In March-April, Kalam has been holding a series of 4-5 workshops with Thoughtshop Foundation, a Kolkata-Based social communications organization. Thoughtshop is in the process of conducting a 2-year process with certain para clubs with a mandate of social development, helping them to go beyond performing certain altruistic activities with the community throughout the year, equipping them to take on the role of para resource centres. The young people had already been trained to make hardcore surveys in the para, focussing on statistics, facts and figures. Kalam was asked to step in at this point and take these young people through certain experiences/processes that would build a sense of deep bonding and ownership with the community, as well as increase critical and creative thinking about the same.
We put together four sessions, partly inspired from Neighbourhood Diaries but diverging from it in many repects. We have been working with seven people from different communities, in the 21-27 years age range, from slumlike areas close to the Airport, Khidderpore, VIP road and Lake Gardens. The first session happened on 7th March, where we focussed on discussing the “geographical” vs “emotional” boundaries of a para, drawing a “personal Para Map”, and creatively writing about one’s para using the 5 senses. In the 2nd session on the 14th, we tried to reach an understanding of the sense of “home” within the para/community, as well as the diferent types of people within ones para, and how we could reach across to them. On the 28th, in the third session, we examined the different stages in our personal lives, what we were, what we are and what we are yet to become, recollecting memories as well as visualizing our roles in the community, and then went on to research parallely the stage-by-stage history of the community in the same way. In the 4th session on the 4th of April, we focussed on trying to bulid up a sense of belonging/pride with our community through the process of writing tourist book articles on our paras.
The process was quiet fruitful. We could see the sense of ownership with the para/community develop and deepen as the process of introspecting and critical thinking went on. We will meet these people for the 5th and final session after two weeks, in which we will try to clarify and redefine “para” and “community”. The participants will also create scrapbooks about their communities, putting together all the writing and artwork they have done with us so far, and adding snaps.