Today is a special day. One of the storytelling workshop participants, Sunita, has opened out her Crescent Oaks apartment for a final gathering. This past spring, during the workshop I held in the Baker Ripley Neighborhood Center, I became familiar with southwest Houston’s Crescent Oaks apartment complex, but I never learned its street address. Only when giving women workshop participants rides to the apartment complex, I found that I had to drive west on Rookin Street, take the first left turn, pass by a large mosque on my right, and the apartment complex entrance appeared after the first cut in the road.
For this final spring session, everyone has committed to attend, including Shirin Herman who will bring Anjali, a woman that attended the March student presentation and who talked to many of us about her difficult marital situation.
We begin the gathering with greetings and hugs. After gift exchanges, we settle on the sofa and chairs, and I pass out the feedback forms so we can take care of business. Shirin and I transcribe feedback from Sunita and Naila (Hindi/Urdu speakers), while Nandita and Ana, Baker-Ripley’s UH-Downtown intern, scribble notes on their sheets. When feedback is shared, all participants say the workshop helped them feel part of a community.
By then, Sunita has served up dhokla and tea. As we nibble and sip, Nandita reads her story, one she has shared with us but has not been able to write until now. We know her narrative — marrying in Mumbai, moving to Houston, being abandoned by her husband and then finding her footing and completing graduate school — but seeing her words on paper and hearing her read is a new experience. When she closes, we applaud not just her writing, but where she has arrived.
The workshop ends much later than I plan, but that’s what always happens. Nandita will give Anjali a ride to her apartment and help her connect with Daya.
As we leave, we know the connections we have struck up will remain strong. Everyone offers to help me with my May 9 production, and we talk about ways to extend the workshop further down the road.
* all participant names have been changed.