Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Week 8 (Monday 27th November – Sunday 3rd December, 2006): Back in Kolkata
PICTURES: First is me with P. Sainath, a photojournalist at his exhibition "Visible work, Invisible women". Next is a picture of me with Rahul Bose, an Indian actor. when he came to participate in Swayam's 16-day campaign. I took a picture with Anindita, one of the Swayam staff, at Oxford bookstore, where an artist put up a painting exhibition "SHE", to raise and donate funds to Swayam. The next picture is of the Swayam staff with visitors from Bangladesh, who also participated in the 16-day campaign. The picture was taken at another exhibition "Women Struggle, Women Resist". The last picture is of Anu and Anindita putting up campaign banners at an outreach program in Metiabruz, a place in Kolkata.
After leaving the train on my arrival in Kolkata, I was heckled by a lot of taxi drivers, but a quick look at my stern face dissuaded most of them from pursuing me. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. One particular driver refused to be shaken off, and finally persuaded me to go with him. When I got to his car, I said I wanted a car with a meter. He tried to convince me that a meter would be three times more expensive than the Rs. 300 he wanted to charge me. I told him I wanted a car with a meter, he and his friend were trying to persuade me to go in his taxi. I told him I wouldn’t pay Rs. 300, because I had taken a taxi to the airport, which was more than 30mins away, and I hadn’t paid Rs. 300 for that, using the meter. He finally relented, and I bargained down to Rs. 200. I was actually quite angry that he had tried to rip me off by so much, so I called Chandrana, one of the ladies at the Swayam office, to ask how much I should pay. She suggested around Rs. 150. I don’t know why I was taking my anger out on that poor driver, but I was quite mad. On the way home he stopped at a petrol station, and wanted me to give him the whole fare to buy petrol. I gave him half and said I would give him the other half when we got to the house. He tried to reassure me that I had nothing to fear. I was not to be moved. I had this irrational anger towards most Indian men, after my experience at Jaipur, <, and with the travel agent, that I was ready to commit murder. Poor taxi driver! He got me safely to Saptaparni, and I gave him his remaining Rs. 100. I went upstairs where Naran met me, and then I had lunch and took a nap. I didn’t unpack, except to remove the most essential things out and to remove the dirty clothes to be washed. Later that evening I called Anu to let her know I had arrived.I went into the office the next day. The 16 days of awareness campaign had started, so that afternoon I went with the staff to Metiabruz, a locale in Kolkata with a predominantly Moslem population. It was an outreach program, with a film show and a poster exhibition. It was quite nice. On our way back I entertained Anindita and Kakali with my renditions of some Hindi movie songs and with the few phrases I had learnt.
On Wednesday the 29th there was a picture exhibition opened at Gorky Sadan, titled “Women Struggle, Women Resist”, also part of the awareness campaign going on. I didn’t go in to the office because I wanted to work on my AAUW application, which was due on Friday 1 December. On Thursday the 30th of November I went into the office and sent in my AAUW application. In the afternoon I went to Gorky Sadan with the staff to view the picture exhibition and to watch a play mounted by a Bangladeshi team that had arrived to work with Swayam on the 16 days of activism activities. Later that evening we went to Oxford Bookstore for a painting exhibition titled “SHE”, held by Anita Gurbaxani, a painter who wanted to donate the proceeds of the painting show to Swayam.
On Friday I came into the office late, to find the office locked. On the elevator ride down from the apartment, the operator had told me that there was a bandh (strike) in effect. The roads were eerily silent for Kolkata, but that was because most buses and taxis were parked as part of the strike, against the land at Singur being given to Tata motors to use for one of their plants. I was able to get into the office as the security guy and Ganesh were present. I called Jagati and she explained to me that people couldn’t make it to the office because they couldn’t get transportation. Taking advantage of the quiet, I did a few things on the internet. Later on Saswati, Anu and Gargee also came into the office. From there we left for the Seagull Media house, where there was another picture exhibition titled “Visible Work, Invisible Women.” It was a pretty moving exhibition, and I would like to own some of those pictures. The stories they tell are quite depressing. I met this French lady called Charlotte, who is working with the French Association here in Kolkata. She gave me her card and phone number, and asked me to call her if I wanted to hang out. I had met Anindita’s fiancé the day before at Gorky Sadan, and he gave me a lift home as he lived near Saptaparni. Today I watched “Dil Chahta Hai” which was a bit different from most of the Hindi movies I had seen. I wasn’t too sure what to make of it, though it was still pretty nice.
The office was open from morning on Saturday morning, but I woke up in an absolutely foul mood, and when I got to the office they could tell. I don’t know why I was so mad at the world. Anyway, there was a panel discussion at Gorky Sadan on “Women and State Violence”. It was an okay presentation, except for the man who was a historian and therefore spoke for too long. I left with Anamitra to go see a seamstress about a few things. When I got back home I watched “Rang De Basanti” a very moving, and well done film. I decided not to watch it again the next day because it was way too emotionally draining. It was nothing like most of the movies I had already seen, but it had a pretty huge impact on me, so much so that Twum asked me what was wrong with me when he called me that evening. He said I sounded sad.
The next day, Sunday, we had a panel presentation on “Time Men Act to Stop violence” at Gorky Sadan, featuring Bharat (from Vishakha in Jaipur), Ruchira (a lecturer at the law school) and Rahul Bose, a Bollywood actor. Later that evening, Rahul Bose had an interactive discussions with students at Oxford Bookstore and I took a few pictures.