The lady in the stole | An insta-reading activity

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No one reads is the old complaint and yet everyone is constantly reading on social media. I’ve been listening to folks like Shelly Terrell talk about leveraging social media for writing and reading activities and not really been doing anything about it. So here’s an attempt. I’ve been following a journalist named Anushree Fadnavis on Instagram for a while. She takes intriguing pictures on Bombay’s infamous suburban trains, mostly in the women’s compartments. And there are always short and often compelling stories that accompany these pictures. While the language isn’t perfect, it’s most certainly authentic. This is a reading activity based on one of her insta-stories that moved me

Preparation 

In class, you’ll need to display the photo from Instagram which can be accessed using this link. If you don’t have a connected classroom, you may need to take a screenshot beforehand. If your Ss are on Instagram, you might consider getting them to go directly to the photo on the app. Anushree’s Instagram username is anushree_fadnavis. Or you could share the link through a mobile chat app like Whatsapp.

Materials

You’ll need copies of the story that accompanies the picture if Ss can’t access it on their phones.

Procedure

  • Display the picture. Alternatively, ask Ss to access the photo on Instagram without scrolling down to read the caption.
  • Get Ss to work in small groups to come up with as many predictions as they can around the words who, where, when, what and why.

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  • Give Ss the hashtags (#traindiaries #train #Mumbai #mumbaidiaries #dailylife #dailylifeindia #everydaymumbai) that accompany the image and ask them to refine their predictions.
  • Facilitate a whole class discussion on Ss’ predictions.
  • Ask Ss why they think the woman in the picture has covered her face with a stole.
  • Distribute the story and ask Ss to quickly find out why the woman has covered her face.

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  • Ask them to read the story again and find three things that will stay them for a long time because they found it shocking or disturbing or moving.
  • Get Ss to share these three items with a partner and consider whether their perception of Kavita changed after reading about what happened to her.
  • Ask Ss to close their eyes and imagine that they are on the train with Kavita and follow her as she goes from compartment to compartment, hawking her wares.
    • What is she selling?
    • Does she say anything to the passengers?
    • How do the passengers treat her?
    • Does anyone talk to her?
  • Ask Ss to write down their observations in the form of an Instagram diary entry with hashtags. Encourage them to read the original story again as they do this.
  • As homework, ask Ss to find out if there any social media campaigns they can join to support the victims of acid attacks. Incidentally, Sapna Bhavnani has started a safe space for acid victim attacks in Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) called Sheroes’ Hangout and has a book donation drive on Instagram.
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