Coral Jasmine

Home|Coral Jasmine

Coral Jasmine

SPARROW’s journey with Flowering Tree Inc. began in September 2010. Flowering Tree is a non-profit organization registered in New York. It was founded in 2006 and supports women’s development and children’s education in Asia.

Christopher McLeod and Sumita Ambasta of Flowering Tree visited SPARROW sometime early 2010, in the course of visiting other NGOs they collaborate with. Our journey together did not begin immediately but went through a series of dialogues, sharing of ideas, discussing methods of work and a detailed analysis of work done by SPARROW so far and its plans for the future. While Flowering Tree needed a partner who shared Flowering Tree values, a project/programme that was designed to serve women and/or children, a project/programme that had the potential to be sustainable and scalable, a project idea that was innovative – that met a need with a fresh solution, and a project that was collaborative and transparent; SPARROW needed a partner who would look at archiving knowledge as an active programme and a partner who would see the need to process already existing material and the need to continue working in areas SPARROW was already working, with the possibility of new collaborations and fresh minds to interact with. When our dialogues reached a meeting point the journey with Flowering Tree began.

When Flowering Tree wrote to us to choose the name of a flower local to the project to become part of the Flowering Tree, we chose Coral Jasmine, considered a heavenly tree. That is how the Coral Jasmine days began.

Our first year milestones were: One Coral Jasmine special issue of 16 pages SNL highlighting the work done in the first year and processing of oral history of women in NGOs and other groups, documenting secondary source material on Women in Panchayats and disseminating oral history of the transgender community through the film Degham and possible oral history interviews with Women in Panchayats. Processing of oral history of women in NGOs is a continuing process in SPARROW and it is an activity that leads to different kinds of searches and material. The Degham film continues to generate interest and discussions in various screenings done in workshops in SPARROW and outside.

For a while now, SPARROW has been collecting secondary source material on Women in Panchayats. An earlier preliminary, exploratory interview had been done with a Dalit Panchayat President in Rajasthan but a regular interview with her has not been done so far due to several reasons including financial constraints. For the Coral Jasmine Special, we decided to gather first-hand information from those who have been Panchayat Presidents and from those who have spoken about their experiences elsewhere. A Dalit Panchayat President being brutally attacked in a village in Tamil Nadu and caste and gender issues becoming serious issues to be raised in discussion in the public sphere became the focal point of the Coral Jasmine Special Issue. Salma, a Tamil writer, came forward to write about her experience of being a Panchayat President and other interviews and outpourings were taken from a website that deals with caste issues.

What the SPARROW team learnt in the process of working on this special issue is the nature of the spoken word and the written word, that speaks of an experience that has been difficult. There is bitterness very often in the narrative and the language is raw. The narrator cannot weigh her words and couch them in “acceptable” language. When a Dalit Panchayat President who has been brutally attacked narrates her story while lying in the hospital, her pain, anger, fear and rage comes out in words that directly express her state. When a municipal worker says that she would rather wash latrines than be a Panchayat President, she is challenging the validity of an entire system of functioning. Her language is as cluttered and coarse as her life has been. Some of these interviews had already been translated and only needed some editing. Some others needed to be translated anew. The challenge was to present the rawness of the language and the experience for what it was. The poems written in rage could not be invested with poetic quality but had to be seen as outpourings.

The SPARROW project team learns new lessons every time it processes different kinds of oral history narratives and personal narratives that have been written down. When a report based on the oral history narrative is written, it eliminates and alters many aspects of the oral history narrative. But in transcribing the oral history narratives SPARROW likes to keep the directness of the narrative, the nature of its language, staying close to its emotionality as a way of understanding the politics of everyday life. Time and again the SPARROW team has learnt that there is no way one can foreclose a narrative, and time and again the team reminds itself of what A K Ramanujan once told C S Lakshmi: that we are not looking for truth but human experience. While working on the Coral Jasmine special issue, we learnt to be humble once again and realise that we may be looking at archiving as action but that we are only a small part of a much larger movement of individuals striving to bring about change. It is a lesson well learnt.

SPARROW Holdings

  • 19309 Photographs
  • 7561 Advertisement & Media slides
  • 1275 Documentaries on women and by women in 7 languages & Popular Films in 11 languages
  • 6458 Books in 12 languages
  • 5154 Journal articles in 8 languages
  • 932 Music audio-cassettes/CDs
  • 684 Oral history recordings
  • 26 films SPARROW Production
  • 32187 Newspaper clippings in 8 languages
  • 2078 Brochures in 9 languages
  • 6101 Print visuals
  • 3711 Newspaper cartoons
  • 1772 Posters
  • 130 Calendars
  • 8000 Cartoons by Maya Kamath
  • 280 Private papers
  • 6 Video Recorded Conversations with artistes and activists in the Silver Jubilee Year

Silver Jubilee Celebration Programme

Literary Awards