Archive for September, 2007

Yes, We are Independent!

Celebrating with Chai outside the West Bengal Registration Office.
(Bishan, Harleen, Sahar, Rohini, and Maitrayee)

This week, ‘Kalam: Margins Write’ was registered as a Trust in India. Yes, we are now officially an independent literary arts organization recognized by the Indian Government. We’re new, we’re small and we’re brave.

On Thursday, September 20th, 2007, Kalam’s three trustees — Bishan Samaddar, Rohini Banerjee, and Harleen Walia — went to the West Bengal Registration Office in Dalhousie to register Kalam as a Trust. I, Sahar, (the American citizen who cannot officially be a Trustee) was a Witness. And Maitrayee Trivedi, a warm human being and sharp lawyer, was our advocate.

In the matter of an hour — after multiple finger prints, numerous signatures, and foot movement from one bustling office to the other — we were officially granted status as a Trust in India.

This is big news for us. We’ve evolved slowly and steadily since our beginnings in early 2004. Starting as an experimental project, evolving into a creative writing program within the Daywalka Foundation, we’ve now grown into an independent organization committed to bringing the literary arts to youth living on the India’s urban margins.

We would never make it here without the gracious support of the Daywalka Foundation. They were an excellent parent organization where Kalam fostered its ideas, pedagogy and practice for three years. And along with the Daywalka Foundation, Kalam’s friends and allies in Calcutta, Delhi, Seattle and Tempe nourished us with great support.

A deep thank you to all of you. We hope to keep growing with your on-going support.

posted by Sahar Romani


Meet our Thinkers, Meet our Practitioners

super stars

Bina, Joy, and Nargis.

Once upon a time, these three individuals were participants and poets in Kalam. Three years later, they are the poets and staff running Kalam.

Today I met with my three colleagues for a meeting to set off the ground work for the second annual issue of Khola Baksho, Kalam’s Literary Art magazine. As vagabonds without an office, we held our meeting in various spots in south Kolkata – hopping from a chai stall to Dolly’s tea house and finally landing in a little eatery for a lunch of vegetable chowmein.

The agenda? Khola Baksho’s politics as a magazine for/from/within the margins. How do we balance our goal to be a platform for the voices in the margins and for the arts? Are our concerns about ensuring equal representation of the diverse voices thriving in Calcutta’s urban slums, corporation schools, and NGO drop-in-centers? Or are we prioritizing Good Writing and Art emerging from the margins regardless of community-specifics? As a literary arts outreach organization running a publication we want to maintain integrity around both Outreach and Art. How do we do that and how do we share our values with the greater communities we work with?

The discussion was reflective, critical, lively and grounded in lived experiences and practices – as participants and as facilitators. Each of my colleagues was argumentative, perceptive, open, and critically conscious.

And this is nothing new. Bina, Nargis, Joy — as well as some youth interns who were once participants and our now colleagues — offer insight into the challenges and possibilities of practicing art outreach in Calcutta’s marginalized communities that most ‘trained’ and ‘certified’ educators and social workers, like myself, are intellectually and practically impaired to. But it  isn’t just simply my colleagues’ positionalities as young people working in and for their own communities that fosters such acute insight. It is their personal capacity to continuously push their own thinking, to openly collaborate, and to trust their intuition that nurtures such refreshingly genuine, grounded, radical thinking and practice.

Even though I’ve been working with my colleagues through Kalam in various capacities for three years now, I keep learning new ways to think and practice art, outreach, and alternative education in the grassroots. And today’s meeting, reminds me that I’m still learning and will keep learning. Today’s meeting reminds me that I have a fabulous team of thinkers and practitioners to learn with, to grow with.

posted by Sahar Romani