Sunday, June 6, 2010

Graphic Design at Mauka

Since starting our graphic design classes at Mauka we have had a lot of fun developing and then doing graphic design assignments. The fun is also in seeing the initiative take its own shape. One of our regular students Tenzing Tsewang has been quite prolific and gifted as is seen from his assignments, all done on the computer using softwares such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw.

We recently have Maulshree Garg, a design student from the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur who is interning with Studio Alaya. She is also volunteering at Mauka, teaching InDesign software to our current batch of students.

We were fortunate that we got a lot of clients supporting us officially and unofficially through small assignments in Logo design, Brochure, posters etc.
Here is a small sample of our work till date:

New Year 2010 and new developments

January was a time to reflect on the year gone by. Personally for me 2009 was a year full of new beginnings, and a lot of networking. The year had begun with building linkages with craft design and promotion agencies for my Studio Alaya craft initiative. New products, new producers and often new friends! Then the Commutiny Youth Fellowship happened to me- and I got to know so many young voices from around the country. The CYC fellowship has brought me in contact with very interesting professionals who are helping me build more clarity and confidence in myendeavors, both formally and non-formally through our interactions.

I am fortunate that I have been able to keep my engagements with Mauka and Studio Alaya active at the same time. In February 2010 I accompanied few craftspersons from District Bageshwar (with whom Studio Alaya develops handcrafted copper products) and officials from Ajeevika, an IFAD supported Govt of Uttarakhand initiative on an exposure visit to Kathmandu, Nepal. The purpose of the visit was to learn from various craft business models as well as participate in a Seminar and Handicraft Exhibition organized by the FHAN (Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal). Our itinerary included visits to Allo (Stinging Nettle) craft processing units, Wood carving enterprises, Metal ware as well as Ceramic based craft enterprises in and around Kathmandu.We also visited several retail outlets run by federations and producer cooperatives such as Dhukuti, Mahaguthi,Sana Hastkala and interacted with resource persons from ICIMOD and Fair Trade organisations in Nepal.

It was a wonderful learning journey for me and my team members. The range of crafts and the level of skill and craftsmanship evident among Nepalese craft enterprises is amazing. Combined with professional management skills, patronage from international tourists and embedded with the social mandates of Fair Trade, these craft enterprises are a force to reckon with. While the same natural resources and similar craft skills /traditions are found in our state of Uttarakhand as well,our crafts producers lack the high craftsmanship, superior quality and professional business acumen of their Nepalese counterparts.

In February- March 2010, we finally began our design-based classes. The course content include a basic curriculum on design principles, and a lot of effort went in interpreting assignments for ease of understanding. Ideas like composition, harmony, balance, rhythm, were discussed with the students and practical assignments were given out to help understand these ideas. These assignments were designed to help students develop an understanding of visual expression and

how we interpret visual imagery. We drew a lot from media such as TV and print advertisements to explain 'concepts', composition, color and content. It sometimes felt difficult to do so, as most of the terms are in English and we had to find related terms in Hindi to help share the idea better. So Harmony became 'smta'and rhythm became 'tal,ly'. It is good to have an English to Hindi Dictionary on the computers, as it helps us in finding the right match. My Hindi typing is horrible. I have to press all the keys for the correct letters and matras.

We also realized that perhaps we need to encourage local interpretation of these ideas and so we let students take inspiration from local environments. At the same time, since we wanted them to learn from other sources and from other regions, we encouraged learning of the terms/ideas in English as well. After all if one of them wants to develop this learning into a livelihood activity, they will need to be well versed with the common terms used in the industry.

Classes... and Learnings at Mauka

In the beginning of the November I went to Nagpur, Maharashtra to attend a mid term CYC event held at Futane Farms. The main agenda of this meet was focusing on 'active citizenship' and the roles and definitions on how we as an individual define the term 'active citizenship.' It was a great time for discussions and presentations and also to catch up and see each other's journeys from the last time we all met together at Jhaltola.

In November end we also started our English classes at Mauka with the first batch of students. We initially had 10 students in two batches. Most of these students are weak in basic English so we started with fundamentals of English grammar. Also, as most students want to 'speak' English, we did focused assignments with them on spoken English where they were taught basicconversational English. I have compiled the curriculum from a mix of local English text books, assignments available on the internet as well as with the help of educational material forwarded by friends such as Naveen Jhajharia. We began with running two batches, one from 4 pm to 5 pm and then from 5 pm to 6 pm. Initially we have modeled this course on a 3 month calendar. In order to inculcate a sense of responsibility, we have decided to charge a fees for Rs. 250 per person per month. Teachers include me, Richa, Rapten and Sanghamitra, a student from Woodstock who volunteered at Mauka during her winter vacations. She was voted as the best teacher by all our students!

Through November-December, the classes went on full of fun and enthusiasm, with our first batch of girl students being remarkably punctual, perceptive (curious) and participatory in the lesson delivery. They made us think through our curriculum again! We in turn are quite excited to see their initiative, and are amazed to see what effort they have put in trying to understand English/ speak in English.

English! Every word is a new challenge, and the twists and turns of grammar make our students lose their way around too often! Early on in the classroom, we realized that we have to start with the 'absolute basics', as our students struggle with basic grammar and comprehension. So we are going back to junior school grammar with our students. We are also learning that teaching English is not an easy job at all! There are just so many challenges in explaining rules and usage!

For example;

  • When to use 'will' and when to use 'shall'?

  • What is the difference between 'has' and 'have?

  • Where to use 'will' and where to use 'would'?

We knew it would be fun and challenging, and the camaraderie in the class is making us try to do the best in our search for the most convincing and easy to understand answers! Recently we have started basic computer classes with few students who are regular in class. We plan to use the computers to build English skills, for instance, get our students to 'write' assignments on the computer, where they can edit spellings, learn from the dictionary etc.

Also we realized that it takes a lot more to learn English than just attending a class. What seems to be a key factor is also the general level of confidence. Some students are bravely fighting their under confidence, and some just give up after a few sessions. We had a couple of drop-outs who felt challenged by the task and gave up early on. We are still encouraging them to think it through and have told them that we are open for them whenever they feel they are ready.

Though our fees itself is nominal (Rs. 250 per month), some of our students have also expressed difficulties in paying even that amount. For girls in particular, as they are dependent upon their father/brothers for any form of expenditure, they find it difficult to pay the amount. So we have decided to split the fees in two instalments- whatever one can pay, we are ready to accept that amount. For the balance, we are encouraging them to make small craft items that we can buy from them, so that they can earn money themselves to pay for the fees as well as get some extra pocket money. Let us see how it works out.

Meanwhile Mauka involvement in the local door to door garbage campaign continues. We have been enthusiastically volunteering with awareness campaigns as well as collection of monthly dues. Our sister venture, Studio Alaya also has been getting notice in the local media. We were featured in the Dehradun section of the Times of India in October 2009. In December we had Jaya Jaitely, from the Dastkari Haat Samiti visit us. At our craft store, 'Studio Alaya' we were ready with new product designs for the season for which we received a very good response.

In late 2009, I was selected by the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship ( a South Asia based forum for the Paragon Fellowship (, which recognizes young social entrepreneurs in the Asia Pacific region and provides them non-financial mentoring support to grow their initiatives. I hope that such opportunities will help build further linkages to expand my work.

We also had Commutiny friends visiting us in the last week of December! Manak and his friend Anthony came down to spend some time with me. It was good to see them. They visited our workshop and design studio and I enjoyed showing them around and having them meet all our people.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Journeys, Learnings & Action at Mauka!

I have not posted for several weeks, and here I am with lots of news:

The first classroom at Mauka is complete now and we are set to begin the English/Hindi and Computer classes soon. We also had a chat with a local school which offers both ISC and National Institute of Open School syllabus and their administration offered us use of their rooms (after their school hours) and have expressed interest in collaborating on non formal and vocational training for youth. While we will look into these possibilities in the future, here is a look at our first classroom which is in our own premises!

Meanwhile, I also got a chance to attend two Video workshops in Sept- October in New Delhi which were conducted by Kanu Bharti and Kavita Das Gupta from Drishti Media and facilitated by CYC. The first workshop was on Basic Techniques of Film Making where we learnt how to handle the equipment as well as visualize the story through the video film camera. We made some short movies using the streets of New Delhi as our inspiring canvas. The second workshop was on Film Editing and we learnt softwares such as Adobe Premiere. As part of my final film making assignment, I had made a storyboard and then later a film on making of bamboo furniture. I shot almost 2 hours of film and later edited it to a short approximately 9 minute long film. I have called the film 'More Than Grass', and hope to upload it on youtube soon. You can see the Film unit here:

In September 2009, I also had a chance to visit the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design at Jaipur, during their Convocation. I met up with a really diverse group of designers, educationists, academics, development professionals from across the country. It was a rich meeting of minds! There was K B Jinan from Kumbham in Kerala, who is working on 'un-educating onself''! He can be followed on this url: I also met MP Ranjan, Professor at NID, Ahmedabad who blogs regularly on various topics at this link: There were several others; context designers Jogi Panghal and Sandeep Sangaru, master craftsman Khatri Mohammed Isa from Bhuj, Hina and Sana, faculty from the Crafts Development Institute, Sringar, J&K. Jaipur is home to a wonderful group of designers, like Ayush Kasliwal, Sanjeev Bothra and Sangita Shroff who were very generous with their hospitality to all of us visiting from outside.

Also, recently Mauka has been invited to collaborate with a local neighbourhood waste management and awareness campaign. We are part of the Old Rajpur Mohalla Swachata Samiti, an informal network of volunteers who are working on garbage management in our neighbourhood. The first step has begun with a door to door campaign and a doorstep garbage collection service. See some posters which Mauka has designed for the campaign.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Movie day, we watched 'Iqbal'

I was supposed to post this a little earlier, however, its never too late for an update.
We watched the movie 'Iqbal' In the second interaction we had with the local youth (early August), we screened the movie Iqbal and followed it up with discussions on career aspirations and the determination of the title character in the movie who rises from a very ordinary background to overcome all odds to achieve his aim of being a national cricket player. Qualities such as will power, discipline, practice, belief, talent and persistence were discussed. The importance of support was also discussed, in the case of the coach of the main character, as well as his sister and mother.
Many young people also talked about role models from the current cricket team such as Ishan Sharma, Pravin Kumar, Irfan and Yusuf Pathan, some of whom are from very modest backgrounds, and yet today they have become national level cricket players.

In the same session, we had also invited a guest speaker to share his experiences of working in the BPO industry. He had a discussion with the young people on skills and expertise required for accessing jobs in that sector. We also circulated a questionnaire asking the youth to list what are the other careers they are keen to know about, so that we can call relevant professionals for such career awareness sessions in future.
In this month (August 2009) itself, I have identified a space for establishing the classroom where I would like to conduct the learning modules. It is a modest space, but it should be appropriate for right now. I am in the process of establishing the facility, basically organizing the infrastructure required (furniture, fixtures, renovation, computers, softwares etc. ) and hope that the place will be ready by end August in order to enable me to begin classes from September 2009.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CYC friends in my backyard

The beginning of the month came with a pleasant surprise. As most of you don't know, Rajpur has been getting endless buckets of rain, making the place extremely damp and moldy. It was one of these 'raining like cats and dogs' days when I drove past the famous 'Haathi ka dukaan' tea stall (which apparently is decorated by ITC) located in the Shahenshah Ashram area. I waved "Namaste" to Sunil the owner and then I heard someone shout "Joshua!" and there sitting on wooden benches, sipping hot chai and eating bun omelette's were Afaq and Prakash. (Afaq had mentioned something about coming to Dehradun, but I didn't know it was this soon)
Now that I think of this unexpected rendezvous, I was again 'driving' on Rajpur road when I thought I recognized a face. As I turned the car around to pursue my curiousity, I shouted, "Sangeeta!" Oh! well, she didn't hear me, so I stopped the car and ran towards her, and guess what? It was Sangeeta Maurya! We exchanged greetings and tried to meet up later, but Sangeeta had to catch a ride back to Udhamsinghnagar.
Afaq and Prakash were attending a conference. We had dinner together and the next day I invited them for breakfast at my house and we caught up, discussed our CYC plans and enjoyed each others company. They saw some of my work before heading out to Delhi
Here are some pics!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MAUKA Creating Opportunities

MAUKA means 'Chance' or 'Opportunity' in Hindi.
Mauka means many things to many people.
To some, it means a second chance, an opportunity, an opening..
To some it means to teach, to educate, to awaken, to inspire, to lead...
To live in harmony, a chance to relive, re-look, reflect on the past,

re-plan the future
A chance to change yourself, change the environment around,
An undefined, unbounded space
A freedom to express!

Mauka is a platform for underprivileged youth to fulfil their dreams (or atleast come close to it!) Mauka runs classes providing informal education in English, Hindi, Computers and Graphic Design to develop creativity based employment and entrepreneurial competencies among underprivileged youth.

Design education in India is very expensive, and Mauka allows youth from low income backgrounds to build skills to access creativity based jobs, proving that they may be deprived of financial resources but do not lack innate creativity.
Mauka also aims to foster confidence, stimulate positive attitudes and awareness on active citizenship among youth. At the same time Mauka is a sustainable for-profit social enterprise, generating revenue through provision of graphic design services to clients.

Mauka began in July 2009 in Rajpur, Dehradun, where a collective of local youth from disadvantaged backgrounds started meeting to share their ideas. Today, Mauka provides a listening post for their issues and concerns and the youth continue to gather every two weeks to watch movies, sing songs, hold competitions, discuss environment, gender violence, ragging, unemployment etc.- issues that bother them, and issues that they are keen to address and understand better.

Mauka invites professionals from diverse backgrounds to come and share their work and experiences with this enthusiastic group of young people.

Mauka is supported by the Commutiny Youth Collective ( and lead by Joshua Hishey, a young design professional and social entreprenuer at Studio Alaya.(

Here are some images from one of the workshops at Mauka in July 2009