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.

    Day One in Bow Bazaar: The Session

    Yesterday (Monday, November 26th 07), marked Session 1 of Neighbourhood Diaries in Bow Bazaar Neighborhood in partnership with local NGO Sanlaap.

    Venue: Bow Bazaar Highschool

    Time: Mondays, 6:00 – 8:00pm

    Participants: 15 youth residents in Bow Bazaar

    November 26th, 2007

    Session 1: Understanding Neighbourhood Stereotypes

    The Need for Neighborhood Journalism. To understand how it is important to re-write and re-tell your neighborhood’s narrative.

    Activity: Understanding Assumptions and Hegemonic Narratives (30 minutes)

    1. Divide the group in two groups. Give each group an, unlabelled photograph and ask them to collectively write a description of the image. Create a story behind the place – where is it, what happens there? What type of people live there? (10-15 min)

    What are their 1st impressions?
    What is happening in the picture?
    What do these aspects of the picture tell us about the locality?
    When people pass the place, what ideas do they form about it?

    The two images are of New York city (an image of a socio-economicallydisadvantaged neighborhood) and Kolkata (a socially and economically upward) neighborhood.

    2. Each group should read aloud their description and share their thought process behind their caption/description. (15 mins)
    (Make a note of the exploratory questions that bring out better answers. As a facilitator, what are good questions to ask? Good eye contact, speak slowly and clearly)

    3. Facilitators should then share the real facts of the images. Discuss at length the difference between the young people’s imagined stories and the real stories. How was our imagination informed? Where do we get certain ideas from about places, spaces, and people?

    4. Discuss the phenomena of assumptions and stereotyping. How thought gets stuck at particular places. We do not ask, do not think of asking whether there is anything beneath the obvious assumptions about the place.


    Your Neighborhood: Discussion and Activity on Stereotypes (30 minutes)

    From a bigger scale let us now come down to our own paras/neighborhoods.
    Just like we’ve realized the false/fragmented/skewed stories around different neighborhoods, how do you think other people think or imagine your personal neighborhood? What are the stereotypes surrounding your neighborhood?
    Our thoughts often get stuck around some obvious things we see around, or some particular things that repeatedly surface on TV or in New York has highrises, this is true, but this is only one truth about New York. There are several other truths that we do not get to know. When a journalist comes to your para, what are the particular things he wants to cover/research more?

    Collage Activity
    Create a collective collage of images, sounds, words, smells about how the common person may interpret our neighborhood. Draw, Write, Cut and Paste.

    What are the common assumptions surrounding our neighborhood? Talk and explain in images. What is missing in this collage? What Truths are being circulated? What Truths are beings silenced and ignored? What stories aren’t being told? If we knew more untold stories, what would that do? How would that change perceptions?

    Conclusion: Explaining the Project, Neighbourhood Diaries
    This is how the outsider sees Bow Bazaar . Do you think it is important to tell the stories of this neighborhood as an insider and resident? What are the ways in which you, an insider, see Bow Bazaar? We believe the best sources of knowledge are your minds, your eyes, your words. The best expert to tell neighborhood stories is you. In the coming 15 weeks we shall try to search and find out what the inside stories of Boubazar look like. And you will find out, not us. In this workshop you will work as a Neighborhood Journalist telling the story of your lanes, you homes, your neighbors.

    Writing Activity
    Can you tell us a story about your neighborhood, which only you know? It can be a moment only, or an incident you are not likely to forget. Have the participants write and share their story? After listening to the story, explore how it gives a new life, new dimensions to understanding their neighborhood — and thus how this story needs to be told?

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