At the end of last week we followed up on our initial meetings with the parents, when we had introduced the project and asked some basic questions to try and better understand their economic and social situations. This time we decided to make an invitation in the form of a post card , with an image from a workshop that we held during Project Tacloban in the Philippines on the front, and text in Hindi explaining how parents could become involved with the new Kindergarten on the back. Parents’ names were written by hand in the address box and we walked about the neighbourhood delivering them by hand. It was a great chance to get to know the area better, and show our faces to the community.
The streets around the school are classified as a slum in that they are made up of narrow pedestrian alleyways, and the densely packed buildings have been informally constructed without planning permits. The area is however, gradually being developed by wealthy inhabitants and in amongst the low-rise dwellings there are brightly coloured mansions, with all sorts of decorative features, in the style Gautum Bhatia has described as Punjabi Baroque. Most of the Nanhi Dunya families live in a single room, with a large shared bed (often covered by just a large bedcover without a mattress) and a small kitchen in the corner. They tend to live in large extended families, so rooms are often arranged around a courtyard or roof terrace with grandparents and cousins etc living in adjacent rooms. The structures are very basic – no more than two stories high – usually quickly constructed out of brick with cheap mortar, and no render. The roofs tend to be round-wood timber structures with corrugated tin sheets on top, often covered in black plastic held down with bricks or stones to cover holes. The floors are usually cement or brick, with small matts – usually just hessian sacks laid out flat. In one house, belonging to Abishek’s family, there was a really nice IPS floor – cement mixed with a black pigment which makes a lovely smooth semi-glossy surface.
It was also a great chance to see some of the parents’ professions first-hand. The fruit-sellers live in a row of shacks, with their wooden carts all lined up outside, and we saw some really beautiful embroidery made by Arifa (Afjal, Fardeen and Arsalan’s mother). Many of the parents started introducing us to other people in the community, such as welders, who could help us with construction – and we came across a number of interesting techniques, including a low mud-brick wall being made by a local woman. It was a reminder get out of the studio and into the community as often as possible – there’s so much to learn from on every street corner.