The Journalists on Fashion

Fashion

 

1. Hold a Discussion on:

— What do you understand by fashion?

— Is fashion innate or is it something in which we follow others?

— Is it to do only with models/film stars, or do you think every human being can have a sense of fashion?

— Community sense of fashion- bandwallah, coolie—this kind of fashion helps us understand who they are

— Rahul’s keeping long hair—was it anything to do with his life journeys at the moment? Eg. Playing in a band? Writing poetry?

  • Fashion as expressive of self, character
  • Fashion as it has evolved over the years eg In the movie Om shanti Om, the use of tight chooridars, men’s flared trousers, sideburns etc to evoke a bygone age.

Was fashion a movement?

Salman spoke about how fashion for him meant good clothes and walking on the ramp.

 

The participants spoke about torn pants, stylish clothes, black bangles and long hair, which were the stereotypes of fashion.

 

Tulu felt poor people “do” a lot of fashion these days (wear fancy clothes).

 

The difference between fashion and uniforms were discussed. Were the coolies of Sealdah and their dress code an uniform? Salman thought it was an identity.

 

Rahul’s long hair: was it a statement of some kind? Rahul said he was with a band and it was important that he had the look of a band member which meant long hair and black bangls and the other stereotypes. Got scolded by his family and led to a lot of flak from his peers. He finally cut it off and surprised everyone.

 

So who were the people who did this fashion or were fashionable?

 

The participants felt fashion was limited to models, media personalities, celebrities and dancers.

 

Was fashion only for some people?

 

We learn from fashion–this was the general opinion. When asked if we can create our own fashion, Rahul pointed out that our views of fashion come from watching celebrities and if we tried something on our own we would be laughed at. Only when we see the other celebs doing that do we accept it as fashion. Jyotsna on the other hand thought we create our own fashion.

 

Fashionable clothes make on feel good about oneself. Sometime we gauge a person’s character simply by seeing what he or she is wearing.

 

Fashion depends on trends, media, weather, geographical location and time.

The participants were next asked to write an assignment taking stereotypical images and people and writing about fashion as seen in their para.

 

 

NB: They said, they are only taking interviews. When would they be interviewed in turn?

 

What some of them came up with:

 

Tulu

 

Fashion can mean a lot of things, like hair, clothes, shoes, accessories like watches and glasses. Fashion used to be the prerogative of the rich, nowadays I see the poor beggars also with a sense of fashion. Everyone likes fashion, it is part of the desire to look good. Some people dress up according to their own tastes, some copy others. I had heard that girls were more fashion-conscious, then I saw boys do the same, nowadays even the “chhakkas” (eunuchs) ‘do’ a lot of fashion.

 

Pinky

 

Her name is Kajol Adhikary. Kajol is dark-skinned, plump and tall, 18 years old. Kajol is like herself, she doesn’t resemble anyone else in the family.

Kajol wears a red nighty every afternoon when she is at home. She likes to dress up others but doesn’t like dressing up herself. In the evening she wears a churidar, ties her hair into a bun and wears earrings. Otherwise when she goes out formally she likes putting on big earrings, a small bindi, a small locket, and keeps her hair open. When she goes out, she doesn’t like to have anything other than Rs.3 worth fuchkas, Rs.2 worth ghughni and walks home crunching peanuts worth Re.1/-. Kajol doesn’t like going to her native place in the villages; but she likes the soil there. There she gets to take baths in the pond, whereas here in the city she uses up four buckets of water every time. Here she has to set the alarm to wake up, there the cock crowing in the early morning wakes her up. She has studied upto class 6. She doesn’t want to study any more, nor can her parents afford to send her to school anymore since her father is blind and her mother is a domestic help.

 

 

Day 13: Fashion

Day12

26 May 2008

6-8 pm

Bowbazar

Fashion

 

1. Hold a Discussion on:

 

— What do you understand by fashion?

— Is fashion innate or is it something in which we follow others?

— Is it to do only with models/film stars, or do you think every human being can have a sense of fashion?

— Community sense of fashion- bandwallah, coolie—this kind of fashion helps us understand who they are

— Rahul’s keeping long hair—was it anything to do with his life journeys at the moment? Eg. Playing in a band? Writing poetry?

 

  • Fashion as expressive of self, character
  • Fashion as it has evolved over the years eg In the movie Om shanti Om, the use of tight chooridars, men’s flared trousers, sideburns etc to evoke a bygone age.

 

2. List the different kinds of people in bowbazaar—

Gold sellers

Sex workers

Police

Bandwallahs

Medical persons (doctor, nurse, ayah)

College goers

Hotelwallahs

Rickshaw wallahs

Street food sellers

Office goers

Goondas

 

From the above, choose 3 categories—

 

— What are their stereotypical images?

— What are they in reality?

 

Research people whose dress sense you find is very much expressive of their selves, be it raditional or modern, but very distinctive/eye catching. It may be staid or very whacky or very aesthetically pleasing.

 

 

Street Food narratives

Street food

 

Pinky

 

Robinda sells fries (telebhaja). He used to live in Bihar. He came to Kolkata with his father. He learnt to make telebhaja from his uncle. Two boys help him out; in his absence they make the brinjal fries and potato chops. When Robinda asks me how his food tastes, I opine that the brinjal fries are not that good, but the chops have come out very well. Robinda does not mind; he says that he has made the chops while the brinjal fries have probably been made by his helpers. He has two sons and one daughter who live in his native home in the village. His earnings are sufficient for him to run his household expenses. Robinda is willing to teach the ropes of his trade to a person who is starting out.

 

Tulu

(Interviewee talks in the first person here)

My name is Paresh Shau. I hail from Bihar. I am running this stall for the last 4 years. Learnt how to manage this business from my dad. On coming to the city, dad had not found any other work, so he started a tea stall. After his passing away, I have inherited this. Through practice, I have gained expertise in the art of making tea. The “speciality” of the tea leaves that I use makes my tea special.

(When Tulu asked Paresh what advice he has for a person who is new in the business, Paresh probably did not get the question, since he replied with just a “thank you”).

 

Robi

 

The owner of the teashop during the interview recalled how the first time he made tea, the tea leaves were too much, making it bitter. Gradually he learnt to perfect the art. He also sells biscuits.

 

Jyotsna

 

She interviewed Sanjoy Das who runs a chowmein shop. He has been in this business for 10 years. Started off as a cleaner in another place. After learning all that he had to, he opened his own little street food joint.

 

Rahul

 

Interviewed Biswanath, a Kachori seller who sells kachoris near Sealdah station. Learnt it from his older brother. He left after marriage from when he had to do everything on his own. His speciality are kachoris made from cholar daal which have a reddish tinge and an unique flavour and customers like that.

 

 

Footpath stories

Footpath stories

So many people live on the margins of society.

 

Some leave their distant village huts and come to the cities to make their fortune. They land up as daily labourers, bringing in less than the bare minimum. Not being able to afford a sleeping berth, let alone a room in the city, they end up on footpaths. Children from extreme poverty-stricken backgrounds, often single-parent, run away from home. They start living a high-risk life on the streets and city footpaths, often doing heavy manual labour for one insuffiicient meal a day. Old people, abandoned by their family, also land up on the streets. Having no energy for work, they lie in street corners, huddled up in tattered clothes or a kantha, with their worldly possessions in a small bundle, and beg.

How do the lives of these different people look like? How do they really get by from day to day? What hope, if any, do they have, that motivates them each day to get up and live another day? What are the struggles of life on the footpaths? How do they cope with the extremes of different seasons? They live on the seamy side of life, certainly, with diseased bodies, sores, malnutrition, stinking, open drains, flies and garbage heaps all around, literally walked over by busy heels all day, lathi charged at by the police in their city-cleaning sprees. In the monsoons when the Ganga river rises and floods, the adjoining slums are submerged in dirty-germ-infested water. There is no end to these problems. But despite All these, is there any element of beauty in their lives also?

The journalists decided to find out the footpath stories in their own neighbourhoods. Coming from marginalized backgrounds themselves, yet not deprived to this extreme, they are both insiders and outsiders in the situation. What follows are their first-hand accounts and perceptions.

Rahul told us that writing about footpath dwellers was his idea, as he wanted to do something about the plight of these people. There is no future for these people. He interviewed someone called Kangalima who is 70 years old. She started as a maidservant and had a house to live in at one point of time. Her husband took to drinking and this led to loss of money and finally she had to give up home, come out and live in the streets. People keep asking her to die. Her son Bhola who drives a van sometimes bears her expenses, sometimes not.

 

Tania

 

Nobody wants to leave their homes and live on the footpaths. But some lack or deficiency pushes him/her to make the footpath a home. Debi Shau lives on the footpath, eats and sleeps there. She is about 50-60 years old, an oldish lady. She sells vegetables in Koley Market. Things like ginger, garlic, onion, chillies, greens. The money she gets from selling these is her only means of livelihood. The footpath is her home as of now.

She doesn’t have any relatives in the world. Even if some of them exist, nobody knows where they are. No one has looked for her whereabouts in all these years. She had a distant uncle but even he has passed away. There is no specific place which she occupies every day to sell her vegetables. She sits down wherever she manages to make space. To get a specific place everyday, she would need to pay, which she can’t afford from her meager earnings.

Everyday she worries about her sales. If sales doesn’t happen properly, what will a daily wage-earner like her eat? Often she cannot afford two meals a day, making do with one. Like this, she fights for a living every day. She knows she will have to go on facing the challenges of living out in the open in different seasons like summer, winter and the rains.

In the rains, the pavements are often swept away by water, causing her a lot of problems. Apart from this, people are always walking on the footpaths. She has to live with them walking all over her space. But she is compelled.

Jyotsna

A woman called Bhabani lives on the footpath of Bowbazar’s Raja Rammohon Ray Sarani with her mother and her son. They have accepted their lot, living with the vagaries of nature. I think that footpath dwellers live a very painful life. In summer, esp. in the afternoons, the scalding sun heats up the footpath. The nights offer a little comfort. In winter the whole day and night are spent shivering with cold in the open streets. The rainy season is very difficult. You can neither sit, nor lie down, nor eat. Apart from this, footpath dwellers who are daily wage earners have to go out and work hard in storms and bad weather, exposing themselves to the harsh conditions of nature. There is no place to sleep. Some people who have trolley-like vans make these double up as beds in the night. They sleep on these after laying down a plastic sheet on top. There are many other insoluble problems. Often out of the blue, police cars come to dismantle them from their pavement homes. Then they try to hide their possessions as best as they can to prevent them from being confiscated by the police. If once they are taken away, you need to pay money to retrieve them. Some people living on the footpaths in cities often have dwellings in their villages. Those who don’t have these faraway village homes literally have no place to go to.

(Jyotsna spoke about how we see things only from a distance but when taking the interview she actually got to hear the truth and see it for herself)

Tulu

My name is Simanto Das. Earlier I used to stay in Jongeepur. There I had a grocery store. I had an earthen two-storey house and the shop was in the ground floor. I did not lack anything.

 

One day a flood happened and swept away both my home and my shop in its wake. Myself, my wife and son survived somehow but lost our house and shop. We came to Kolkata then. I had thought of sending my son to a good school but that didn’t happen. I did not have money so I sent my son to work in a big hotel. When we first came to this city, they were asking for very steep rates for rooms, so we couldn’t get one, but had to take shelter in the footpaths. I run my household from my earnings, driving a van. I have been here for the last three years. My son married a year back and moved away. We had been three, now we are two.

I had never thought that life would take such a turn. We face so many problems living here, but still we are forced to. We have no place to stay except the footpaths.

 

Robi Mandal

 

Footpath dwellers live in a lot of problems since they have no other place to stay, no shelter, their lives are like the stray dogs on the streets. During storms, they look for shelter in different places just like the street dogs. Most of them live from hand to mouth. Some beg, some steal. They can die from accidents any day, since a lot of big vehicles run on the streets and if accidentally any of them sidesteps up on the pavements, they can run over the pavement-dwellers. If these people fall ill, they have no money for treatment, nor do they receive help from anyone. Their past, present and future – all are dark. They have never been able to stand on their own feet and get settled in life. Boys living on footpaths often do lot of addictions which are very harmful for their health.

 

Pinky

 

People living on footpaths are truly in a lot of trouble. Little children die from starvation. They sit in the blazing heat on the footpaths day after day, getting kicked by pedestrians while begging or just due to careless walking. Some people die from overexposure to the sun. In this terrible heat, they beg on the pitch-covered roads. They don’t have shoes to protect their feet. Even if they have clothes, they are torn. Their life is like death. In the rainy season, they have to spend their time drenched. Under such circumstances, neither can the sit nor can they lie down. Due to some government schools coming up, some kids can now go to school. They come back to their footpath homes, drenched. Due to such reasons, they incur a lot of diseases, which often cause deaths. In the winter they lie under cloudy skies and cold gusts, on the open footpaths. Helpless children go to school barefeet, without warm clothes. Still in the face of many problems, they try to eke out livings by opening small stalls selling chowmein, fries or chapatti-tarka. How many people think about the challenges that these people face? We would know only if we had lived on the footpaths ourselves.

 

 

 

 

Day 12: Street food survey

 

Day12

19 May 2008

6-8 pm

Bowbazar

Bowbazar’s street food is mouth watering and very affordable. Many a time, before or after our sessions, myself and Bina have stopped at the yellow bulb-lit little stalls, and gorged on kulcha roti and paneer for as little as Rs. 8/-, masala muri (with achhar, peanuts, coriander, with one big slice of coconut) for Rs.3/-, gur-badaam (Peanuts rolled in jaggery), hot tawa-baked papad (especially wonderful during wintry evenings), and onion omelettes. As we mentioned earlier, we are working at trying to reconnect with the group which has dispersed at many levels, and this week we thought that writing on street food would be a fun assignment for them.

When the facilitators reached, there was a power cut. At first there were only Tania, Rahul, Robi and Tapos. Later Salman and Tulu joined us. We discussed what we wanted to do today in the open verandah just outside the session room. There was another magnificent norwester brewing, so the journalists decided to keep the assignment short for today ( at the level of appetizers) and do it again properly in the interim, before we again met next Monday. Under a reddish stormy sky with the dust blowing into their faces, things getting blown away and being carried along the old streets of Bowbazar by the wind in its wake, the intrepid six chose their favorite foods. Each was given Rs. 10/- to taste whatever they wanted. Rahul wanted chowmein but, unable to make his way to it, settled for kachori (fried chapatti like things with a stuffing of spicy pulses). Robi wanted to invest his allowance wholly on tea. We are excited about next week when we get to see what they’ve written.

The Assignment:

Approach a roadside street food seller of your choice and taste any item that you fancy. While eating, focus your 5 senses on

  • The Location (as precise terms as possible, directions to this place, atmosphere, sights, sounds etc. at this place)
  • The street food seller ( How he/she looks/talks, oddities of appearance and behaviour)
  • The food itself (how it looks like/smells/feels/ tastes/sounds like)

Interviewing the street food seller:

Name?

Home?

What are the items that you make?

Why did you become a seller of fuchka/jhaalmuri/tarka ruti?

Who taught you to make these?

What were your challenges as you started out?

Why do you think street food always tastes better than home-cooked food?

What s the secret behind your tasty cooking?

What advice do you have for someone just starting out as a street food seller?

  

Accidental death of child in Bowbazaar

This week’s Para Diaries had to be cancelled because of the accidental death of 9 year-old Sonu in Bowbazaar. Sonu used to be a regular at one of Sanlaap’s centres in Bowbazaar. He lost his life when he fell down from a mango tree where he’d been picking fruit. He was accompanied by three boys of around his age. In the fall when he cracked his head and started losing a lot of blood, his young friends rushed him to the Medical College Hospital near Central metro station. The Emergency department refused to admit him, as by then, hopes of him surviving was already low. People from his home and from Sanlaap rushed him to a Khidderpore hospital, where he passed away in the middle of the night (Sunday).

I came to know this from Rahul, one of our para journalists. Rahul and Apurbo had been  among the ones accompanying the body to the cremation ground. 

Rahul had a personal relationship with the boy. Often, as he would come out of home and step onto the para lanes, Sonu would come jumping, asking the older dada to give him a Rupee or two, or hang on to him to buy him marbles…

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.

Session 9: The journalists, on being journalists

Date: February 4

Time: 6:00 – 8:00pm
Venue: Bow Bazaar Highschool

In session 9, the journalists did not seem very keen on doing the action project any more. They said they were finding it difficult to meet and work as a group, since they stayed in different places within the broad locality, and it was difficult to co-ordinate time. Besides they seemed to feel that the para problem chosen by them was too big for them to create any appreciable difference. Thus, what had seemed to be an exciting proposition fell a little flat.

Since this was to be our last meeting before the 1st week of April, when their examinations would get over, we decided not to start anything new. We however, did some interviews with the journalists, on their experience so far with Para Diaries.

Journalists talk on Being Journalists

Robi’s interview
My name is Robi Mondol. How Para Journalism has helped me is this –I have learnt how to fearlessly approach people and talk to them. Earlier I used to be scared, how they would react, what they would say.

So, would you say that your self-confidence has increased?

Yes.

Another thing that I liked – when I went to Jyotsna di’s house, I liked their family. Her sister treated me as her own brother . That felt good, forming such relationships with people. I liked roaming around with Bina di in the Bowbazar area. The day we went to do the “Bowbazar landmark” assignment, I had gone with Bina di to the Shiv mandir. I enjoyed that.

But you already knew the Shiv mandir. It was in your para already. So what was different about this trip?
No, it is in the larger Bowbazar area, not exactly in what I used to define as para. Through this work I have got to know my day, when myself and Rahul had taken you and Bina di through all those short cuts , via the dark alleys, to College Street, that had also felt good. You did not know the way, we are insiders, we took you there through lanes familiar to us. You got to see new ways of reaching College Street in the process. This was good.

Jyotsna’s interview

In the process of being a para journalist, I’ve got to know people. I have understood better how to interact with different Earlier I used to shout and talk while talking to people. But since the time I joined Sanlaap and these sessions facilitated by Kalam, this changed on its own. Now I speak softly with people.

I would have never guessed that you ever talked loudly to people ! I always found you quiet and peaceful.

But I used to…Nowadays, I speak softly, so that people do not misunderstand me, don’t think I am bad. This is the result of having interacted with a lot of people lately.

Among the assignments that you did, which ones did you like and which did you not enjoy?

What I liked was doing the Landmark assignment. The garbage assignment—I didn’t much like. I was scared of how people would react to what I was doing.

Earlier you were Jyotsna, now you are Jyotsna, para journalist as well. How do you feel with your newfound identity?
Ever since my parents have heard that I am doing these reporting assignments, they’ve been ever so proud. They have said, we never dreamed you would do something like this one day. You will go far.

Do you like writing?

Yes.

Did you write even before para journalism happened?
Yes, but now I write much more than I used to. Moreover, my handwriting has improved.

Did you try to improve your handwriting consciously, so that others would be able to read it more easily?
Yes.

I would like to say here…that I never thought myself, that I would one day be a journalist. It is a big thing for me. How time changes people! I promise to put in my best effort. Earlier I used to have negative assumptions about reporting work. Now after doing it myself, I feel it is good work. How would people get to know what is happening in a particular poor locality, without coverage? To whom would the poor people confide otherwise? It makes them feel light, to ba able to tell their story. Then the journalists make arrangements for publishing the stories of their lives. Many people thus get to know, and this is the way change can happen.

Mintu’s interview

After the first session I was absent for quite a few sessions of Para Diaries. However I made it a point to ask my friends what they had been doing in the meantime, what I had missed.

Why did you miss the sessions?
I had problems at home. My dad was away and I had responsibilities.

How does it feel like to be a Para Journalist?

I am enjoying the work. I am becoming more aware. Earlier I used to be more reactive. Now I try to understand people more. I feel that I would be able my para famous through my writings. I earlier used to think journalistic work wasn’t so good, now I think otherwise.

Apurbo’s interview

I live in a red light locality. People are used to thinking only bad things about our para, this has given us a chance to tell them about the good things here as well. I faced some problems in interviewing the people in the para, however, people like sex workers. Since they see us everyday, they don’t give is that kind of space to ask them questions.

Would this have been easier for an outsider?
Yes. Maybe. Since we live in the same para, we have a different kind of relationship with them. We don’t usually exchange words. We don’t talk, they don’t either. Since we go to school, do our studies, etc., maybe they feel we are “good” boys, they keep their distance. They are accustomed to talking about their business, their dhanda, using bad language. These things they don’t usually do in front of us. If we are seen talking to them, other para residents may also think something bad. That is the problem.

Has this problem lessened after becoming para journalists?
Not really. How many people in the para actually know about us being journalists?

When you go out and talk, take interviews, do you feel these barriers lessening at all?
Well, as I said, how many para insiders know that we are journalists?

But when we are doing interviews/assignments, aren’t we introducing ourselves as such?
Yes, we are. But only to the specific people concerned. Not to the para at large. Again, another problem. When we did that assignment of interviewing the para goonda with a good heart, there was a problem. There are different political groups in the para. If I talk to someone from a particular group, people will not see whether I am doing journalist’s assignment or not. They will think I am associating myself with that party. There are problems such as these.

Well, how do you feel about the experience of being a journalist, generally?
I feel good about trying to work for change within the para, change for the better. I now have a network with me, working together.

Pinky’s interview
It was an eye opening experience. For instance, I had thought that Tulu da comes from a comfortably off family. But during the second assignment (my friend’s house), when I went to cover his house, I realized that they have a lot of struggle in their lives. The home is small, very small. I came to know of his reality, and could tell others too, that things don’t always look their reality. Again, during the “para livelihoods” assignment, when I was talking to a domestic help, I realized that people often ignore them as such – nobody asks what makes them take on such work, what are the problems of their lives etc. As a journalist, I could make their stories known. Same for wine sellers. Why have they taken on such jobs? Nowadays I feel that, looking from outside, you cannot know the reality of a person, whether she is good/bad. You have to know their stories. You have to excavate deeper, to know?

Supriya’s interview

Have there been any changes inside after becoming a para journalist?
Yes. I am learning to think on my own, on my feet. When I am doing these writing assignments, I am not taking others’ help. I am being able to come up with new ideas on the spot. Earlier I used to forget things very quickly.

So, would you say that your memory has increased?

Yes.

Why?
My memory has increased, since nowadays it is doing so much work. When I am on an assignment, I am actually observing people, places and situations minutely.

Anjali’s Interview
Para Diaries has been a completely new kind of experience for me. I had never attended a journalism workshop before this. I felt very excited about taking on different assignments! I wondered how it would go, what the outcomes would be. There were positive as well as negative sides to it. Going to my friend Tapas’ house and doing a story on it was less challenging since these people knew me. They asked me why I was doing this and I could explain satisfactorily to them. However, during the para livelihoods assignment, I chose to interview a prostitute. There I faced problems. They were especially resistant towards me taking photos. Still I convinced them somewhat. Many people there had lots of doubts and questions regarding my intentions. It was difficult to convince them.

How does it feel to see your name, your writing in print for the first time?
I saw Rahulda’s story on me, and my story on Tapas posted on the blog. The thought that so many people would be able to read and know about us feels really good.

Have there been any changes in you because of this experience?
Yes. Earlier I was not too keen on writing, nowadays the flow has come. Moreover, earlier I was not acquainted with people living in red light areas. Now, during the course of my journalistic assignments, having gone to their homes and talked to them, I feel they can be good people like you and me, not necessarily bad because of the “redlight area” tag.

Tania’s interview
As a para journalist, I want to make my para clean of garbage, and good, so that an outsider on entering the neighbourhood gets peaceful vibes. During interviews, I got to know people better, their reasons for doing what they are doing, not to judge them at once.

Any changes inside you?
I view people from a less judgmental perspective now.

Puja’s interview

What did you like about Para Diaries?
I found people quite compliant. In the “para people types” assignment, I had interviewed a “lecturebaaj”. I liked the way she cooperated with me. I told her that when this interview comes out in print I would show her.

What did you not like about Para Diaries?

The idea of working as a team to solve a para problem did not work out. I did not like this. We needed to understand each other and the problems at home better.

Any changes in you?
Earlier I was scared of approaching people and talking to them. I wondered how to talk to them, what I would say. Now I have learnt how to interact with people. I have developed more courage. Without Para Diaries maybe this would not have happened. People at home have usually been restrictive about my going out but in case of Kalam’s workshop, they have cooperated. Through their allowing me to do these workshops with you, I have got the freedom to go out on my own and know my para more.

Tapas’ interview

Did you learn anything new in Para Diaries?
I learnt how to take interviews, how to talk to different kinds of people, be it a para goonda or my friend’s family. I learnt how to take photographs too. These were all new things for me. They feel good.

Earlier I used to speak very less. Barely was my voice heard. Post Para Diaries I am more okay with the idea of talking to different kinds of people.

Happenings of Week 8

In the last session, we thought that since the young journalists had already done quite a bit of writing, whether they would like to be involved in an action project. With this in mind, we asked them, does a journalist only write? Or can he/she also do something concrete, proactively, to change things? They seemed quite enthusiastic.

In session 8, of the two groups of journalists, each was to share their research on a para problem chosen by them. They were asked to include these aspects:

  • Details of the Problem/Issue
  • Challenges they anticipate
  • People in the para who might help them; possibly approaching the para beneficiaries they talked to before thereby involving them in the growth of the para.
  • Possible solutions to either solve/lessen the problem
  • What methods they might use – eg. Poster exhibition, awareness meetings, writing letters to Newspapers/the Corporation.

Developments from the Session

Para Issue/Problem 1: Digging up of roads, garbage
Taken on by Jyotsna, Apurbo, Surojit, Pinky, Mintu

Solutions roughly brainstormed – Legal, written appeal to officers high-up in the Corporation

Para Issue/Problem 2: Problem with rented homes
Taken on by Rahul, Salman, Robi, Tania, Anjali, Tapos, Puja

This problem is complex and many layered. The issues often differ from one journalist to the other. Eg. Rahul’s problem is that people who live on the second floor in their rented home can afford higher rent, whereas Rahul’s family, on the first floor, cannot. Apurbo suggested that Rahul, in order to get their cooperation, needed to evoke their pity and sympathy. He needed to approach the bariwallah with the group of tenants all agreeing on lowered rent. Bina said that yes, that was why we needed to approach the problem as a group. We can either think there is no solution possible or we can think of giving it a good try.

According to Anjali, since each person had different kinds of problems with their rented homes, they found it difficult to work as a group. Apurbo said he hadn’t done the assignment since the group was supposed to do it together and no one took initiative. Many agreed that the group could not come together and work since they live at different places, rendering it difficult to synchronize free time.

Jyotsna and Pinky, however, had done their assignments individually. This is what they say.


Jyotsna’s assignment: Garbage and Broken Roads

1. Garbage
Do you know what the problem is in the area of Bowbazar where I live? It is filled with garbage. From childhood I have been seeing this. It is the same even now. Here the residents throw around vegetable peel, egg shells, paper, plastic, etc. If the plastic gets caught in the mouths of drain pipes, they might get choked. Apart from this, people tread on the dog shit lying around and make the galis dirty. This is how an unhygienic garbage-filled atmosphere has been created. There may be solutions but people don’t seem to bother. They only try to keep their own homes clean, not thinking of the larger environment. The solutions might be people keeping a garbage bin in front of their homes, to throw daily waste in. When the Corporation van comes in the morning, it can take away the garbage. The problem is that the latter does not come in time every day. If such be the case, people need to present themselves at the Corporation office and complain.

If this does not work out, a complaint can be lodged with the Councillor. If this also falls on deaf ears, there is no other option but to be aware ourselves and pitch in personally to keep the surroundings clean. People can stick posters in different places to increase general awareness about the issue.

Who ignore the problem?
The majority of people in the para ignore the problem. No one listens and end up dirtying the surroundings more.

2. Broken Roads
In our para, the KMC people break up roads to put pipes in or to build the road anew. But after the job is finished, they don’t clean/mend the broken roads. When it is dark, elderly people/children are in danger of tripping and falling on these roads. People find it difficult to move about. Many people have landed up at the KMC and complained, but no one has come to address the problem. It was only when a group of people sent them a letter signed by the Councillor, they came and mended the road.

Pinky’s assignment: Coming Shortly

Follow Up Assignment for All Journalists:
To create an action plan about how each group plans to address the problem they have researched. Make a list of the ways in which Kalam might assist them in carrying out this plan, eg. Supporting with materials, use of camera/voice recorder etc. Bina explanation of a 3 fold structure:

  1. Problem and action plan
  2. How to solve/medium of solution
  3. List of materials and the help they will need from Kalam.

Para Issue/Problem 1
Digging up of roads, garbage (Jyotsna, Apurbo, Surojit, Pinky, Mintu)

  • Posters in different houses/street
  • Garbage bins for pedestrians
  • Household garbage to be disposed off in household bins and should be taken off by the Corporation
  • Community awareness programme – music, theatre, presence of Councillor
  • Writing a letter to the press to invite them to this programme/sending out invitation cardsHelp in drafting letter


Para Issue/Problem 2
Problems with Rented Homes (Rahul, Salman, Robi, Tania, Anjali, Tapos, Puja)

  • Awareness programme
  • Posters
  • Letter to KMC
  • Meeting with community to gather solidarity, then meeting with landlord
  • Media to be used
  • Street theatre Role Play (in 4 paras)
  • Meeting in Community club/somebody’s rooftop

Materials needed: Blank posters, Colours, Pens, A4 papers, Envelope, Ideas

From Kalam support needed in Money, Painting, and Ideas.

The next session (Session 9) they have been asked to come up with:

Project budget
Timeline
Division of responsibility