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