Archive for the 'Programs/Projects' Category

Re-Writing Bow Bazaar

Its been seven weeks since Neighbourhood Diaries started its work in Bow Bazaar, a popularly known ‘slum’ and ‘red-light area’ in Central Calcutta. Through the weekly workshops faciliated by staff Urbi Bhaduri and Bina Dalui,  youth journalists from Bow Bazaar have written about neighbourhood landmarks, homes, community personalties, and thriving industries of their locale. These young teenagers, armed with writing pads and ‘Para Journalist’ I.D. cards, are asserting their identity as researchers and storytellers of their neighborhood and community to re-write Bow Bazaar as a multi-faceted neighbourhood.

To follow the weekly writing and photography by these young writers, visit our Neighbourhood Diaries blog.  Furthermore, for more context on Neighbourhood Diaries in context to other citizen media projects around the world, check out updates and features on Diaries by Rising Voices.

Diaires Workshop

Youth journalists engage in conversation at one of the Diaires workshops at Bow Bazaar Highschool.


Neighbourhood Diaires Begins in Bow Bazaar

Neighbourhood Diairies – Kalam’s pilot citizen journalism program – started its 15-week workshop series this month.  This pilot program is underway with youth from Sanlaap in Bow Bazaar neighbourhood. Twelve young residents of Bow Bazaar ranging from the ages 14 to 18 meet every Monday at Bow Bazaar Highschool (rented out by Sanlaap as an evening community center) for a 2 hour workshop where neighborhood stories and culture are examined, discussed, and written by the young. 

Bow Bazaar Highschool 

In the coming weeks, we’ll continue to work in and through the neighbourhood as local journalists interviewing residents, observing and recording events, and listening and telling community stories. For weekly updates on Neighbourhood Diaries Bow Bazaar, visit our Diaries blog. Here you’ll find session plans, session assessments, workshop photographs, and writings from Diary Journalists.

Neigbourhood Diaires is a citizen writing program moblising young people living in ‘slums’ as citizen journalists to research, write and disseminate unrecognized and authentic community narratives in local and global media.  It is being funded by Rising Voices, the outreach wing of Global Voices.

posted by Sahar Romani

‘Rising Voices’ Micro-Grant

Good news this morning.

Neighbourhood Diaires – Kalam’s pilot, citizen journalism program – is going to manifest this year.

Rising Voices, the outreach arm of Global Voices, awarded Kalam a micro-grant to begin Neighborhood Diaries in two urban slums of the city. Now with the support of this grant (a big big thank you to Aparna Ray and David Sasaki), Neigbourhood Diaries will begin shop in October 2007, mobilizing youth residents in two neighbourhoods (or what seem like urban slums to the outsider) as researchers, writers, photographers and bloggers in and of their own neighbourhood.

Through workshops on critical thinking, journalistic writing, audio-visual media, we hope to ignite youth residents to start thinking about their personal and community stories, issues, and histories, as an integral and vibrant part of the socio-cultural fabric of urban India. And to start writing about them. And blogging about them. Because writing and blogging from the grassroots is a way to disseminate authentic and unrecognized community narratives in global media.

Sounds ambitious?

We think its a small step. And a necessary one. And we’re ready to take it. Grounded and guided (and kept in check) with the communities we work in, we know we are ready.

posted by Sahar Romani

Visual Literacy in Neighborhood Diaries

While thinking through ideas for Kalam’s citizen journalism project — Neighborhood Diaries (ND) — I’ve been reading Wendy Ewald’s I Wanna Take me A Picture, a seminal work on the pedagogy of Literacy through Photography (LTP).

In an earlier post, Bishan shared visions for the curriculum of ND, outlining pertinent themes to ground young practioners in as they engage in the process of documenting and narrating intimate and local worlds through photography and writing.

Ewald in her practice of LTP stresses the the importance of teaching young people how to “read images” as a fundamental step before launching young practitioners into the process of photography and writing. I think this a crucial component for us to consider in ND’s curriculum — the component of Visual Literacy. ND will be working with youth living in slum settlements, red-light areas and other neighborhoods, which are often visually incarcerated in tropes of “the poor,” “the unhygienic,” or “the criminal,” in many popular discourses. Our curriculum needs to encourage and guide young residents to critically think about visual representations of neighborhoods like their own, as well as,  explore the politics of  the  gaze. I think its important for the young practitioners to recognize, interpret and interrogate the Outsider’s Gaze in order for them to realize their own Gaze and its difference. As Ewald says,

Reading the photograph helps students progress from observing the details of an image to trying to understand the story behind it. In reading this way, we’ve laid the groundwork for the children’s more nuanced examination of other images, and for their thoughtful planning of their own photographs. Through the process of reading photographs, children can begin to understand that photographs do indeed convey the emotions of their subjects – not simply because of the some magic inherent in the subject itself, but through the choices the photographer makes and the way in which images are made.

For our curriculum we should consider keeping the first few sessions around Visual Literacy. But what about visual literacy? And what activities would be effective to stimulate visual literacy? These are good questions. Questions I don’t have the answer to. But I think its a good inquiry we should engage in as Educators. Its a direction we should consider exploring as we think through Neighborhood Diaries as a pilot project and curriculum-in-the-making.

posted by Sahar Romani

Neighbourhood Diaries: Imagining a Curriculum

posted by bishan samaddar

We have been talking about Neighbourhood Diaries for a while. It envisions to combine elements of Self-exploratory Creative Writing, Literacy through Photography and Citizen Journalism. However, we haven’t given much thought to what exactly the curriculum would look like. Here’s a skeleton of a curriculum that can be given some thought to, i suppose. Like Writing Out, this might also start with the exploration of the immediate self, and then slowly move centrifugally to larger themes. Each section should take up three to four weeks:

Self…  Discussion: Exploring the self: how do others see us? How do we see ourselves? Talk about Identities.  Activity/Writing Activity: Locating one object with which you identify, or something that symbolizes your self-perceived or self-defined identity.  Photo Assignment: Self-portrait and Photo of the identity object.  Self-inquiry; developing the spirit of questioning/interrogating self and beyond.

Home… Discussion: Home as a space which is a mixture of both desirable and undesirable elements. A part of your home you like, a part of your home you do not like that much (What memories are associated with these spaces? What issues come up?). A part of your home you like, a part of your home you do not like that much. Objective: Critical consciousness of personal space.

Neighbourhood (Place)…Discussion: Two specific places in the neighbourhood that has significance for you… description, daily activities, histories. Vignettes, focusing on details and based on observation and researched histories. Photo Assignment: Photographs of the places, from different angles/perspectives or at different times of the day, representing different aspects of the same physical spot. Developing research skills, consciousness of subaltern histories.

Neighbourhood (People) Discussion: Looking at people as characters. Writing Activity: Select one person in the neighbourhood and make a Portrait Sketch, based on observation, interview, researched personal histories. Photo Assignment: Portraits + Photo series depicting the daily life of the subject. Researching Life Stories.

You are Invited


Join us for the launch of Khola Baksho’s inaugural issue.
All are Welcome.

Sunday, 18 February 2007, 5pm
Madhusudan Mancha Complex, Dhakuria, Kolkata

The mirror and the lamp…

posted by pooja das sarkar 

Picture this. A winter evening with the sun just about to set, a cool breeze making the warm clothes a pleasure to wear in the usually sweltering city of Kolkata, a mike, a custom-made chair for the poet, an orange paper lamp hanging from the ceiling above the makeshift stage and rows of people sitting on the luxuriously spread out mats on the rooftop of Kalam’s office. What does it sound like? A perfect setting for a poetry adda. Poetry and adda – two things Bengalis are famous (and a little infamous) for!


Providing a stage for the two passions of the average kolkatabashi was Kalam’s initiative of monthly poetry readings which we call ‘Second Sundays’. Held on the second Sunday of every month, these poetry addas are meant to be a platform for anyone (read: of any age, class, gender) to come and read their original poems. Not only is it a platform for reading, but as envisioned (and as it turned out), it is also an open and organic forum for discussions and critique of poetry.

 This ( 14 january) was the second month of the poetry adda but this one was special because invited for the adda were the contributors of the soon-to-be-launched magazine – Khola Baksho.The rooftop was brimming with bright young faces excited to share their poems created in the isolation of their homes with a roof full of strangers eager to listen to the unheard voices. About ten odd poets whose poems have been selected were present and shared their poetry as the audience listened intently while cups of steaming tea and samosas did the rounds.


Reshma (a.k.a Bobby), one of the Kalam youth staff and a poet herself, made an excellent MC for the evening. Among the poems read, Rahul Goswami’s ‘Aami je Dishahara’ touched a chord with all the writers in the audience as it spoke about the pains of experiencing writer’s block as well as a general sense of directionlessness (which was the feeling he said he had experienced during the writing the poem). Shikha Roy’s ‘Chokh’ brought up the issue of using real names of the people one writes about in a poem. Some among the audience were not as cofortable with revealing the names of people they were writing about but shikha stood by her poem.

Abhijit Lodh’s ‘Ekti Meye’ was the dark horse which won everybody’s hearts. Reading his long and difficult poem with much emotion and voice-modulation, his poem sounded remarkably better read-out-loud than when the review team had selected the poem. Both Bobby and I expressed our pleasant surprise at the results of the well-read poem. This also led to much post-reading brainstorming and discussion.

Mounik Lahiri, a second-time audience and critic at the poetry-reading, made the crucial point of reading as performance. He expressed his awe at the quality of the poems read by the youth (indistinguishable from established poets he said) but also pointed out the necessity of reading one’s work with clarity while reading to reach an audience. He came up with suggestion of training the Khola Baksho poets for the public reading during the launch on 18th February. Kalam thanks Mounik for the brilliant idea and for promising to do the needful himsef.

Shreya Ghosh, another keen observer, commented on the interesting repetition of the theme of death/life in a number of poems and wondered why this was. Commenting on Bobby Makal’s ‘Jibon Ki?’ she wished the poets would see life as a positive thing rather than as a negative and always as a binary to death – thus making death more important that life itself. Bishan pointed out the human and maybe poetic tendency to see and understand things in binaries. Samrat, a poet and critic present at the reading raised the point that peraps it was just a poet’s concern with existence.


As the pleasant cool breeze was gradually becoming a chilly one, Bobby read the last poem of the evening. Sitting under the soft lights of the orange paper lamp, the dark blue sky behind her and mike in hand, Bobby looked like the quintessential poet. Her poem suited the mood of the late evening – she spoke courageously about the moment of physical intimacy between lovers. Short and powerful – just like the rest of the evening.