This series of travel blogs from February 12th to March 1st is made possible by WIEGO. Georgia Street Media is proud to partner with Director/Producer Lori McNulty (http://www.lorimcnulty.ca/) to produce a short documentary for WIEGO and help tell the story of informal workers around the world and their health care issues.
Wow. What a day. Of all the countries I’ll be hitting on this trip, India was the one I was most excited about. Culturally, it just seemed to be the farthest from my own, and the prospect of that really intrigued me. And so far, I have not been disappointed by the city of Ahmedabad. The warm, vibrant colours; the complex spices and smells wafting through the warm air, the handsome and friendly people, and the dilapidated, yet rustically beautiful architecture are all amazing to the senses.
We started this morning (after several cups of chai, of course) by visiting the SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) headquarters. Among other initiatives, the organization helps teach poor women job skills, how to read, and how to use technology. They also facilitate these activities by looking after their children and sometimes lobbying on their behalf to the male members of their household to allow them to undergo the training and education.
SEWA also has its own video production department as well as several radio broadcast studios. Their equipment is definitely not state of the art, but their skill and dedication to their craft produces quality content. One of their shooters, Aruna, insisted on carrying my gear bag (containing two tripods, a monopod, and all my batteries and audio equipment) around all day and camera assisting however she could. She was especially helpful when it came to attaching a lav mic to our interview subjects as I have no idea how to run and hide a wire through a sari.
Some of the SEWA video crew. The older woman in yellow is illiterate but is an international award-winning filmmaker. On the right, my shadow, Aruna, checks out my camera setup.
After we finished our tour of their facilities (which included a classroom full of giggling girls pointing and laughing at me for unknown reasons), we set out to film some of their outlying projects in the slums of Ahmedabad – including a drugstore, a health information centre, and children’s care centre.
Everywhere we drove, people zooming past on their scooters and auto-rickshaws would glance in my direction, then do a double take when they saw I was Chinese (I have yet to see any other of my kind, or any kind other than Indian, here at all so far). One poor guy got so distracted when he saw my face that he hit the vehicle in front of him with his moped. Typical: Chinese guy who grew up in Richmond goes to India and causes a car accident within 24 hours of being there.
Next, we interviewed a home-based textiles worker and a pair of cigarette makers. I’ve taken to packing my Fuji X100s on a belt holster as a sidearm of sorts. When the big guns of the Canon 5D Mark III are in use for video mode or an unsuitable lens is attached, it’s great to be able to quick draw that little camera and capture a quick moment. Which is really useful because each place we set up the camera, we always had a crowd of at least half a dozen onlookers enjoying the spectacle. And sometimes cows.