I'm a Goan woman, working in Mumbai as the founder of a studio called Totem Creative. I try to make the world happier, safer and more meaningful. I believe education, knowledge and awareness, art, writing and creating Social Impact are my means to achieve that end.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Chitrkatha 2013

28th Oct 2013

I had a wonderful time in Ahmedabad. The first day we got there, we settled in Athithi hotel. It was such a dirty looking place, but we cleaned it up and made ourselves comfortable. We used to have breakfast at this south indian restaurant called 'Udipi Palace'. It had pretty decent breakfast but it smelled so badly of cockroaches and phinyl that it got really unpleasant. Everyday we started waking up a little later, often talking in the morning or trying to convince the others that it would be a great day. I was busy trying to keep everyone positive - somehow it was upto me to satisfy everyone's wants. When I failed at that, I'd fall into the pit and pull myself out. I told myself there was something more important happening at NID than people's eating preferences or personal problems - I had come here for inspiration and I'd decided to take it under any circumstance. By day 3 everything started getting better, and that's how it had happened last year as well. There was more interaction - we spoke to a lot of people and made a few friends. We questioned their projects and learned more about animation as a holistic medium, and the strengths it holds to communicate. We saw great films from different countries, and understood how different people used animation as a medium of storytelling. Some of the films were absolutely mind blowing, and some artsy-fartsy experimental films made no sense at all.

When it got difficult to find meaning in them, I would turn to Alok and ask, "Did you get it?"
He would not shift his gaze from the screen and say, "Just give it sometime to sink it. Try to interpret it. The film maker obviously had something in mind while making this, or s/he wouldn't have taken the effort to make it in the first place.

So I would think and mull over it, and if it still didn't make sense, then I'd let my mind wander off. This amazing thing happened during the Calarts experimental shorts screening. They were so trippy and artsy that my mind drifted off to all the problems I had stored in my subconciousness, and somehow while watching these films, my mind found all the solutions that it was searching for. Solutions to my work in Nashik, at home, and all my personal issues. I found a certain clarity. I could not figure if this was the result of some seriously trippy films, or and overload of good cinema over the 4 days before. When we got out, Alok and I were silent, and we felt heavy with thoughts. It was a burden, and we let it out over dinner.

The last day there was fruitful and thought provoking panel discussion on 'What is Indian?'.
I'll write another article on this because I have so much to say regarding the matter. The panel members included Arun, Nina Sabnani, and 3 other women whose names I keep forgetting. The discussion was hosted by Prakash Moorthy, who is a very well known personality in animation. Everyone voiced their opinions on what should be considered as Indian, and whether being 'Indian' lends and identity. Nina Sabnani quoted someone, "Rather than a khichdi, India is like a thali with a variety of foods in katoris that all taste different, yet belong to the same plate." I couldn't agree more.
Vaibhav Kumaresh also voiced from the back of the audience "I need to say something because this is honestly scaring me, and I'm sure it's scaring more people in the crowd as well - " I nodded in agreement "I don't think we need to be so worried about what is Indian, because when we are born and brought up in this land, no matter where we go, our culture and upbringing will seep into our films. It's all that really matters, and whatever comes out of that will still be Indian. We need not classify that further." I think most of the people in the audience related to that.

After this we had a lovely lunch at Tomatoes. Ishan had Chicken Stir Fry in Hunan Sauce and Alok and I had Chicken Strogonauff. Dhruva had mexican pot rice with chicken, Eggs had a Russian Salad, and we finished it off with a delicious chocolate deserve of cake, icecream and hot chocolate sauce. After that we parted ways, En Eggs and I went to teen darwaza/lal darwaza to shop. I guess it was a horrible idea. It didn't cross my mind that this was the last sunday before diwali! O_O It was SO FULL OF PEOPLE! We did a little shopping, but unfortunately Eggs didn't get the fabrics she wanted to buy for her mum. There was too little time and too much crowd. We took 30 mins to find Prathamesh - he insisted we visit his home. When we finally met him we walked to his home and then to his terrace. His parents seemed very humble and sweet and gave us water and icecream. The terrace had the most gorgeous view I have seen. The yolky orange sunset, lots of flocks of birds flying overhead, terraces of neighbouring homes with colorful clothes hanging on them and the buzz of the city and the bridge over the Sabarmati river. It was all so charming and picturesque. Eggs and I did a lot of photography, and we caught up with Prathamesh on work, gaming and animation.

Finally we attended the closing ceremony and had dinner in the mess. It was a pretty nice ending. We left for the station just on time. Our auto guy was driving like a maniac, we lost count of how many PEOPLE he nearly killed!! At the station we met the whole MIT crowd. It was good to see them all! And in the train Dhruva and Anshu came to our compartment and we talked a bit and had a decent sleep after killing tens of cockroaches. That was the last of Chitrakatha '13, and it was such a sad feeling that I would be back in depressing Nashik by the same time the next day. But here I am, writing this, and I have clarity in my problems, thanks to those wonderful films and those wonderful people. Until '15!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Second day in Nashik

2nd October 2013 – Nashik

It’s the second day of work at Regh animation, and it has been tough. I feel mentally exhausted and overly emotional. The small sign of home, a thought of comparison can bring a huge lump, an uncomfortable swelling in my throat. I feel my heart ache in pain, and my eyes start watering uncontrollably for no reason. I don’t feel weak, but tested, really. My heart gives up, but my mind tells me to fight and be stronger. It’s a new place, with new people. A new language and a new culture. Fitting in has never been easy, but I always end up finding the right people and getting comfortable; that – has been exceptionally difficult here. Marathi is not my forte, and whether I wear a loose Tshirt, or a spaghetti, I still have a few eyes on me. Maybe it’s my fair skin, or my ‘different’ features, but one look, and the locals know that I’m not from this part of town.
My roommate Rekha is really nice. She must be about 25 and reminds me an awful lot of my old housekeeper Pratima. She has that same talkative nature, although she speaks in Marathi. I am trying to learn as much as I can from her so that I can converse more fluently. It’s not easy at all, but I guess I should look at everything as an experience. Every girl I’ve spoken to so far speaks in Marathi here, and one can figure that they are from rural places close to the city.

Suddenly now my stomach is asking for food. I have drank about a glass of water all day. I’ve not been thirsty, but there’s no washroom in the Studio so I can’t pee unless I get ‘home’. I had my last breakfast with mumma puppa and Radhiya tai. Rad tai dished out a lot of wise advice which I am going to take very seriously throughout my life. I don’t know if she realises how much I respect her and her attitude towards life and towards people, no matter how different we are in terms of opinions. They have reached Mumbai and I hope they are way more comfortable there than the shit they went through here because of me.

As for lunch, Mrunal dropped me to the PG and there’s a mess behind it where the girls have lunch. I decided not to go to the room for some reason and went to the mess directly to speak to the didi about her service. She didn’t seem very friendly, but soon enough another didi came and we talked about her business and each other. She was really sweet. For some reason the whole time my mind was somewhere else. I felt like an orphan for a few seconds. Mumma n puppa had just left in the morning and I’d held back all the tears because I didn’t want to carry them to the studio. They had started leaking out of me, even though I was swallowing and forcing them back. It was not easy. The didi saw me eating alone outside but she forced me to come inside to eat in her home. I was touched, but I wished she’d let me sit on her swing under her tree to compose myself and to leak out the tears little at a time. When she invited me in, I’m sure she noticed I was very upset. I was blinking back all the tears and wiping my runny nose while trying to maintain a steady conversation without a quivering voice. The food was BAD. There was a wet watery red moong gravy, salty watery varan, rice and rotis. I needed a minute, or at least an hour to cry in privacy, but I didn’t have that luxury. Every bite I took, I remembered sol cudi and fried prawns. Just a spoonful of French bean bhaji, a sip of my own chai. The food blurred and I blinked to clear the wetness. I pretended it was a little spicy and wiped my nose. Didi quickly got some water and I shook my head and said “the food is great”.

After that uncomfortable episode I quickened my pace towards the jogger’s park close by to have a private breakdown, but to my dismay it was locked. The nearby pan wala told me it opens only after 5. I cursed the city for not allowing me a single private moment where I could burst out crying without anybody bothering me. I called En and spoke to him on my way to the Studio, and halted at some places under trees and in front of a construction site to compose myself. That was the closest I could get to a private moment.

Work went okay during the rest of the day. I wish I got time to work on my own stuff as well, or read the books there, but that’s definitely a longshot. After work Mrunal me and Akshay had 2 delicious chais at a nearby tapri and then went to chill on the steps on Big Bazaar. I had such a lovely conversation and the city suddenly looked better with the nightlights on the road, a few lit shops and people. I felt good. We talked of films, short-films, animation, Chitrakatha and experiences. It was just wonderful, and I wished that time would stop so I could get a load of this good stuff and store it for the bad times; like fireflies in a jar during the midst of the night. I had a wada pav for dinner, I wasn’t very hungry, and filled myself with water after I reached the room. Had a bath from a bucket without a mug; another thing I’ve got to buy.

I won’t forget something Radh tai told me last night. She told me once when she called Shaami in the middle of the night (in the US). He picked up and said, “Aemi, what kind of a time have you picked to call me. I’m starving.” Radh tai said, “Arre hau tar bekkaar padla (I’m sitting here completely idol)”. I felt that today, and I felt it when she’d told me this story – a surge of intense pain. The pain of one’s circumstances and relationships. She said to me, “You won’t understand parenthood. You feel a strong pull that you can’t control towards your children. A love they will not know of fully. That’s why your mother is worried for you, whether you will like it or not, you will never understand it until the day you hold your own child in your hands.”
Life is so full of pain and happiness and everything in between. You deal with it in whichever way you are capable of; and hopefully, it’ll take you places worth it.