Going Far and Wide with Stories of the Cities

Posted on 1 November, 2016 by Team Wishberry


Image Source: Open Bracket

An initiative which found its roots in a summer writing workshop with architectural interns, People Called Mumbai has today, turned into a kaleidoscope for viewing Mumbai in its true sense. This book, launched in January 2015, brings to you the tales of 55 amazing Mumbaikars put together by 10 extremely talented writers. Curated and edited by Nisha Nair Gupta, this first book under The People Place Project umbrella, aimed to showcase the true essence of Mumbai through a humane narrative.

People called Mumbai has been successful in two ways. It has allowed us to have conversations about urban mapping and city consciousness across a lot of architectural colleges and cultural organisations in the city. And in terms of sales, it has worked very well with the hospitality industry as a travel book”, states Nisha.  

Spreading the Wings

The team is in the process of launching the fourth edition of People Called Mumbai along with a translated version in Marathi and a children’s version. Nisha, who is an architect by profession and a writer/curator by passion, plans to mirror the People Called Mumbai format and technique in mapping different cities through the stories of its people. People Called Ahmedabad, the next edition in the 'People Called...' series, is due to launch in the first half of December this year.  The immediate pipeline also includes People Called Shillong, which is scheduled for March 2017.

People Called Kochi, scheduled for 2018, was initially planned as a single city edition however the project has grown to become a three city project in Kerala now, covering stories from Trivandrum and Calicut along with Kochi. Talking about further expansion, Nisha explains, “While working on Ahmedabad, we got a few curatoriales for other cities. This means that the curator is not going to be me anymore, but there are going to be other people who are going to edit and curate the stories from their city. Some of our fixed curatoriales are Dubai, Dhaka, Kochi, Gwalior and Gurgaon.”

A shout-out to the Crowd


Image Source: Your Story

To raise funds for People Called Ahmedabad, Nisha recently resorted to crowdfunding with Wishberry. She successfully managed to raise more than Rs. 6 lakhs from 48 backers, which will be used for writer & curator fees, printing, promotion, editing and publishing of the book. Along with raising the required funds, the crowdfunding campaign was also very successful in spreading awareness about the project. Narrating her experience, Nisha says, “Post the crowdfunding campaign, a lot of people understood what the project was all about. We also had a lot of learning from this whole crowdfunding exercise. Like the way we communicated our idea improved drastically. Additionally, a lot of our database compilation happened at that point.”

A small team of 3-4 people working on the campaign pushed it to their personal network for raising funds. In addition to the family and friends, Nisha and her partner, coming-in from an architectural and PR background respectively, pursued their professional network for contributions. 50% of the funds came in from close family, 25% from friends and 25% from business associates or acquaintances who knew about the project and connected with the idea.  

The Storytelling Process

In terms of the process behind collecting the stories, The People Place Project has a panel of writers which work with them on a freelance basis. In addition to this, there are also writers which approach the team after understanding the project. It all starts with a ‘call for application’ request, every time the team starts a project in a city. The interested writers respond to it with their sample articles and post a go ahead from the People Place Project team, start analyzing the city for stories. Over a period of 5-6 months, there are panel discussions held with these writers in the city itself.

Local scholars, academicians and journalists are invited in these panel discussions to guide these writers on the stories to look out for the project, which aims to span across a socio-geographic spectrum. The submitted stories later enter into the routine publishing phase of curating and editing. “There was a lot of handholding required during the Mumbai project. However, now we have been getting some extremely professional writers who just require a good brief”, comments Nisha.  

Success of People Called Mumbai has given a completely new dimension to the way we understand a city. A read through the current and one of the upcoming People Called series might just give you an entirely new perspective into your ‘things to do’ in the next city you decide to travel.

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