Day 11: A series of unfortunate events

April 28th, 2008

Monday

Today was a bad day. The sweltering heat and humidity of a Calcutta evening saw Bina in a cyber cafe, guiding five journalists out of the ten who were present, on how to login into the Bowbazar Diaries blog. The more we are entering the process of imparting digital literacy, the more the challenges are becoming clear. It is a whole new world for these youth, as they hail from extremely marginalised communities, and everything starting from the interface in English, getting a feel of the keyboard, and the idea of having a “cyber address” (in the form of one’s own email id or blog space) as compared to a “geographical address” is completely new. 

Within the first challenging half hour, however, the computers shut down, the cafe technician was away, there was no other cyber cafe in sight, the young people thought they’d had enough practice, and they wanted to be out of that stuffy room.

A series of unfortunate events.

We are really thinking of ways of bringing back the dynamism and involvement of the earlier Diaries sessions, and also how best to approach digital literacy with these youth. Instead of following through with the idea of doing Para Action Projects with them (which they had seemed to be keen at earlier, and later lost interest), we have decided to focus on Writing.  We are looking forward to reading what observations they bring back next week about the Bowbazaar footpaths, which they have themselves suggested as a good subject for their next assignment.

Day 10: Reconnecting with neighbourhood diaries

Wednesday April 23rd, 2008

We were supposed to resume Neighbourhood Diaries this Monday, but we could meet the journalists only on Wednesday because of a city strike. We have justifiably been feeling that there would be many challenges in reconnecting with the young journalists after the long break for their examinations. About six people out of twelve were present. Some of them have changed home and moved away, some have become involved in some projects that take up a lot of their time. Still, they promised to be there for Kalam in the next session next Monday. 

In this session, they worked at getting comfortable with using their new email ids. Most of them have not handled computers and keyboards before, so this will take a lot of time and practice. Additionally, there is a language barrier in using the English interface. However, each of them logged in to their personal account using their passwords, and sent a basic email to the rest of the group.They typed in Bangla, using English alphabets.  We have decided to take it slow, and provide a space for steady practice. Though it is important to learn to type and blog in the vernacular, as Swati, one of our friends from Asha for Education pointed out, this kind of typing Bangla words using English letters has the potential of reaching across to a wider cross section of people, people who can speak and understand Bangla but do not recognize the alphabets.

We also had a conversation with the youth about what they would really like to research and write about next, after such a long break. Many of them showed interest in writing about the footpaths in their para, the footpath dwellers, the tiny food stalls on the footpaths. We’ll work on this subject shortly; sounds like it can be really interesting.