‘The Indian Express’ catches up with Kalam

posted by sahar romani 

In May 2006, 10 young writers from Kalam transformed into Kalam’s Magazine Youth Staff to create an annual literary magazine called Khola Baksho/Khula Baksa/Open Box. This 100%-youth-run, multi-lingual publication features literature and writing from teenagers living along Kolkata’s social and economic margins. Khola Baksho’s premier launch is on Febuary 18th at the Madhusudan Mancha open space (Dakshinapan Complex, Dhakuria, Kolkata).

Today’s edition of The Indian Express covers the story of Khola Baksho.

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Verses from the Margins

By Pragaya Paramita

KOLKATA, January 18, 2007Verses from the Margins

Bohudin pore likhte boshechi/ janina ki likhbo/ janina ki likhbo
Tobu mone bhabi aamar lekha to shesh hoyeni/ kintu ki likhbo
Lekhar chondo ekhun aar posh manena/ lekhar shey goti amar sathi hoyena
Lekhar shey posh aaj amay matiye tolena/ aaj amay pagol kore tole na.

(A poem about the dilemma faced by a writer troubled by a loss of words and a sense of loss)

Whenever words don’t fail eighteen-year-old Rahul Goswami, he knows he has a platform for his thoughts — a magazine for the marginalised. Goswami is just one of those from the under-equipped quarters of the city whose verses have found place in a magazine that contains not just thoughts and poetic expression but also provides a peep into the world often left ignored and neglected at the roadside. From the fringes emerge Goswami’s poems. “The idea of Open Box took shape after we participated in a series of workshops. We realised that the workshops brought out the best in each one of us,” says Mritunjoy, a member of Kalam, which is a project initiated by the non-government organisation Daywalka . Teenagers like Goswami fitted the profile of the kind of people —all from an underprivileged background — who could possibly bring out the magazine. And so Open Box was created — a magazine where the marginalised youth found its voice, the first issue of which will be launched this month.

“We wanted to provide a platform where the youth can come out and give vent to their feelings via writing, be it prose or poetry. These youngsters feel there are not too many people interested in listening to their voices. We wanted to change that,” says Bishan Samaddar of Daywalka, who is in charge of the project. While many would consider it to be an ambitious project, the youth members are planning Open Box as an annual magazine which will have writings of 15 to 18 year olds in four languages: English, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu. “We plan to circulate the magazine everywhere from big bookstores, to small road-side tea-stalls. We want everyone to hear their voices,” says Mritunjoy.

It has certainly come a long way since the time the members approached Kolkata-based NGOs working with underprivileged children like Praajak, Don Bosco, Diksha and Sanlaap, and a few schools, to hold creative writing workshops with them. Teaching the children the nuances of poetry writing was not easy as the group soon found out. While quite a few of the children were unlettered, many suffered from Attention Deficit Syndrome. But that did not deter the ten young members of Kalam who took the initiative of launching the magazine from going to places far of as Malda to hold the workshops.

“We realised most of the children were writing about love and about things they felt but could not express. Most are in fact seeking love,” says Bina, another youth member. Most of the youth members have already had a few poems published in poetry books brought out by the NGO, poems that give an insight into their thoughts, agonies and hopes. For the children, attest the youth members, it was a surprise when they realised that people would be interested enough in their poems to want to publish them.

Once the early confusions were taken care of, the poems came in a torrent. Says Shiuli, a member: “Maybe Rahul had a bad affair that leads him to pen poignant verses, or maybe there are other reasons. But poetry has become his only outlet.”

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