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.
The past couple of days here in Ahmedabad have gone like this: Wake up, chai, go to the SEWA HQ, chai, drive to the slums/market/interviewee’s house, pass by the odd elephant, camel, or the plethora of free range cattle on the way; chai, shoot interviews and b-roll in some surreal and beautiful settings, chai, head back to HQ. And then chai.
Of course I’ve had chai before, but the chai latte you get at Blenz isn’t quite the same. The real thing here is refined, yet complex and exotic; sweet and imbued with rich spices – much like the people here. The ambiguous head shake/bobble thing is still really confusing (does it yes, no, or maybe so? I don’t know), but other than that I’ve been deeply immersed in the Indian culture here and have quickly learned to love it. Over the past two days we’ve visited with garment makers, vegetable vendors, doctors, health care workers, and daycares full of young children. These people work hard and live hard with not many resources, but the smiles on their faces remind me to make the most of what I have and not take any of it for granted.
A garment maker and her husband in their home. On the right is Leela, an illiterate former vegetable vendor who was trained in video production and went on to produce several award-winning documentaries. A prime example of how technology can be used to empower the culturally subdued women of India. She taught herself how to use a VTR by memorizing the colours of the buttons.
Yesterday we went to a large vegetable market. It was loud, hot, crowded, and with vehicle and animal traffic barreling straight through the centre of it, there was an acrid bite to the thick air that made breathing difficult. There are pretty much no tourists here, so everywhere we go we are somewhat of a novelty to the locals. We literally couldn’t stay in one spot too long, because my antics with my camera would quickly draw a huge crowd. Kids, mothers with babies, and religious men all tugging at you and even tossing vegetables at us to get our attention. I shot quickly with my monopod, got what I needed, and moved on with Aruna, who was watching my back and doing her best with crowd control.
Finally, we went back to the Video SEWA HQ (check out their site here: http://www.videosewa.org/) and ended our day with more chai and cultural exchanges of information. They told us about changing life in modern India, and we told them about how I am a geek and what the word “geek” means. We gave them advice on how to market themselves and feedback on some of their work. I also learned that Aruna, one of their main camera operators, used videography as a way to leave her old job as a textiles worker and stand amongst a mostly male-dominated industry (especially in India, where “girls should be in front of the camera”) with pride and purpose. She had been following my work with interest the past couple of days and had compiled a list of questions for me to answer. It’s always a beautiful thing when shared interests can bridge the language gap.
We fly out to Durban in South Africa late tonight/early tomorrow morning by way of Dubai; and while I’m excited to see a new country, I’ll be said to say goodbye to India and my new friends here. Also the chai.