Over the past two months, the novel coronavirus pandemic imposed lockdown has wiped off events, gatherings, cultural programs, gigs and such from the daily calendar, at least for the foreseeable future. Artists, organisations, and like-minded people have increasingly turned to online sessions and live streaming of panel discussions to help keep many of us intellectually stimulated during this lockdown period.
Cuckoo Conversations — a series of online sessions is a remarkable collection to choose from if you’re in the mood for some reflection, introspection and understanding of the lives of people who have made exceptional journeys to reach where they are today. It features personalities like actor and filmmaker Nandita Das; singer Bombay Jayashree; Member of Parliament Jothimani; activist, writer Nityanand Jayaraman; Anil K Gupta, a scholar; environmentalist Claude Alvares; and most recently, folklore researcher and historian Kakkum Perumal.
A member who is a part of the organisational team shares with TNM that the idea behind it is to introduce such masters to the next generation. “All of them are people who came from humble backgrounds and have created works that don’t just speak about their individual potential but stand to inspire future generations. The idea behind Cuckoo Conversations is to introduce such masters to the present generation of youngsters,” says one of the volunteers who is behind the curation.
Cuckoo Movement for Children, started in 2004 is a volunteer-run school in Thiruvannamalai district with library/activity centres across the state founded by Sivaraj and his friends. When lockdown began the members with their wide volunteer network began putting together the series that first premiered on April 6.
“Beyond the worldly common virtual debates and dialogues, it is a dire need of the hour to have a deeply rooted, truthful conversation to get ourselves into the seriousness of responsible action, through our works,” reads their description.
Speaking on the idea, he continues, “Anil Gupta for instance, is someone who has devised an entire academic curriculum for a school and has made it available on his website. These are stories that don’t gain much attention. These conversations are meant for us to deepen our engagement with ourselves. These conversations will surely also keep us all inspired and rekindle the passion with which we take part in our work.”
In almost all conversations, the host asks the speaker to discuss their childhood. “We’ve always believed that a person’s childhood memories are all that shapes them. The person they become later on depends on their childhood. This question features in all our conversations,” he adds.
Environmentalist Keibo Oiwa, folk singer and storyteller Parvathy Baul, Padma Shri awardee Narthaki Nataraj, co-founder of Auroville’s Sadhana Forest Aviram Rozin, South African peace activist and Gandhi’s granddaughter Ela Gandhi, and several notable others have also spoken so far.
In addition to these sessions that are attended by at least 200 people, the group also hosts Cuckoo Diaries, in which volunteers and friends associated with Cuckoo share their memories and how being a part of Cuckoo has impacted their lives.
“At the end of every session, we email the books the speaker has referred, their study materials and profiles to each one of the participants. The response we have received from the youngsters who have taken part in this is overwhelming. We value their reviews and it has been giving us great joy to read their feedback,” he adds.
The sessions, some of which extend beyond two hours, are viewed live on Zoho app for video conferencing Cliq, by all those who sign up; and later uploaded on Cuckoo Movement for Children’s YouTube channel.