Budding citizen journalists learn about their neighborhoods

A couple weeks ago we introduced you to the participants of the Neighborhood Diaries project which trains underprivileged youth living in Kolkata’s slums to be citizen journalists.


We continue this week with highlights from their Day 4 proceedings at Bow Bazar High School. They shared stories about the landmarks they chose in a previous session.

The participants were divided into 3 groups according to the place that they had chosen as their favorite landmark – a local Punjabi hotel, the Boubazar Kali Mandir and the Shiv Mandir.

Some detailed and lively excerpts on the Landmark Boubazar Kali Mandir:

Rahul has some questions in his mind:

The sound of many bells, conch-shells so that my chest trembles from the impact. The priest is continually fanning the deities. The aarti is happening with lamps, the sound of mantras, all of it makes my heart beat faster. The light perfume of the incense brings on a light, wafting mood. The gentle wind blowing in the light perfume of flowers makes one drowsy. The darkened spirit wants to run away to seclusion, but still I continue to stand, maybe because the puja is going on. It makes me wonder to see people saying things to the earthen deities – what are they saying? To whom? And why are they saying these things? I have random thoughts about all this, still I continue to stand.

Jyotsna Das depicts the foods associated with the Puja:

After the puja, some people eat the prasad and go away, while some others stay behind. Everybody says that the deities are very alive here. Whatever you ask from the mother, you receive for sure. The annual festival of the temple happens with a lot of fanfare. The deity is newly dressed up in sari and jewels. Everybody is fed khichuri. When you come out of the mandir, there is a grocery shop. Beside this, there is a shop selling lassi. The atmosphere is very good here.

Talking about the old Shiv Mandir, Apurbo describes the surroundings:

A crossing with 4 streets going in 4 directions. All of 24 hours you can hear office goers talking, the sound of bells from the temple, the sound of cars, the smell of fish, vegetables and spices. In front there is the big Kolkata Medical College and Hospital. Big banyan trees lining it. Opposite these is the old Shiv temple. Big buses ply on the road facing it. During childhood, when I used to board a bus with ma and come here, then everytime I could recognize that I had arrived at my neighbourhood on spotting this Shiv temple and Medical college. These identified my locality to me.

Then they discussed about journalism and blogging. They were given assignment of going to home of a fellow participant (randomly selected) to find out more information about them. They were told to take photographs and write an article on the person’s home and home life.

On the fifth day they produced their content. The perspective was that of part insider, part outsider, a balance between the knowledge of a local and the perspective of a journalist.

Some excerpts:

Surojit, about Robi’s home:

I saw the meter box immediately on entering Robi’s home. The bathroom, a staircase just beside that. I could smell food cooking. I could hear the sounds of people, children yelling. I touched the flowers on the tree there. Robi’s mother’s name is Shefali Mondol. She does household work. They are living in this house for 18 years. They are surrounded by relatives like uncles and aunties, cousin, grandfather.

How do those who live at home spend their day? Elder uncle and father do electric work, and elder aunt is an ayah at Medical College Hospital. Apart from this, more or less everyone does household work, also going out for work sometimes.

How many people at home? In their room itself, three people live, whereas in the house there are forty people in all.

What is the house made of? The house is made of cement and sand.

Click here for more interesting stories.

The assignment on day five was to get to know about the people of each participant’s para (neighborhood). For their take-home assignment, they were asked to go out in pairs and interview one neighborhood personality.


On the sixth day they shared the home assignment from the previous session:

The day’s assignment included brainstorming about Livelihoods/Industries in their para (neighborhood). They were asked to research one person about their profession. Please keep following the Neighborhood Diaries Blog for more interesting updates.


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