Sai Janani is one of the students who attended a fortnight long course in Journalism and Writing that we ran at the ‘Adyar Times’ office.
She lives in Tambaram and when she queried about this short course I asked her twice if she would want to travel the distance to attend classes held in Adyar.
She was firm on her decision and she had a plan too.
After class, Janani would hop across to her grandmom’s house closeby, refresh, have lunch, take a bus to Tambaram, scout for a news story, do the field work and get back to Adyar to her grandmom’s place to repair for the night.
It was easier to stay in Adyar and be on time for class than chase a Tambaram-Adyar bus.
If travel was tiresome, finding stories was daunting. But Janani seems to have persevered.
She wrote on a local kho kho team which has done well and is training local lads. She quizzed PWD engineers who were directing road widening work in Tambaram and she spent time at a ‘home’ for AIDS-infected women run by an NGO.
For a novice, for some one who is in school, the effort was good. And I am sure the girl, like many others who attended this course must have learnt a few new skills.
However, the course made it very apparent to me how little people seem to know of their neighbourhood.
Is it important for young people to know their environment?
I think it is.
For this knowledge, experience and understanding will stand in good stead now and in the future.
There are many avenues where you can start.
Local newspapers are surely great starting points. They provide you a variety of assignments that take you to different places and people and put you in different situations. So if you are the sort who likes to meet and talk to people and write, this is one avenue.
If you are nature or civic conscious, join the activities of a community group. One that works on the beach or protects turtles, or a group that works at a local nature reserve.
Get involved in an active association for residents of the colony where you live. A body which not only deals with issues that affect its members but also addresses issues like traffic management and security in the locality.
Not-for-profit social welfare bodies are another starting point for youngsters.
You don’t have to look beyond the neighbourhood if you really want to get involved.