A Year in India

Why I Miss India
December 21, 2008, 7:29 am
Filed under: Day to Day | Tags: , ,

After arriving in Chicago for the holidays, I got the following email from my coworker, Chandan.  A perfect reflection of my Bengaluru experience thus far:

“Hey Meer,

It’s been hard reminding and stopping myself from calling you today. I don’t know what would I be after June 09. 

Anyway today I began the Samvada work with a workshop and believe me IT WAS AMAZING AND THE BEST EVER!!!!

Seriously……… this group is actually a bunch of college girls of a corporation composite college. basically studying their 11th & 12th grades. A corporation college is maintained by the city corporation and not the regular Govt education department, but practically perhaps there’s not much difference. 

Anyway coming to the meat of my story, the girls were super vibrant and everyone of them was jumping up on her seat to be heard! A rare sight, isn’t it? They were just jumping… and then whenever I picked up someone to talk, there would be zero hesitation…absolutely. And I ran them through these statements on agree-disagree and they just loved expressing, arguing and even fighting! It was an amazing experience. And it was another day that I think I was hilarious. They were just laughing their stomach out for me and my little giggle-provokers. They loved me. I loved them. It was super atmosphere.

And the Samvada educator also liked the way it all went. And then I took your camera and began shooting. And my God! What a camera that is! The shots are so stable even without a tripod! Really.. am not kidding. Somehow the very weight of it is an advantage, since it doesn’t move that easily around. I got some great footage.. super close-ups and lovely discussions… Will show you when you are back. 

And then awwwwwwww I am missing you. Come back soon. And get ready to stay for another year.. … 😀 But seriously, I am missing you a lot. Hope you had a safe trip. Enjoy your holidays. I will keep you updated about every day. Am planning with my cousins to go around the country for a week or so.

Let me know what’s going on there. Say hi to uncle and aunty and to Priya too. 



On the News
December 15, 2008, 9:54 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, Video | Tags: ,

NDTV, a major Indian news channel, featured the Digital Equalizer (DE) program in a recent spot!  The footage was shot at Bal Mela, a festival celebrating DE.

December 10, 2008, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Day to Day | Tags: , ,

When my parents visited last month, they brought me my beloved video camera, which I broke out today with youth at a Bal Mela, a school festival celebrating the Digital Equalizer technology program.  Fun fun fun to be back behind the camera, especially with so many curious kids at my side.

On another note, as we drove home from Bal Mela, I had a real loving-India moment.  I was packed into a car with four coworkers who were all joking around in Kannada (Karnataka’s local language).  Despite the language barrier, something about their laughter was casual, genuine, and incredibly comforting.  In the midst of it all, a Kannada film song came on, and without a second’s hesitation, as if on cue, all four of them started singing along, at once connected and in their own worlds.  As I looked out the window at rural Bangalore passing me by, I realized that I’m really going to miss India during my upcoming trip back to Chicago for the holidays.

December 3, 2008, 2:58 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,

Last week, while working with youth at a high school in rural Bangalore, I noticed two boys peeking into our classroom window.  I asked one of the teachers who the boys were.  He explained that they were students who had been absent from school that morning.  During lunchtime, a few of their friends went to their village and told them that there was an Adobe Youth Voices session going on at school.  Hearing that, the boys were motivated to come join.

Exciting & rewarding to see our project having such an effect on the kids.

Faces of the Day
November 29, 2008, 4:24 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: , ,

Jyothipura Girls

Girls from Jyothipura Government School in rural Bangalore.

More new photos here.

Teacher Training Workshop
November 26, 2008, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Educators | Tags: ,
AYV educators during a photo essay workshop activity

AYV educators during a photo essay workshop activity

Though I tend to focus a lot on the Adobe Youth Voices students, a huge part of my work here revolves around AYV educators.  Each AYV site (government school or NGO) has two teachers/facilitators that I work with to run the video production program.

Last week, my coworker Chandan and I held a teacher-training workshop.  As if in reaction to my previous gripes about non-interactive learning, the workshop was largely activity-based (which is unusual in the Indian education context).

An example from the storytelling portion of the workshop: we split the 30 teachers into six groups and gave each group five puppets.  The puppets ranged from a robot to a Ganesh to a mango tree.  The educators built a story around these characters.  One teacher later told me that she had never thought to use a character as a driving force for a story.

In addition to this learning, I noticed that the participants really seemed to be having fun during these activities.  To me, the casual, humorous tone of the workshop was as important as the hard work and focus that came out of it.

This report describes the workshop in more detail.  Photos are posted here.

In The Classroom
November 19, 2008, 10:47 pm
Filed under: In the Field | Tags: ,
APSA group presentations

APSA group presentations

Now that I’m getting more settled into my life and work in Bangalore, I’ve started taking a closer look at the nature of my project.  One aspect that’s increasingly frustrating to me is the teaching style used in the schools and NGOs.  Classes often involve an educator standing in front of the youth and lecturing.

The tendency towards long lectures during Adobe Youth Voices sessions is especially ironic given that the goal of the project is to promote interactive learning.  Further, Adobe has provided us with phenomenal educational resources (lesson plans, activity guides, etc.), so we have all of the tools we need at our disposal.

I had the chance to run my first AYV session entirely on my own last Monday.  I led the slum youth from APSA in a hands-on, small-group brainstorming activity.  I’m hoping to plan and implement similar activities in the future.

I remain a bit unsettled on this front, but I’m happy to be making small steps.  How to create a more established culture of action and interaction for my project is another, larger challenge.