Day 12: Street food survey



19 May 2008

6-8 pm


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:



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?


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.

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.

Session 9 Postponed

Session 9 of Neighbourhood Diaries, supposed to happen on January 28th, was postponed to February 4th. This was because Rahul, Anjali and a couple of more journalists had some urgent work and notified us that they would be unable to attend on the 28th. Since they have been very regular and involved with this work, we decided to reschedule it to next week.

Power Cut: Session Seven Rescheduled

Date: December 7, 2008
Time: 6:00 – 6:15pm

Today's session was postponed to next week. As Bina and I got fifteen minutes into the session there was a powercut, rendering it impossible to continue. We were in the process of listening to the journalists’ writeups on their chosen livelihoods in the para. We decided to reschedule it from the 7th to the 14th of the month.

Until then.

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.

Monsoon Progress

This monsoon has been marked with achievements and challenges as we begin the groundwork for Neighbourhood Diaries. We’ve spent the last two months (August and September) setting up the infrastructure for ND – from staff, to partners, to neighborhoods.

It took us quite some time to select the right team of educators for Neighborhood Diaries. August and September were spent looking at applications and facilitating interviews. After meeting many individuals – we are privileged to have Urbi Bhadhuri and Bina Dalui. Both Urbi (a post-graduate in literature from Jadavpur University, experience in alternative education work in West Bengal and Rajasthan, and a passionate to create spaces of writing in Calcutta) and Bina (formerly a poetry workshop participant in Kalam and an activist around issues of women and child rights) are hired on as Kalam staff and will be leading Diaries as workshops begin in November.

We’ve been meeting with various local ngos and community based organizations exploring options for supporting partners and suitable neighborhoods to launch Diaries. Keeping in mind that Diaries is a pilot project we finally decided that is best to work with partners we have strong, trustworthy relationships. We are planning to work with Sanlaap and DIKSHA. Sanlaap is an anti-trafficking organization committed to ending violence against women and children. Working in West Bengal over decades now, Sanlaap has shelter homes for survivors of trafficking and community drop-in-centers for youth at risk to violence. In Sanlaap’s Bow Bazaar community drop-in-center, Kalam will begin Diaries.

The second group – DIKSHA – remains tentative for the time being. Although they are partner we would like to work with and while they are interested in the project, there are two challenges we are still negotiating: 1) the set up of a safe blog station and 2) language of instruction. DIKSHA – is a small and budding grassroots organization working with youth on identity and rights in different urban slums throughout the city. DIKSHA is keen on implementing Diaries in Khidderpore – a Hindi and Urdu speaking dominated neighborhood. Diaries therefore would be facilitated and experienced in Hindi instead of Bangla. While this is an exciting prospect for Diaries to consider (especially in terms of diversifying language and readership), it also means having greater resources and time for its implementation. The second challenge is the set up of a 24 hour safe, blog station. DIKSHA’s community drop-in-center is a rented from the greater Khiddderpore community. Conversations with DIKSHA continue to see if we can work out these crucial details to begin our work.

As the initial groundwork for Diaries takes place, we are considering an important shift in timeline. Workshops are scheduled to start post Durga Puja (Kolkata’s most famous and extravagant festival), hence, first week of November will mark our first session. However, instead of beginning work in two neighborhoods simultaneously we are considering beginning facilitating Diaries workshops simultaneously. Keeping in mind Kalam’s working capacity as a budding organization, planning for safe blog stations, and exploring options for Hindi workshop, we think it will be more effective to work with group consecutively. Through facilitating workshops consecutively we can work with greater focus on the dynamics and nuances of each particular neighborhood, and we can also evolve the challenges our first neighborhood workshop into strengths for our second neighborhood workshop.

This is where we are for the time being. The curriculum is coming to life slowly. Stay tuned for more updates by us. We plan to be around.

The old Neighbourhood of Bow Bazaar

Bow Bazaar is an old, bustling neighbourhood in Central Calcutta stretching along Bipin Behari Street to Mahatma Gandhi Road, between the city's old college district and primary train station, Sealdah. This locality is bustling with a market of jewelers, carpenters, and musical instrument craftsmen, and is also made of crooked alleys and lanes — notorious for being home to one of the city's red-light areas and famous for being city's oldest Chinatown.

This vibrant locality is the first site where Kalam will be implementing Neighbourhood Diaries. In partnership with Sanlaap, a local human rights organization, Neighborhood Diaries will begin work with 12 young resident living in the locality's red-light area starting the first week of November.

Sanlaap has been working in Bow Bazaar's redlight area for over a decade now. It established an after-school youth community center at the local Bow Bazaar High School where youth from the surrounding slums and redlight areas attend after-school academic support classes, creative art classes, other youth empowerment programs.

Neighbourhood Diaries will be setting up a studio in Bow Bazaar High School as an evening program for youth associated with Sanlaap. Presently, conversations continue with Sanlaap on youth selection, computer safety, and the mobilizations of community involvement. Thus far it has been determined that Neighbourhood Diaires will take place once a week with a group of 16-19 year olds.

With more logistics cemented in the coming week, we are eager to start workshops after Durga Puja, and see how youth journalists will give voice to Bow Bazaar.

Bringing Journalism to the Grassroots

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.