posted by bishan samaddar
With most of Kalam’s youth force occupied with yearly exams, we have been concentrating on building and strengthening other connections in March. ASHA-Seattle, a volunteer-based collective who we had approached for support and funding, has shown a lot of interest in Kalam. Following Sahar’s presentations on Kalam before the board of ASHA, one of their representatives, Srijan, came down to Calcutta to acquaint himself with Kalam’s work.
On the morning of Wednesday, March 21, he came to the Daywalka office and spent quite some time talking with me and some of the Kalam youth. Joy, Nargis, Bina and Uma were present for the interface. They had taken time out of their busy schedules to come and meet Srijan. The great co-incidence was that Srijan was as open and articulate as they were. I started by giving a short introduction to the various programs that Kalam runs, including Writing Out, Footpath Poetry, Open Box and so on. Srijan had his set of questions, incisive, analytical, with a genuine and friendly interest to know what we are about. He explained his own visit to the youth as well, and the youth, especially Bina, had several questions about ASHA. The youth were clear, concise and forthcoming about articulating their experience of Kalam.
The discussion even turned into a sort of brainstorming session as to what saleable products Kalam could make. Joy and Srijan discussed this at length. Srijan said that ASHA would love to have cards and posters with poems/photographs/art works from Kalam. They can be a good source of fundraising at a very practical level. Uma spoke about her experience of designing the Kalam magazine. Srijan, being a software engineer himself, was interested in what kind of software we use for design, and was impressed with the youth’s familiarity with Freehand.
Following this, Srijan had a little chat with our Legal Officer and the main force in Daywalka , Suman Saha, about registering Kalam as a separate entity. We shared our concerns with Srijan openly. Registration is not an easy process here, neither is the act of accepting grants from foreign organization even after we are registered. We brainstormed ideas as to how to overcome these problems. Unfortunately, Srijan was in town only for a few days, and there was no Kalam workshop or event scheduled during that time. So, he could not be a part of one. He however said that some other representative will surely come at some other point and we would be able to show him our work on the field. On the whole, it seemed a rather fruitful interface. Kalam hopes that its relationship with ASHA becomes stronger through these interactions.
Furthermore, Kalam’s proposed new project Neighbourhood Diaries has attracted the attention of Global Voices Online. We had approached Aparna Ray, who is a contributing author for Global Voices Online, to help us introduce a vernacular blogging component to the Diaries project. Aparna recently told us that Global Voices is looking for such new projects to fund. This is obviously a terrific opportunity for Kalam. We have sent Aparna a basic proposal, and a preliminary budget. We are eagerly awaiting a response.
Ruth Margraff, a NYC-based playwright who had conducted a play-writing workshop with Kalam’s youth in 2005, was back in Calcutta. She met me for a long interview about our work in Kalam. The interview was for a book she is co-authoring on the subject of ‘Peace-building through the Arts’. It was very interesting to talk about how Kalam could be a peace-building programme in a very subtle but potent way. All these developments are very encouraging for us. It makes us trust ourselves that we are a part of a programme that has tremendous possibility of making a difference in the world.