Looking Back: An Evaluation

Its been a couple of weeks since Bowbazaar's workshop's came to an end, and by the end of the month we are likely to begin a new series of neighbourhood journalism workshops in a new neighbourhood, with a new group of writers.

Before we move ahead into a new neighborhood for more story-telling and blogging, we'd like to reflect upon our experience in Bowbazaar — examining are shortcoming, challenges, strenghts, and achievements.

Para Diaires in Bowbazaar was  pilot project for Kalam.  At Kalam, while we have great experience and evolved skills in curriculum development and writing workshops, blogging is unchartered territory. And through our weeks in Bowbazaar, blogging remained as our greatest challenge.

Facilitators Bina and Urbi (creative writers and teaching artists), facilitated intriguing discussions, inquries, and texts on neighborhood among the vibrant and talented groups of writers/participant. (See previous entry for the depth of insightful discussion and writing.) This process also allowed us to create a substantive and comprehensive curriculum on Teaching Citizen Journalism to Young People in Urban India.  Although we feel great about our achievement in realm of working with young people as thinkers and writers on their neighborhood, the challenge of blogging has been difficult.

Integrating blogging as a practice among the participants of our workshop reamined a difficult tasks for many reasons. First, blogging was a new concept for faciliators Bina and Urbi.  Although we hoped to take participatory approach and create an atmosphere where faciliators and participants could learn, practice, and grow together, we soon realized that we needed Experts on board to sustain blogging into our curriculum and practice.  Further, along with minimal blogging experiences, Para Diaries Bowbazaar also was confronted by infrastructural obstacles. Although we were armed with one labtop, we struggled with glitches on Bangla software and wifi connections.  Also, most participant writers, had minimal experience with computers, making the leap to blogging all the more laborious.

Despite our weekly challenges with blogging, Bina and Urbi strived towards publishing curriculum content on the blog and sharing the stories, photographs, and narratives of the participants.  We also feel to realize our ambition of more frequent and sustained blogging, we need to work with either a group of participants who are have substantial computer experience, or we need to have a team of blogging experts who can mentor both Kalam's faciliators as well as the group fo writers/participants.

Regardless of our challenges — we feel good about our work in Bowbazaar. We mobilized a group of youth residents into the practice of critical observation, sensitive reserach, and dyanmic storytelling.  The voices are present, and the voices are Loud. Now, Kalam just needs to build its capacity to circualte these voices through more effective digital literacy not just among its writers, but among its facilitators.

And we're stretch our imagination and faciliate new ways of learing and growing.

We're Learning as Bloggers

Presently, Neighbourhood Diaires Workshops are on break, as our the Bow Bazaar youth journalists are studying for their year exams. While we've been feeling great as Educators teaching critical thinking and writing, we're still struggling with imparting digital literacy among ourselves and our fellow journalists. During this ‘break’ our staff — Urbi and Bina — will be developing and refining their blogging skills with the help of Aparna Ray from Global Voices.

By the end of March we hope to have the Neighbourhood Diaries Bangla blog up, running, and flowing. We thank you all for your patience with us. And we appreciate any support or encouragment as we grow as bloggers and blogging educators.

Diaries’ Workshops in Photographs

Here are some photographs of workshops, writing, and discussions from the first 8 weeks of Neighbourhood Diaries in Bow Bazaar. Each workshop takes place every Monday evening from 6pm to 8pm. We all gather in a classroom on the 3rd floor of the highschool. Rahul, the oldest participant, brings a colorful shataranchi, or cloth rug, for us to spread out in the room where we can sit, write, and converse.

We start off each sesion by sitting in a circle and sharing last weeks reading. Then we proceed on to the next assignment thorugh interactive activities, discussion, group games, individual and sometimes, outdoor writing. Catch a glimpse of our Monday evenings below


Group Conversations

Newspaper reading

Joystna Reads

Meet the Participants, Meet the Neighbourhood Journalists

Introducing  Bow Bazaar Neighbourhood Journalists, a vibrant group of growing teenagers with great spirit and enthusiasm. 

Jotsna Das. Age, 16. Jotsna Studies at School. During her spare time, she enjoys having conversations. One thing that everyone knows about her is that all the teachers and tutors at school adore her. One thing that nobody knows about her, is that she is in love.

Surojit Mitra. Age 16. Surojit is a student at Bow Bazaar Highschool. During his free time he loves to coreograph dances and listen to music. He is known for his laughter and his coreography in Sanlaap programmes. One thing that no one knows about him is that, once he failed an exam.

Pooja Dolui. Age, 13. Pooja is a student. She loves to sleep during her spare time. Everybody knows that Pooja loves to hang out with boys. However, nobody knows that she loves to read about History.

Pinky Lal. Age, 13. She is a Student. Pinky enjoys drawing and helping out her Ma. Everybody knows that she talks a lot. But no one knows that Pinky hopes to work and support underprivliged people when she grows older.

Tapos Das. Age, 13. Tapos is a student. During his free time, he enjoys to read and write. Everybody knows about his love for football and batball. Nobody knows that Tapos is in love with a girl.

Tulu. Age, 15. Tulu is a student. Tulu loves to play cricket from 6am-8am. And he enjoys playing football from 11am to 2pm. Everybody knows that Tulu works with is father. But no one knows that Tulu use to play brilliant football back in his village.

Tanya Mondol. Age, 14. Tanya is a student. She enjoys playing and drawing. During her spare time, Tanya like to study. And everybody knows she loves to study, but no one knows that she also loves to dance.

Robi Mondal. Age, 15. Robi doesn't work, he's a student. Robi loves to play with his brothers and friends, and he helps around the house during his free time. Everybody knows that he loved a girl at the Sanlaap drop-in-center. But no one knows that he has loved a girl (again?).

Supriya Dolui. Age, 12. Supriya is a student. She loves to play and joke around with people. Everybody knows that Supriya is everyone's friend. But no one ones that Supriya has a neighbour whose whose mother is forcing him to drop out of school and work in a chai stall.

Rahul Goswami. Age 19. Rahul studies, works, and learns to play the guitar. During his free time, he enjoys writing poetry and practising his guitar. In the dark, he thinks and worries about his family and his personal future. Rahul is well known for his handwriting and his long hair. Rahul is also known for being a quiet and serious young man. But no one knows that Rahul is afraid of swimming and riding a bicycle. Rahul hopes to be get a degree in Bangla Literature and be a journalist.

Week 3, Part II: Postcards from Bow Bazaar

During Session 3, all participants wrote a vignette on Bow Bazaar through the following activity.

Activity One: Bow Bazaar and Me Vignette
Remind everyone how we left off at writing what our neighbourhood means to us personally. Read the Poddar Nagar poem to remind the participants how we invoke our neighborhood. Now, tell them that they too will invoke their neighborhood through sensorial details.

Have everyone close their eyes and go around the room and think imagine Bow Bazaar from a personal gaze in terms of the Four Senses. Orally go over each sense. Ask each participant to share their Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch of Bow Bazaar. Go around the room with each sense, one at a time. Take time to comment (trim, refine) sensorial description. After each participant has shared their description, have them write their spoken line into their notebook in the form of a poem. On the board write the structure of the poem.

Bow Bazaar Means….
A Sound
A Sight
A Smell
A Touch

Postcards from Bow Bazaar

Bow Bazaar Maane….

Amar baarir boro raastai log-joner katha-bolar shobdo.
Moder gondho,
Bow Bajaar mane shiri-te mod kheye pore-jawar drishho,
Bow Bajaar mane amar baarir chhater pachiler thandar sporsho.

Bow Bazaar Means…

The sound of conversations from the road leading home,
The smell of alcohol,
Bow Bazaar means the sight of a fallen, drunk man on the stairs.
Bow Bazaar means feeling coolness on the rooftop of my home.

By Pooja Dolui, Age 13



Bow Bazaar Mane…

Amar baari-te jal niye jhagra,
Bow Bajaar maane amar baari theke shoja giye, sealdahr maacher ghondo.
Maane, Sealdahr bridge-ey Om Shanti – r poster.
Bow Bajaar maane, amader schooler ghar-gulor khor-khorey deowal.

Bow Bazaar Means…
At home, an argument over water.
Bow Bajaar means the smell of fish from Sealdah.
It means, a poster of Om Shanti on Sealdah bridge.
Bow Bazaar means the rough walls of our classroom.

By Salman, Age 14



Bow Bajaar Mane…

Bipin Behari Ganguly-r street-er bus, taxi-r awaj.
Bow Bajaar maane, hotel-er mangsho aur onno khawar-er gondho.
Bow Bajaar maane, bhor-belar gaache thanda guri.

Bow Bazaar Means…
The sound of bus and taxis on Bipin Behari Ganguly Street.
Bow Bazaar means, the scent of meat curry and other foods from the hotel.
Bow Bazaar means, the cold trunk of a tree at dawn.

By Tapos, Age 13


Bow Bajaar Maane….

Amar baarir neeche mudi-dokaan-e kena-becha.
Toilet-r ghondo. Bow Bajaar maane, mudi-dokaan-e khela hochhe.
Bow Bajaar, chhoto ball-er moto.

Bow Bazaar Means….
Buying and selling at the grocery shop below my home.
The smell of urine.
Bow Bazaar means, games and play at the grocery store.
Bow Bazaar is like a small ball.

By Tulu, Age 15


Bow Bajaar Maane…

Kaki-r ghar-e t.v.-te gaaner awaaj.
Bow Bajaar maane Bipin Behari Ganguly-r statue.
Ar taar pechone hotel-e Mughlai bhaajar gondho.
Bow Bajaar maane bhor-bela bot gaacher thanda ebong mosrinatar sporsho.

Bow Bazaar Means…
The sound of music on T.V. from Kaki's room.
Bow Bazaar means Bipin Behari Ganguly-r statue
And the smell of Mughlai food from the hotel behind.
Bow Bazaar means the cool and smooth touch of a banyan tree at dawn.

By Jotsna, Age 16

Week 3, Part I: The Session

December 10th, 2007

Session 3: Writers as Observers

Human Knot: Form a circle and extend your right hand into the center of the circle and grab a persons hand across from you. Now extend your left hand into the circle and randomly grab another person’s hand. Now the group must form one big (untangled) circle without letting go of any one’s hands.

Pupose: Teambuilding. Working as a Group. Building Accountability. And Trust.

Remind youth to recall their Para Maps. And one’s personal relationship with their para.

Activity One:
Bow Bazaar and Me Vignette (continued from Session 2)

Remind everyone how we left off at writing what our neighbourhood means to us personally. Read the Poddar Nagar poem to remind the participants how we invoke our neighborhood. Now, tell them that they too will invoke their neighborhood through sensorial details.

Have everyone close their eyes and go around the room and think imagine Bow Bazaar from a personal gaze in terms of the Four Senses.
• Sound
• Smell
• Sight
• Touch

Orally go over each sense. Ask each participant to share their Sight, Sound, Smell, Touch of Bow Bazaar. Go around the room with each sense, one at a time. Take time to comment (trim, refine) sensorial description. After each participant has shared their description, have them write their spoken line into their notebook in the form of a poem. On the board write the structure of the poem.

Bow Bazaar Means….
A sound
A Smell
A Sight
A Touch

Activity Two: Neighborhood Outing and Writing.
Now we will go outside as Para Journalists and write about the following:
What do you think is Bow Bazaar’s Landmark?

Keep in mind the Five Senses: Smell, Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste
Also, keep in mind you Gaze – you are Para Residents

Pass out Prompt Sheet:
1) Describe your chosen Landmark (What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What does it feel like?)
2) Why is it Bow Bazaar’s landmark for you?

Take-Home Assignment: Research your chosen landmark and write about its history. Ask friends, families, acquaintances about your chosen place and what they think about it, what they know about it, what personal/significant stories are related to it. Try to uncover any local stories, histories surrounding your chosen place.

Check Out
How was this session like? Good/bad/okay okay?
How do you feel about participating in the coming sessions? 1 word

Glimpse of Bow Bazaar Highschool

All Neighbourhood Diaires sessions are held at Bow Bazaar Highschool every Monday from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. This space is rented out by Sanlaap as an evening community center for youth. Below are photographs from our previous session (Session 2) last Monday, December 3, 2007.


Bow Bazaar Highschool at night on Bipin Behari Ganguly Street.


The entrance of the school.


In a dimly lit room on the third floor, Kalam facilitates its Diaries’ sessions.

Immersed in Writing


Surojit, a perceptive participant, writes with deep concentration.


Supriya and Pinky spend time making their Para (neighbourhood) Map.

Week Two in Bow Bazaar: The Session

December 3rd, 2007

Session Two: Personal Para

Objective: To facilitate young residents to go inside their heart and mind and investigate and express what their neighbourhood means to them personally.

Matching emotions (10 mins)

Pass out pieces of paper or note cards with emotions written on them. Some suggested emotions are: anger, fear, happy, nervous, sad, peace, embarrassed, loved, proud, shocked, hate. Two participants will have the same emotion. Ask each participant to enact the given emotion until the other participants can identify who they share an emotion with. When participant think they have found their partner, they should have a seat together. Continue until all groups are seated.
Finally have each group strike a pose of their emotion for other participant what emotion is being enacted.

Activity: Profile Form (10 mins)
Pass out profile forms in which participants will write a brief bio about themselves. This will be kept for Kalam and Neighbourhood Diaires.

The Bio form
• Name
• My age
• Where I live
• What I do
• What I love doing in my spare time
• Something about me that everyone knows
• Something about me that no one knows of

Activity One: Ground Rules for Workshop Series (20 mins)

We will be working together for 15 weeks, indoors as well as going outside into our para, talking to people, taking interviews, sometimes taking pictures and writing. We will be working as para journalists. Do you think that in order to work and learn together, we need any rules?

• Brainstorm Ground Rules (Do this on a Chart paper). Write out all the ground rules every participant comes up with.

• After all ground rules have been explored, vote on each of them as a group.

• Write all finalized rules on a new piece of Chart paper. Have all participants sign the paper.

Some Ground Rules of neighbourhood diaries should include:

  • Cell Phones Off
  • Don’t laugh at each other’s art, ideas, thoughts, stories, viewpoints etc.
  • Whenever anybody is sharing something, give full attention to him/her.
  • Be open to constructive criticism. Before saying something negative about somebody’s work, say something positive.
  • Maintain confidentiality about any personal stuff that may emerge during the session.
  • Take permission before clicking people’s photos wherever possible.
  • Do not be intrusive while interviewing people. Be sensitive.
  • Laptop and camera are strictly to be used for neighbourhood diaries only and not for personal entertainment.
  • .
    Activity Two: Para Map Making: Personal Map of Bow Bazaar and You

    Each participant will create their personal map of Bow Bazaar and them. This is very different from a regular map with street names, lines, and official landmarks. Rather, this map should represent what Bow Bazaar intimately looks like to the participant. It is a map in which each participant notes, identifies places/spaces/people/animals that carry intimate significance to them personally.

    On an A4 size piece of paper create a personal map of Bow Bazaar — mapping what is important to you. Be creative. Use words, colors, art, images, etc.

    Prompt Questions:

    • When you are feeling sad, where do you go in your neighborhood?
    • Places where you fell in love?
    • Where do you enjoy having an adda?
    • What places do you go to in your para where you feel the need to dress up?
    • Do you have any favorite pets in your para?
    • Who are important people in your para?
    • In crises, who do you go to?
    • Who do you go to for advice?
    • If you need to get things done, who do you go to
    • Who are your enemies?
    • Who are closest to your heart?
    • Who are you afraid of?
    • Somebody you are intrigued by?
    • Places in the para which make you Happy? And Make you Sad?
    • Your favorite tree in the para?
    • Favorite eating place?
    • If you have visitor, what parts of the para do you take them around to?
    • Are there some special games that you play in the para?
    • What are you favorite festivals in your para? Where do they happen?
    • What are your favorite sounds inside the para? Specific sounds at night? Specific sounds during Morning? Or afternoon?
    • One thing in your Para that you want to change? One thing in your para that you don’t want to change?

    Go around the room and share the parts they are comfortable sharing.

    BREAK (Optional)

    Activity Three: Para Vignette: Bow Bazaar Means….
    Write a vignette on what Bow Bazaar means to you personally, using the Five Senses. See below for model. This writing activity will facilitate participants to think about their neighborhood through five senses. The use of fives sense will foster participants to approach neighborhood observation and writing through sensorial consciousness. They can pick images from the Personal Para Map they have just created, and put them into words in detail.

    Bow Bazaar Means….

    A smell
    A sight
    A touch
    A sound

    Sample Poem

    Poddar Nagar Mane…

    Sagor Sweets-er goli diye, baan dike beke jawa.
    Poddar Nagar mane Meroon dorjaa wala ekta bari.
    Dutor shomoy rasta shunshaan.
    Petrol-er gondho niye ekta matador-er chole jaoa.
    Poddar Nagar mane baire railing-e dhulo joma.
    Tube-weller teto jal, time-koler mithey jaler ashshad.
    Poddar Nagar mane ghoomiye pora dusho chollish er line.
    Aashe pashé officejatrir parota alur dom khaoa.
    Poddar Nagar mane Monohara Mashir elo haathkhopa.

    Check Out
    How was this session like? Good/bad/okay okay?
    How do you feel about participating in the coming sessions? 1 word.

    (See our Next Post for Participant Profiles and Photographs as well as discussion and responses from Session 2.)

    Conversations and Discussion from Session 1, Bow Bazaar

    This Monday we started Neighbourhood Diaries in Bow Bazaar and facilitated our first session.  This introductory session guided 12 enthusiastic participants (adolscents living in Bow Bazaar) to think about stereotypes associated with neighborhoods, particularly their own neighborhood, and the multiple Truths that challenge stereotypes.

    Our first activity involved comparing two images of two neighbourhoods – a seamy-looking, abandoned urban alley in New York City and a prosperous, highrise in Kolkata.  The two groups were unaware of the actual locations of these neighborhoods and were asked to collectively imagine stories surrounding those neighbourhoods.  The first group with the picture of a Kolkata highrise accurately identfied the locality as a posh, business district of the city. However, the second group with the picture of New York alley, imagined it to be a place in Kolkata where “bad work” happens and “useless” or unemployed people hang around. Rahul, a 19 year old participant (the oldest in the group) felt this alley was a place where people would feel threatened while walking through. 

    After the two groups shared their imaginings on each neighborhood, all the participants were suprised that the urban alley was in New York City. They were certain that such a “dirty” alley would be a part of Kolkata. As Apurbo, a 18 year old talkative partcipant, exclaimed, “Kolkatar maaneei hoche, Nongra.”  “Kolkata by definition is Dirty.” 

    Through this activity – particularly the twist that came along with the revelation that glittering American cities like New York have slums and ‘dangerous’ alleys just like Kolkata does – catalyzed a discussion on how we stereotype certain places and neighbourhoods based on popular modes of knowledge like films, newspapers, and other media.  Furturemore, it reminded us how we forget to critically question the assumptions we form.

    Moving on to Bow Bazaar.

    Bina, one of the project leaders and facilitators, asked the participants – “what are common assumptions surrounding Bow Bazaar?” “If a journalist came to Bow Bazaar, what would they ask you?” Without hestitance, Apurbo responded, “Tomar ki ki ashubidhe hoi ekhane thakte?” “What problems do you face while living here?”

    The group in retrospect was amused at how “problems” were the first thing they are asked about Bow Bazaar from outsiders since they live in a red light area. 

    Other particpants shared their thoughts on what mainstream journalists cover when reporting on Bow Bazaar. “Mey-der line-e daarano.” “Women standing in the Line.” “Customers.” And, “Gold!” “Afterall, as Rahul explained, Bow Bazaar was renowned for its Gold markets. And even today, Bipin Ganguly street is lined with glittering gold shops.

    Urbi, project leader and faciliator, pointed out that thus far the group drew out two truths about Bow Bazaar that journalists would be especially interested in: redlight area and gold markets. But besides, these two, there are many more truths to Bow Bazaar which the residents as insiders know and outisders don't know.

    But as Apurbo exclaimed in response, sometimes even insiders lose and forget the inside stories, histories and intacracies of their neighbourhood. “Amrao-to bhule gechchi. “We've too have forgotten.

    The concluding activity of this introductory session involved the participants to remember the forgotton or ignored stories of their neighbourhood. The participants were asked to write a brief story/vignette of their neighbourhood known only to them.  After 15 minutes of silent thinking and writing, the group went around the circle and shared their pieces. The stories ranged from incidents of evictions of old neighbours,  adolescent love  in the back drop of a chai stall,  a girl in the neighborhood being forced into sex work, a heroic brother who pays for his sister's education and sends her back to school, and a football tournament oppurtunity to Jadavpur lost due to a leg injury.

    Stay tuned for out next post forwritings of young participants and photographs from sessions.