASS ON SEX EDUCATION…
WAS MORE AWKWARD FOR YOUR TEACHER THAN YOU
WHEN THE FEAR OF EXAM RESULTS WAS ALL-CONSUMING
BUT YOU’RE JUST RELIEVED THAT IT’S OVER!
WHEN YOU FIND OUT YOUR CRUSH IS DATING SOMEONE ELSE
BUT CAN’T GET OVER HER ANYWAY
WHEN YOU REALISE THAT GETTING OUT OF SCHOOL REQUIRES PASS MARKS
Exams are close. Terrifyingly close. So close, in fact, that they’re around the corner with a frying pan waiting to smack you in the face. Every student knows the struggle. The relentless pressure placed on young shoulders. The unfair and daunting results expected of us. Our uncles and aunts are oblivious; our teachers think we’re being dramatic and our parents only want the very best grades.
No one seems to understand the unyielding pressure we face except, various famous brands throughout India. Mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide have all been talked about and discussed in context to growing exam pressure. But the current view toward exam pressure continues to be mere nonchalance. Brands have released campaigns asking parents to release the pressure, conducting social experiments or presenting real-life scenarios that are all too familiar, successfully starting a conversation around this issue, giving it a voice and weight.
Let’s take a look at seven brands who have released brilliantly influential campaigns.
1. #RELEASETHEPRESSURE, MIRINDA
This powerful advertisement depicts several teenagers writing open letters to their parents asking them for a break, to stop checking up on them every thirty minutes, to stop yelling at them to study and to stop the pressure. The parents are invited to read the letters in a highly dramatized fashion, showing regret and sadness at the expectations they have placed upon their children. This advertisement by Mirinda tries to create the awareness that a little break can go a long way in easing exam pressure and stress from the minds of young students. It has a simple message “No more pressure panti, only pagal panti.” This ad opened up an important discussion on this grave issue of exam stress amongst large numbers of young people.
2. #FUNDA CLEAR HAIN, EXTRAMARKS
The ‘Funda clear hai’ campaign by Extramarks was slightly on the comedic side. With exams nearing, parents can get even more harrowed than the children themselves. It showed various children telling their parents to relax and ‘chill’ because they’ve got all their studies under control. The campaign also talks about a more dynamic style of learning. Extramarks encouraged students to use more visual aid, practice tests and a variety of other such tools to enjoy the process of learning. The essential impact that this campaign had was to let children know they shouldn’t spend hours slaving over books. They should study smart, and then go and have fun!
3. #THE EXAM COLLECTION, BOURNVITA
‘One t-shirt doesn’t fit everyone.’ This brilliant and insightful ad campaign by Bournvita perfectly captures the cage that most children feel they are trapped in. The campaign begins with people entering a popular fashion store that had all of its original clothes removed and replaced by plain black XL shirts. All black. All XL. The customers were furious, and asked to speak to the manager. And out came the children. They told the adults of their aspirations, and how their parents were pushing them to be something else. Just like a black XL shirt doesn’t fit everyone, these children aren’t all one piece of clothing. They’re all different, with different hopes and they deserve to be recognized, heard and make their own choices. This ad campaign helped some parents open their eyes, and look beyond the marks to where their children’s dreams lie.
Don’t miss their Tayyari har exam ki ad, that questions parents if they are chasing the right thing when it comes to their children’s education.
4. #DAD, WHAT IF I FAIL? JAAGORE
This is a simple advertisement, but one that touches the heart for sure. It shows a young boy and his father hurrying to get the boys’ results. On the way, the father stops to buy ice cream, and the son is confused by his father’s nonchalance, as his results are about to come out. ‘Dad, what if I fail?’ he asks, clearly afraid. ‘It’s okay’ the father replies, as he pays for the ice cream. Sometimes, as children we seek such immense approval from our parents and most of the times they don’t even know it. Sometimes, we need our parents to simply tell us it’s okay. The campaign evocatively tells parents that academic excellence does not determine a child’s capabilities to succeed and to relieve children of the stress caused by the need to excel in academics. Being successful in life is not limited by grades and marks in school or college.
5. #GIFT THE BELIEF, LENOVO
Children often have the tendency to take one decision as covenant law. One bad grade, one rejection letter and we are left drowning and gasping for air. Lenovo saw that, and made this campaign. It depicts several parents, at their various places of work simply talking about failure. They failed too. They got rejection letters too. And you know what- it didn’t matter. Children watch this campaign and this is what they see and learn. That one B grade you got, it won’t matter. That rejection letter you got from your Top University won’t matter. There will be other grades; other universities and you will be fine. The primary message from parents (who were once children) to their children is – no matter what happens, believe in yourself, because you and your life are beyond bad grades and rejection letters. You may fail, but is failure not a part of life?
6. #PARENTS LEARN VALUABLE EXAM LESSONS, CELLO
I’m sure most children have thought in a bitter anger ‘why don’t you give the same exam I am giving’ at their parents. Well, Cello did exactly that. They asked parents to write the same exam that their sixth-grade children were writing, and as you’ve probably guessed, the children did better. It was an eye opener for the parents who for the first time really and wholly understood what their children go through by being placed in their shoes. This ad campaign is an appeal to all parents to understand that examinations and tests aren’t an easy feat to master, and the undue pressure by parents only stresses their children out. This ad is an appeal to parents to reduce the expectations they place upon the shoulders of their children.
“I got inspired by my aunt who played the dhol and seeing her love for it made me join our pathak (group that plays together) two years ago. I knew it would be heavy but I had no idea how heavy it was until I tied it around me. Initially, my entire body would ache and it felt difficult and I wondered if I would ever be able to be get the beats and rhythm right. Luckily for me, my family was extremely supportive and I never heard them say, “Ladki ho kar dhol kyun bajana hai.”
With their support, practice and a little dedication, today I can say with pride that I am good at it. With every performance, I realised the good vibes and energy the dhol brought in my life. I kept up with the consistency and our group was invited by one of the cultural organisations in Spain where we played the Dhol Tashaon the streets and the stage! The exposure and the recognition we got was the best thing that happened to me.
Earlier, I faced resistance from my tuition teacher who did not understand my love for the dhol. She felt it created unnecessary noise pollution and diverted my attention from studies, but after seeing our Spain performance she has accepted that the dhol is very much a part of me.
Today, I am able to explore a different side of me whenever I wear the dhol and I love the way I have grown with every performance. Playing the dhol sets me free! I am glad that members in our group mentored me and did not discriminate against me just because I was a girl. I think fewer girls take up the dhol because they think it is only for boys. But I think that’s a myth- A dhol is for everyone! I wish more girls take up this as a hobby, because playing the dhol is more powerful than one can imagine. I would like to say only one thing to all the girls -Girl power is the best power. Just go for it. It may sound scary at the first but soon, it will become the best thing in your life!”
-As shared by Asmi, a class 7 student from Dahisar who loves craft apart from playing the dhol.
“When I was in Class 9, I had seen a Dhol Tasha performance in our locality and wanted to learn to play the dhol. Shortly, I shared with my mother my inclination towards learning the dhol. She insisted that I concentrate on my studies and for some time, I buried my desire to learn the instrument. However, year after year, I would see others perform and that thirst in me was alive. I knew someday I would take up playing the dhol.
I reached Class 10 when we learnt that my mom was diagnosed with Cancer. The circumstances at home did not allow me to take up Dhol-Tasha. Last year, after my mother recovered fully, I again persisted that I wanted to join the pathak. She finally agreed and here I am waiting to perform for the second time during Ganesh Chaturthi. When I am immersed in the beats of the dhol, I realize it was worth the wait. The dholis heavy and it has to be tied in a particular way to the back, if not, it can lead to severe back pain. Once I found my comfort spot around the waist, it was easier for me to practice.
To me, playing the dhol seems like a dream come true and it has given me a voice which was somewhere lost amidst the responsibilities.
Like me, I hope more girls can participate in the Dhol Tasha groups. I feel fewer girls participate in the Dhol Tasha may be because they face resistance from their family. Actually we perform on the streets during festivals such as Ganesh Chathurti and Gudi Padwa and maybe parents feel it is not safe to send their children out there. A few of my friends want to join our group, few have got permission from their home and some are still waiting to chip away the resistance… To them I would say that learning the dhol can bring joy, it is safe, and you can visit our pathak along with your parents. I feel that this is the time to encourage girls and let them take up their passion unbridled. If they are not able to come out of their shell, how will they even grow? So girls, come, join us!”
-As shared by Lubdha, a commerce student who loves drama and music.
“Every time I saw a Dhol-Tasha performance in my locality during festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi, the thunderous sound of the dhol would light up every part of my body. I saw both men and women play the dhol with such joy that it moved something within me. Two years ago, when I turned 10, I told my mother about my desire to try my hands on the dhol. Obviously, my mother was taken aback and her first reaction was, “I do not doubt your capabilities and I know you wish to play the dhol, but how will you manage the weight of the dhol?”
Even though my mother’s concerns were reasonable, I went ahead with it anyway because once I decide something, I have to do it, no matter what., I approached our pathak (community group that performs) and asked if I could join the group. Despite me being the youngest and the first girl who approached them, they welcomed me and I am glad I was not refused just because I was a tiny girl. Everyone in the group was kind, encouraged me and I never felt like an outsider.
I was the only girl in the group and there were times I felt scared as I was not able to pick the beats and manage the weight of the dhol. My first dhol weighed 10 kg that was almost one fourth of my body weight. My entire body would pain and I had developed severe back pain. I would not share about the pain at home as I did not want to upset my parents. I feared that they would tell me to leave playing the dhol.
Eventually, after almost a year of practice, I got comfortable, was able to pick up the rhythm and got used to the weight of the Dhol. During my first performance, my parents felt proud of me and today, they tell me, “Go and play the dhol. You are meant for it. Do not be at home all the time!”
This encouraged me and last year, we were invited to Spain to represent our Indian culture. Our National Anthem was sung towards the end of the performance, we got a standing ovation and it was a proud moment for us. Today, after three years of playing the dhol, I am a confident dhol player and now, I am a senior member of the group where I even teach the new batch.
The dhol to me is the most playful thing that came in my life. All I need to hear is one tap of the tasha and I can play it for an entire day. I urge everyone to try their hand at playing the dhol to realize how much fun it is.. Playing the dhol is not just a boy’s job and in our new batch, there are more girls and women now than men and boys. Isn’t that a great thing? To all the girls out there, I would like to say – You can do this too! Never give up; if you are passionate about learning to play the dhol,nothing can come your way.”
-As shared by Vainavi, a class 7 student who enjoys belly dancing and loves the company of her three dogs when she not practising playing the dhol.
“I used to see girls perform in the Dhol-Tasha and wondered, how do they manage the weight? What if I try playing it? Will I succeed? What if I fail? All these questions kept me confused but once I decided to give it my best shot, I never looked back. It has been less than two years and I can proudly say that I discovered myself all over again.
I remember the first time I held the dhol, I got it all wrong. I was holding the stick in my left hand and a senior member from our group tied the dholthe wrong way because he assumed I was left-handed. Unable to understand what was happening, I got nervous and was not able to perform. The group helped me practice and tie the dholthe right way and slowly it increased my confidence.
After months of practice, it was time for my first performance, but unfortunately due to the chaos, my dhol, a size smaller than the rest, was left in the truck. By the time someone helped me get my dhol, I was left with only 15 minutes to perform and it made me sad, I was also missing from photographs. However, during my next performance, I ensured I had the right dhol and playing it for a crowd on the streets of Mumbai made me feel proud of my achievements.
Playing the dhol is a feeling that I cannot express in words, it is beyond my imagination, I only know that the dhol has given me a sense of purpose and passion. Dhol to me signifies the enthusiasm of life. Another thing that I like about the dhol is that there is no right or wrong when I am playing, there is no one to tell me why am I being loud or making a loud sound on my dhol.
There is no space for any judgement. This is a space where I can be myself and get fully engrossed with my dhol. It is not just that, even the subtle things such as making eye contact with each other, grooving to the beats is something I look forward each time I have the dhol tied to me and perform in my group.
I think it is a myth that only boys can play the dhol. Why stop the girls if they can manage the weight of the dhol? In our group everyone is treated equally. I only have one message to all the girls who want to play the dhol– “Always do things that you like and you will automatically be good at what you do. I would also like to add that never be satisfied with what you have and only once you push yourself, you will get better at what you do.”
-As shared by Suhani, a Class 8 student who loves theatre apart from her love for dhol
Dhol Pathak groups play a major role in lending a fervour to the 11-day Ganpati festival in the city. Till recently a male preserve it has of late been infiltrated by young women and even little girls.
In the bustling part of Dahisar in North Mumbai, girls as young as 12 tie 10-15 kg dhols around their tiny waist to gather for long hours of arduous practice sessions often starting early morning and continuing till late in the night.. The sessions take place in an isolated spot next to a crematorium and beyond the reach of street lights. Yet fear or lack of safety has not deterred their enthusiasm to prove their mettle and match their troupe beat for beat, strike for strike. The girls are part of Swardgandhar, a Dhol Tasha group that began in 2014 with an intention to get a scattered community together through the dhol. While initially, only men were part of the group, gradually, women too joined the group.
For these young girls, the dhol is more than just a musical instrument; it epitomises a sense of freedom, ability to be themselves and give a platform to their creativity. The dhol has become an extension of a safe non-judgemental space.
The credit here goes to an entire community that came together to support the girls to perform the thunderous dhol with a sense of pride and enthusiasm. For instance, 50-year-old Hema Ravi, software engineering professional acted as a role model for the girls to take up playing the dhol tasha. Men too reached out to support the girls and made sure to drop them home after every practice session. They also ensured a crowd control by creating a human chain to ensure girls could perform freely. It takes a village, doesn’t it? This vibrant Dahisar community sure acts as an inspiration.
In an age where celebrity selfies of father-daughter duos have become the hallmark of women’s empowerment campaigns, the drummer girls of Dahisar offer a far more striking example of gender biases being demolished one beat at a time
Beginning tomorrow, we bring to you four such first-hand experiences of girls on how they feel about playing the dhol, and what it means to them.
This piece is inspired from a story seen in Arre. You can watch the original video here.