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the cafe

The india & me cafe has 10 tables, each has a name and activities to do while on the table. We start at table 1, then move to table 2 until we reach table 10. We do this over 3 days:

  • day 1: tables 1-6

  • day 2: tables 7-9

  • day 3 (after 2-3 weeks): table 10


We then leave the cafe together for continuing our unlearning journeys, both on our own and together, ever building the india & me community 

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table 1: getting to know each other

On this table, we introduce ourselves with an ice-breaker activity about India. We agree on some ground rules to make the cafe a safe and brave space, and then we move to table 2.

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table 2: who's the me in india & me?

On this table, we discuss how our identity is really many identities and "relational". That is, at any moment in time, our identity depends on where we are, whom we are with, and so on. We do an activity that reveals how the often unseen aspects of our identity can give some of us a covert or overt "sense of superiority" over others.

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table 3: relationships and me

On this table, we focus on what often gets left out of conversations around "gender": for example, how our caste background or our age affects our experience of gender. While some of us are more aware of how these aspects overlap ("intersect"), some of us don't want to identify by caste because it doesn't or shouldn't matter in today's India. We participate in a virtual play to see how how these different aspects intersect in our daily lives, and how they affect our relations with other people in our family, community and society as a whole.

table 4: WhatsApp and me

Many of us use WhatsApp and are familiar with being forwarded all kinds of posts. We might also do this ourselves. A huge amount of knowledge is being shared in this way today. On this table, we'll use some WhatsApp forwards to see how much of the stories we see/hear/read is mainly told from the perspective of people with power or status. Using some common Indian stories, we see the unseen consequences of how a story is told -- the benefits/harms for us as individuals, as members of our communities and larger society.

table 5: water and me

On this table we play a game based on a popular board game to see how the quality and quantity of water that we have access to, depends on many things: for example, which part of a city or village we're living in. We also attempt a quiz around water usage. We discuss how our access to water reveals some unseen aspects of India that we might not have thought about before.

table 6: pausing to reflect

At this table we take a moment to catch our breath and share a reflection each.

We then leave the cafe temporarily, coming back to it the next day.

table 7: merit and me

Merit and reservations have long been viewed as "contentious" in India. They impact on the daily lives of all Indians, and anyone who comes from India today. We consider it crucial to India's future that myths about merit and reservations are de-mystified for better inter-community relations and a better society for us all.

This table is all about getting down to the hard-hitting realities about merit and reservations. We address this through another virtual play in which everyone on the table has a part to play.

table 8: communities and me

India's communities can be divided on religious lines among other things. Today there is a fear among many people that their religion and religious identity may be in danger. On this table, we see what lies at the root of this fear and what exactly should we be fearful about. Among the building blocks of Indian society, which ones are weaker and could do with re-thinking.

table 9: roots and me

On this table we enact our third play to make us think about how we see India as a country, as a nation, as a state. We also think about borders at various "levels": around family, around community, around the nation. The borders of the present and the borders of the past.

Our discussion following the play will bring our second day in the cafe to a close. We will leave again, this time for a few days to reflect on all the discussions and activities in the cafe. We hope that everyone will return in 2--3 weeks' time to gather one last time around table 10.

table 10: we, me and moving ahead

Together once again, we discuss what the past few days were like. We do another couple of activities around community building and solidarity building by fleshing out charity work, saviourism, ally-ship, fraternity and solidarity. We discuss what's next for us in our own social worlds by revisiting our first ice-breaker activity. We brainstorm what might we do, what might be different from now on, as we step out of the cafe one last time, not alone but as a growing network of people with a broader understanding of the conundrums that we will continue to "unsee" in the coming days.

And if we want to come back, where will we sit in the cafe -- will there be a table 11?

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