Session 7: Experience

This session explores experiences that are silent and invisible to the world, but pulse with signifigance inside us. Facilitate the opening introduction and discussion time and patience. Make sure each participant understands the distinction behind personl meaningful experiences in contrast to convenational rites of passage. Root the conversation in their experiences. Following the discussion, this session has very a popular activity called Experience Exchange, which has been a hit almost every time. Just be sure to provide ample time for it. The writing activity is very guided and is intended to be so to help the writer navigate through the vastness of the experience they choose to write about.

For a printable version of this session, click on Session 7: Experience


  1. Small Sheets of Paper.


“Learning to Cook” by Pooja Kumari Jha


Excersising through Story-Telling

  1. Have everyone stand in a circle.
  2. One person starts a story by saying the first line. As she says the line, she performs any one movement that the line describes. For instance, if the line is “I woke up this morning, then the person may stretch her arms they way one does when they wake up.
  3. The rest of the group in the circle will repeat the line and the action.
  4. The person next to the first person will continue the story by saying another line and enacting it. The perfoms the same action again.
  5. The game ends onece everybody has said one line each. The last person has to end the story.

To add more of a dramatic effect, ask participants to play out eccentric actions. Also, stress that the same action cannot be repeated.


The Importance of digging into one’s memories

We experience a lot of things in life. Certain incidents that happen to us are generally taken to be more important than others. For instance, the day you passed your board exams, or the day you got a job. These events are very public, and everyone knows why they are important. However, there are incidents in our lives which may be very significant but the worlds does not know about them. The world may think such incidents are trivial, but in reality such incidents can be life-altering. These moments are private, and only we know how they are important in inour lives. Sometimes because these moments are so invisible and silent to the rest of the world, we ourselves begin to think that these moments aren’t worth sharing or celebrating. We must dig into our memories to rediscover these incidents, and how they have changed our lives, in whatever little or giganctic way. This a is a step towards knowing ourselves better.


1. Pass out little sheets of blank paper.

2. Participants write a detailed stenence about an important memory or experience. They must not mentioned why the experience is significant; they should only physically describe what happened.

  • EXAMPLE: Riding the train from Kolkata to Pune and being asked by a young man, “Would you like some biscuits?” [Deeper meaning: The beginning of a new friendship]
  • EXAMPLE: On a grey august morning, standing on the green grass in the cemetary [Deeper meaning: Death of my favorite Uncle.]

3. After anonymously writing these experince on the piece of paper, participants place them into a bowl.

4. Pass the bowl around and everybody will pick one randomly. If they picked their own piece of paper,try again.

5. Each writer must create or imagine a “deeper meaning” of the exprience and share it with the group.

7. Then the person who actually wrote the experience will share the true deeper meaning if they feel comfortable.



Such incidents in our lives are actually kernels of stories, poems that can be very unique and very powerful. The significance of the moment that is lost to the world can be brough out and communicated if we turn our memories into poems.

Guided Writing

Ask participants to write down the one significant incident or experience they want to write a poem on. Each of them must think deep and recall all the details surrounding that moment or experience. where were (s)he? What was (s)he wearing? Who else was around? What time of the day was it? The poem each person writes will have the following structure:

  1. I remember…(the day/evening/etc when I sat on a bike)
  2. A sound heard close to oneself
  3. Immediate sight in front
  4. Body part association (‘My hands were moist’ or ‘eye lashes were wet with lies’)
  5. A scent or smell
  6. A feeling
  7. A distant sound
  8. A color
  9. A distant sight
  10. A touch
  11. Another feeling (different)
  12. The deeper meaning of the incident/exprience (Freedom, Confidence, Loss, Growing up, Overcoming fear, etc)



Go around the room and ask the group to “sign” how they felt about this session. Thumbs up, great session. Thumbs down, bad session. Thumbs sideways, so-so session.

Not to be used or reproduced without written permission from Kalam: Margins Write unless it is for educational purposes.

Explore posts in the same categories: Self, Sessions

4 Comments on “Session 7: Experience”

  1. Sahar Says:

    Bishan, do you think you could post the translations of “Learning to Cook” by Puja Kumari Jha. I think it will be helpful. -S

  2. pooja Says:

    this session was very intense. and i think one of themost memorable ones for me yet…
    the boys at don bosco were alarmingly forthright. i mean they shared some of their most personal and even most painful memories. one of them spoke about their mother being burnt by fire and becoming dumb as a result. i found this to be particularly disturbing as i did not know how to react to it immediately after he said it, almost casually. wmat i did was ask him if he wanted to say anything more to which he replied, he did not. moving on from there was difficlt but i think it is the only way..what do u guys think?

    Another noticable thing was that all of them someway spoke about their mothers. the absence of the mothers was conspicuous by their recurring presense in the boys’ memories. there were also themes of corporal punishment which came up while the group were sharing experiences…leadig to a debate as to the efficacy of such severe punisments and their scathing remains as memories.

    the technical glitch was that instead of describing the experience in terms of the actions, they were more explicit about what it meant in the one detailed line that they were asked to write.

  3. Sahar Says:


    Yeah, that technical glitch has occured in the past as well. do you think there is way to try to re-clarify our instructions or activity descriptions to try to avoid this? Maybe we should re-vist this portion of our session plan.

    Also, I know what you mean when you say you didn’t know ‘how to react/respond.’ Thats a question that is always in my mind as well and I can’t seem to find the answer. I wonder if there is a right answer — every siutation, every moment, every young person is different after all. Its always hard to responds immediatly as well. I always feel whatever I do appears inadequate. But I think if we can try to express comfort, safety, and understanding through our eyes, gestures, words or silence, – thats the first and most important step.

    Also, Sometimes, i feel its worked well to check-in with the particular individual privately and share your throughts after you’ve had a chance to process them — say after the session. A simple check-in like seeing how they are feeling and acknowledging that you are aware of the the gravity of their revelation can be very comforting too. Or, maybe at the end of session, before wrapping, making a general comment to the entire group — thanking everybody for sharing their stories and recognizing how something that this can be difficult for us, but reminding that this is a safe space were all our feelings, memories, ideas are nurtured.

    Just some ideas.
    But this is something we can talk about with one of our advisors, Harleen Walia. I’m sure her experienece with youth trauma can offer us some good perspective on such instances.

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