Delhi’s Mohallas

posted by sahar romani

LNJP Basti and Ambedkar Nagar in Delhi are bustling with vibrant narratives. To an outsider, these mohallah’s or neighborhoods may seem like the standardized slum settlements, but the young practitioners at Ankur/SARAI’s Cybermohallah program write the nuanced histories, stories, and lives lingering in lanes and corners of their neighborhoods through words, images, and digital media.

The Ankur/ Sarai Project is an experimental collaborative initiative for the creation of nodes of popular digital culture in Delhi between Ankur, a Delhi based NGO and Sarai, the New Media & Urban Culture Programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi. The word Cybermohalla, suggests a hybrid location, which has the open-endedness of cyberspace, qualified by the local specifities and intimacy of a mohalla or a dense urban neighbourhood.


The project works with young people living in slum settlements and working class neighourhoods. It brings together the energies of community based social intervention, creativity with texts, sound & images and innovative uses of computers and digital technology, while remaining alert to the imperatives of social and cultural specificity and autonomy.

Since 2004, many young practicioners were also writing in Naangla Maanchi — a 30 year old settlement along the western bank of Yamuna river and over the fly-ash deposits of a thermal power plant, that encountered municiple demoltions last year. The youth in Ankurs/Sarai Naangla Maachi’s small compughar or practitioner’s lab captured the stories, rythms, images, emotions of Nangla’s life and displacement like no journalist could. In the words of a young writer:

Pyaaso ki pyaas bujhata hai Nangla
Dilli sheher mein aane walo logo ka basera hai Nangla

It quenches the thirst of the thirst, such is Nangla.
Its shelters those who come to the city of Delhi, such is Nangla.

We in Kalam are deeply inspired by Ankur’s powerful work through the city of Delhi. We’ve been privileged to be in conversation with Ankur as we began as a pilot program in 2004 and evolve today as an organizaiton in the making. Ankur’s educators and the young practicioners continue to nourish Kalam’s imagination, practice, and belief in the meaningful work with words, youth, and margins here in Kolkata.

We are in solidarity.

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