Learning Ethics through Theatre. Ajay Ruhela - HRLP 2015-2016

To join School of Inspired Leadership’s Flagship Annual Event Inspired Leadership Conference 2016, please follow the link below :

Join Now
Join Now

Learning Ethics through Theatre. Ajay Ruhela - HRLP 2015-2016


The movie will begin in five moments.
The mindless voice announced.
All those unseated will await the next show.

We filed slowly, languidly into the hall.
The auditorium was vast and silent.
As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued.

The program for this evening is not new
You've seen this entertainment through and through
You've seen your birth your life and death
you might recall all of the rest
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?

I'm getting out of here.
Where are you going?
To the other side of morning.
Please don't chase the clouds, pagodas.

It's alright, all your friends are here.
When can I meet them?
After you've eaten
I'm not hungry
Uh, we meant beaten

Silver stream, silvery scream

Ooh, impossible concentration.

  • The movie by Jim Morrison

Everything about theatre simulates life, such intricate this fine art is. To me, it represents a microcosm of our existence – a small scale simulation on an ostentatious stage. For a solipsist, theatre is an instrument for introspection and realization; for others, it’s a cue and an avenue to immerse and lose oneself.

Rarely when we talk about life, the stories are linear. There are always certain things we are moved to share and they share a higher precedence. The NLP session on Visualization into Past, gratitude exercise and Q&A round were the high spot of the course. It was therapeutic.

The simulation touched a lot of dusted corners, some thoughts and instances that were roaming in the subconscious. Also the apparent aberrations. Some pictures that emerged were by choice but a lot of that experience was into the unknown. I came to terms with certain darkness and excitingly, I entered into a realm that was astoundingly calm. I would not call it serendipity.

Hiraeth is a Welsh word which has no direct English translation. The University of Wales attempts to define it as homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past.

I understand this feeling although there is nothing or no one I’ve lost that would make me feel something like that. My hiraeth is with my existence. I’m not home where I am. That forms the core of my existential issues. That there is no purpose and it is all an accident seems flawed when I look at the design of our lives and how intricate and interweaved our lives are. I've researched enough to firmly believe in the concept. My cynical self doesn’t let me believe anything by its face. The visualization took me to the mountains and I felt hiraeth. I always have. For a metaphorical Himalayas, a realm beyond our physical world – something/someone waiting for me there. I do not know.

The trust circle Q&A was a compass as well as a magic 8 ball. It reaffirmed the element that I so wish to integrate in my life. It helped me appreciate my classmates a lot more. It came at the appropriate moment. I wasn’t very appreciative of the class – their ignorance and lack of seriousness among other things. It didn’t change the perspective that I have as far as their de-facto behavior is concerned but the exercise gave me a lot of lenses to look from. I could appreciate different facets of them and some helped create a bond. I’ve started accepting so many people post this exercise – Ankit, Nidhi (I’ve a lot of qualms with that girl when it comes to studies and classroom conduct), Shailja, Shavetta and so many others. It made me appreciate Arun a lot more and we connected. I had lost touch with so many faces in the class as a result of my carbon copy schedule that theatre arrived as a happy disruption into my monotony.

It was a lot of fun! I had made up my mind that I would immerse myself in whatever experience you’d put us through. On day 1 when we were asked to change 3 things about our looks and then 3 more and 3 more.. I ended up in boxers. Then there was treasure hunt which made us think on our feet and incorporate creative thinking. The process and the laughs we shared was a kick-start to the 5 days you had in store for us. Khalil Gibran once said “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair”. So I let go and let the child in my heart out. Some exercises came easy and some seemed easy. And no matter what we did, amidst the adrenaline and anxiety, something inside was feeling empowered. I think that’s what Pillars of Leadership through Theatre is all about. We practiced Gardener’s multiple intelligence, discussed philosophy, played treasure hunt and recited famous quotes. The program design was well crafted to tickle all aspect of leadership – how to utilize space, understand emotions, body language, role plays, throwing your voice – all these are essential for a leader and the framework to help us incorporate this was easy and subtle. It was a structured and chaotic. It was a laugh riot at time – especially when Dmitri from Sochi, Russia made life a living hell for Maximus Aurelias Decimus of the Roman Empire (Priyanka Ramesh) and when I procured Jaideep Sir’s driving license from the other team in a cheeky maneuver in the auditorium. The whole exercise of treasure hunt was fun and the items were quite mischievous. From a broken egg shell, classroom chart paper, condom to procuring Arjun Mohan from BLP classroom, the list was quite all over the place and what’s funnier was the way we fought for those points and how happy we were when we won! It made me realize that it’s important that we let the inner kid out every now and then. So much can be learnt from kids and how they behave. I gave me the guts to try a trust fall with Mauhik Thakkar and we made it work (He ended up dropping me and I succeeded in ‘safeguarding’ his fallJJ). That and the trust run were also essential in helping us deal with uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Many a times, business decisions involve high risk high gain problems. Developing intuition and trusting your instincts is essential for these scenarios along with conventional reliance on hard data. The simulation made me realize that. It was also a very good platform for me to read body language and observe people in their uninhibited (which is rather subjective) self. It started with day 1 when we were asked to introduce ourselves, state our fears; when we were playing those games and simulation – I observed their emotions, their actions, their inactions and what their body language was speaking to me in those different scenarios. I calibrated, I predicted and many a times I just connected the dots to understand where that person is coming from.

And I danced! Between 9:15 am and 6, we played our songs and we danced like no one’s looking (in fact, on our last day, I think we danced till 7-7:30 and sometimes, within that time frame it was just me or a few of us)! I felt liberated. I wrote these lines long ago and it felt like I was absorbed in what they were saying-

 Meri raah me ilm bhi hai aur kaifiyat bhimanzil meri chaah nahiKuch fir mile ek baarye meri karraah nahiye soch meri kabhi girti To kabhi sambhalti hai...

musafir hu meri zindagi yuhi chalti hai

Dil dhadakta hai..... Shaam dhalti hai

 And I confronted myself! My naked self. Speaking of naked, from day 1, I was labelled strip-swift. Not swaying away from the topic, I must say that I did a lot of reflection. So much so that I’m at 1330th word without discussing the details of the activities we did during the workshop. So much so that I decided one day to rename myself! In some spiritual traditions, one dons a new name when one gets initiated into the path of renunciation. A second birth so to speak. Sometimes you get to choose your name and sometimes the spiritual master adorns you with one. Although my spiritual master is in Samadhi as of now, I believe He still guides me in all my endeavors. Again, not swaying much away from the topic – I renamed myself. I might use it as a pen name if I write a book someday or even formally if I ever decide to leave everything behind and start a fresh journey. I chose the name Mahos Fosnie. I wish I could use it for all practical purposes but then I cannot. Even if I did, it would be a mask just like the one Ajay Ruhela is. Or a tad bit different.

Love is divine. Period. Theatre also taught me that. The visualization in past took me to a point where I visualized the person playing the instrument by the window to be a celestial being and the instruction was that I could only see the shadow and thereafter, we went deeper into the past and the events and when I was retracting from the Himalayas by the end of the exercise and we were tracing everything back from the end to the beginning, you said “that person by the window playing the instrument (a flute in my case) is you”. And I was awe-struck. Suddenly that celestial being looked at me and it was my face. It was a bit short of an epiphany but the surrounding feelings were just the same. I felt euphoric. The love of a woman, the love of a family member, even the love of life itself felt short in that moment when the divine and the being merged.

And everything converged! All that I have learnt and imbibed came together in this workshop. My opinion of everything, my inhibitions, worldly knowledge, many of my myriad facets – everything made an appearance in the workshop. I guess that’s what theatre does to you. It certainly did.

And then everything diverged! I realized I had many more facets and a whole other set of opinions about everything (very dualistic of meJ). I let go of some inhibitions as well (contextual divergence, perhaps?). Exhilaration in a visual representation always has a divergent flavor. Hands at 11 and 1, legs comfortably apart and an aura of energy that emanates from the person. Stronger the feeling, farther the ray of lights you see radiating from the body. Empowerment, I believe, on a canvas is best represented through strokes of divergence.

And all went quiet. Demeanor disguises the struggle a man goes through but once the melee is known, the demeanor signifies the character and experience of the man. Old, decrepit buildings often have strong foundations. I sat in the trust circle, heard their stories, witnessed their struggle, supported them when they hesitated and understood when they couldn’t share. There were many roads like this that had certain calmness around it and you would only witness it once you have moved on. And then it hits you. And you feel solitude. It is therapeutic.

And I was on the moon! No one feels bad when someone expresses his/her gratitude towards you (few tricky scenarios and bipolar disorder aside). Such beautiful words were exchanged in almost all my conversations with almost everybody. Many came because they wanted to let go (thoughts good/bad stuffed in mind have a tendency to rot and lose their meaning). And to my surprise, all that was said was rosy and not the fishy version. Yes they expressed their reservations, revealed their opinions but during the course of time (and some during the workshop) saw a deal of me and the appreciated it. As I was observing the process (I did take a few minutes off for observation), I noticed that the turbulence of positive emotions in a gratitude exercise urges you to go the very last person left in the room but I facilitated the process in such a way that most of the times, eyes were speaking more than the sequence of words reaching my ears. Sometimes those eyes were moist, many a times all bright and shiny – all with a blend of serenity. I could not do this with each and every one as I was both a participant and an observer (as I have always been). Rich is the aroma of the ecosystem where positive thoughts flow without any containment. That is what makes SOIL special to some people and they keep coming back (not just the students). Our processes are closely associated with these principles. From birthday wishes in morning circles to appreciative inquiry to yoga and even theatre, we have created an ecosystem of celebrating ourselves and other and consciously dissociating ourselves from the saturnalian ways. At least in principle, it should work. I don’t have the right sample yet to test my hypothesis. That would involve scrutinizing students from different batches, their history and variance during and post SOIL and many other variables. Anyway, without digressing further, let me jump to the conclusion of my ponderings (of which, theatre experience is a considerate part).

Life’s a saturnalia and a solo trip. It’s a celebration – where you meet people, learn, share, explore, and evolve. Everything that we do helps us evolve. From a single cell zygote to a human body, we have transformed at a tremendous pace. The soul has too. From one life to another and every life has helped it evolve an inch further to the destination whatever that may be – the source, the origin, the back story of our existence, the architect, God. Let’s call it ‘X’ for now (I like clichés at times). And somehow the theatrics of our time in our masks is linked to the distance our soul travels towards X. And the kind of theatrics we do is dependent on the need of the coordinates we are at. Theatre is a tool that simulates that journey and let us in on how we can evolve and transform – the clichéd thought that once the play is over, you remove the mask. Theatre also lets us in for a finer detail of life – if an actor adorns a mask for too long, he systematically forgets his true self (the trapped in character syndrome). What difference there is in this mad man and us – as we are so engrossed in the character that we portray? A solo trip is the journey of our soul – the fulfillment of the reasons it chose in the lifetime it has in this particular act. There is no longing to retire but to achieve.

The following poem perfectly describes the solo journey I’m trying to emphasise.

You ask me how I became a madman. It happened thus: one day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen,--the seven masks I have fashioned and worn in seven lives, - I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”Men and women laughed at me and some ran to their houses in fear of me.And when I reached the market place, a youth standing on a house-top cried, “he is a madman.” I looked up to behold him; the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time. For the first time the sun kissed my own naked face and my soul was inflamed with love for the sun, and i wanted my masks no more. And as if in a trance I cried, “blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”Thus I became a madman.And I have found both freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.

But let me not be too proud of my safety. Even a thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

-         The Madman by Khalil Gibran

If I could ruminate more I’m sure I’d have a hundred anecdotes to share and experience I can relate to but a wise man must stop the thrust of thoughts and leave some spaces blank for the possible ink in the hand of the recipient. The same way we were allowed to write a script for ourselves – the culmination of what we felt and wanted. As I near the summations of this journey, I would mimic the same and leave you a space that’s subliminal and can only be read when there are no words. Script-less text very much in principle like Anhad Naad.

Check out popular posts on MBA here:

PGPBA Apply Now

Get PGPBA Brochure

Let’s Connect

Recent Article