The Strengths Project, Kolkata, India – December 2012 Update – Part 2
Posted by: Alex Linley & Avirupa Bhaduri
In part 1 of this blog, Avirupa told us about her journey to Baghmundi and some context of the area and the workshops that were being delivered. In this part 2, she shares with us her experiences of strengthspotting and strengths building with the villagers, doing so through the famous Indian folk tale of Panta Buri. Read on to see how she did it…
“The next day, the session begins early. The delegates have by now got to know each other and there is a sense of camaraderie. Mine was the 2nd session of the day. I began by introducing me and my strengths. I then asked the other speakers, who are now familiar with strength ideas, having been present in the past two sessions, to introduce themselves and their strengths.
Thereafter, I started talking about the benefits of realising strengths in us and others. Silent blank faces stared back at me as usual, but this time I was not disheartened, braced by the achievement of past experience.
I decided to try another approach. I talked about our bias with weakness, how that has become the only yard stick for judging improvement. I said “What if we turn the table and start thinking differently? We ordinary people can do wonders by acknowledging the extraordinary in us, our strengths!” I proposed to illustrate my point with the simple folk tale of Panta Buri.
In this story an old woman is helped by a motly crew of ordinary sub-humans- viz. a knife, a crocodile, a blob of cowdung, and a “bael” (an indegenous fruit). They come together to outwit and capture a thief who was habituallly stealing the “buri”s (old woman’s) “panta”.
I told this age-old tale from the strength perspective, to demonstrate how ordinary beings can become powerful if they utilize their strengths judiciously to the fullest potential, and better still, as a team of complementary partners. This story telling session worked wonders and the group became responsive for the first time, adding anecdotes and versions of the story, all of which had the common theme of realising and managing strengths.
Once the ball started rolling, then like all previous sessions, the participants came up with their own strengths stories. A young boy told the story how he had once taken an injured friend to the hospital by cycling fast through the hills. A girl stood up and talked about her ambition to become an athlete, and proudly narrated the story of her persual of dreams and the various medals that she had won.
We repeated the workshop from the last sessions of making teams and talking about each other’s strengths. This time, we introduced an element of theatre and gave a practical problem, and asked the delegates to act out a solution based on using the strengths of fellow team members.
This worked wonderfully and most of the teams had a fair amount of participation. After each team’s performance, we were asked to rate them. Each performace was followed by fervent and spontaneous discussions. We had a difficult time to conclude the session, and after much deliberation, tea break was announced.
While watching lively chats and conversations among the men and women, even during the break, I realized that we have probably made yet another community converts to the strengths mantra!”