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  • Writer's pictureGayatri Pardeshi

Journey from an Explorer to a Visionary Creator

Parindey: Smriti Raj

Alivehood: Mentor, Facilitator, & Theatre of Relevance Practitioner

Region: Delhi, India

‘Living life by dividing it into professional, personal, and private categories is an illusion that deceives oneself. Living “One Life” that embodies my liberated dreams is being honest to my own existence. And life throbs in constructive, artistic, and creative dimensions each moment. Life is the eternal truth, the core or “Mool” (as we call it in Hindi), that we translate through every action inspired with our intuitive conscience.’

- Smriti Raj

Smriti painting her prayer. (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

Smriti has been thriving as a Theatre of Relevance (TOR) initiator and practitioner since 2004, with the intent to consistently initiate process-oriented interactions, where the participants act as a resource. She is currently writing, conceptualising and initiating theatre-based modules for individuals and institutions while addressing the need to be humane and connect with life.

She has been creating animation content and short films and has been performing in various socially revolutionising plays like ‘Hum Sab Kamla Hain’ (Wandering Mentally ill) at the National Film Archive, Pune in 2003, ‘Laadli’ (Population First campaign against sex-selective abortion) at National Centre for the Performing Arts, Mumbai in 2005. She also co-created ‘Soulify’ in the year 2017 with the vision of creating a platform to support self-discovery for all ages.

Soulify means Jeevan or Life. The co-creators of Soulify consider themselves philosophers-storytellers-travellers set on a mission to share the creative process to explore, discover, transform, motivate and guide oneself through the layers of conditioning and chaos to experience the creator within. They believe many of us over the years have learnt to ignore, and be indifferent to our soulful expressions due to our conditioning to be in survival mode in a society divided on the basis of class, caste, gender, abilities, etc. A shift from such a conditioning is possible when one sees abundance in oneself, in one’s consciousness, and in our collective strength to function intuitively with conscience. Soulify envisions to advocate the art of storytelling as the key element to raise cultural consciousness and revolutionise education. Their programmes are designed to inspire the process of envisioning, to encourage artistic skill with purpose and to constantly create a platform for creative, constructive and artistic expression.

They are nurturing humane and creative beings who shall contribute towards a compassionate and collaborative society driven by dreams, joy, aspirations and inspirations. The process facilitates one to lead oneself from individual to collective and from collective to self.

In the past 4 years, they have travelled across 17 states, more than 25000 kilometres, facilitated more than 250 interactions both online and offline and reached out to more than 5000 participants from various socioeconomic backgrounds: homeschoolers, unschoolers, jail inmates, animation institutes, corporates, cyclone survivors, mothers of children with special needs, wives of army officers, village and urban school teachers and students, parents and farmers.

Smriti facilitating a session for youth (Courtesy Soulify)

Smriti was born and brought up in Patna, Bihar. “Bihar is an abode of enlightenment and countless progressive movements; Bihar’s spirit is the spirit of Revolution; Bihar is the land of wisdom and knowledge, the land of Buddha, yet where is Bihar now? Where is India standing now?” questions Smriti. This thought made her reflect on aspects that are functional or rather malfunctional in the way the majority of the educated parents practise parenting. Smriti sees four walls—admission in the most popular school, marriage, safety, and financial security that a high paying job would ensure—that confine the possibility of an integrated, liberated and intuitive parenting, especially for the girl child. She received support from her strong mother in every phase of her life to realise her dreams. Her experiences of a patriarchal setup, domestic violence, and her mothers’ grit and wisdom to rise and rebuild herself economically gave her the courage to journey towards what she is today. “In my early youth, my dreams were shaped as per the survival formula of the system and society. Our dreams are not ours, many times these dreams are sold to us through the media and our people to maintain the stagnant order,” says Smriti.

Growing up had touched her with numerous societal challenges revolving around inferiorities and power play. Favouritism, comparison, competition, class and caste divide, office politics, family and relationship issues, etc. These are the common terms we hear which are an impression of the inferiorities of the human mind and actions initiated through it, leading to exploitative and extractive systems. These experiences became the truth of her life and whether a life beyond this existed was unknown to her. This unknown became a latent dream aching to fly.

Smriti hosting a session for youth in Leh, Ladakh (Courtesy Soulify)

After completing her schooling and college in Patna, Bihar, she went to Mumbai in the year 2003. She pursued graphic designing and fine arts going ahead. Working in a highly competitive environment in Mumbai made her ponder where her education had led her to. “My health was deteriorating, I was worried about fitting in and behaving in a way so that new colleagues and friends would not reject me, I was constantly in the dilemma of keeping my employer happy with the fear of losing my job to someone who would agree for less salary and more time commitment. I managed to make boyfriends and it felt like leading me to the same rut of marriage and following the societal formula as opposed to the liberated life of my dreams. Is it possible to find a companion who is a co-dreamer of the world that I imagine? What is education if I could not live my life on my own terms?” she asked herself.

The year 2004 was a turning point in Smriti's life. The TOR philosophy manifested her true being and her quest blossomed to be on the path of truth, thereon started a whole new chapter of her life. Smriti became the practitioner of life that she calls ‘Jeevankarmi’ and her tools to create were ‘Ehsas’ (feeling), ‘Samvedna’ (sensation), ‘Vishleshan’ (analysis) and ‘Prayog’ (experiment). These tools became her companions and friends in her journey of learning, unlearning and shaping the compassionate, conscious and creative world.

Along with these conceptual friends, she also found a partner, co-dreamer and co-creator in Siddharth Maskeri. They lived together and later indulged in court marriage in the year 2006. He walks with her in the Soulify journey along with Advait, their son and eternal philosopher guide in her evolutionary learning. Advait is a self-directed curiosity-based learner who embraces learning outside the four walls and Siddharth Maskeri is a visionary writer, facilitator and filmmaker. They together questioned the institution of marriage and family, redefined family and now call themselves a ‘Soulify Family’ where all are equal stakeholders.

At Soulify, they facilitate the participants to experience their life’s story as the creator-hero and not the victim, by seeing and embracing themselves in completeness, with their strengths and limitations and seeing their challenges as opportunities to evolve and grow. And the process involves various forms of storytelling such as writing, art, dance, theatre, music and film.

Smriti and Siddharth (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

Smriti takes inspiration from her own life to design her processes for her participants. Her journey from 1981 when she was born, to being a child observing life and being carefree, to a youth who questioned and fought the norms of society and her own indecisiveness, to transforming into acknowledging her own existence and being the leader of her own life.

The process of envisioning led her to redefine ART - ‘Awakening to the Rhythm with Truth’ and that everyone is a HERO - ‘Harmonious Energy Resonating Oneness’.

“The truth of life is reflected through the elements of nature around us, and this truth keeps me grounded, rhythmic and intuitive in my connection with the ground, this ground is the stage of any character to thrive in life. It encourages me to fly as I know the ground is waiting with open arms to embrace me, this is where I am born,” says Smriti. This affirms her to be rooted, connect with her participants and liberates the child in them. She is keen to meet the world family through her travels, gift Soulify sessions and experience the abundant cultural diversity.

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