Today, along with Sumanta and Hurshita, we were driven to the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) one of India’s premier film schools and our host institution. It’s a remarkable, huge campus, complete with dorms for the students who come from all over India to study film, a major industry. We met with Ondrilla Hazra Pratapan, whose own film on female trafficking has won awards and been screened at festivals internationally. We gave her copies of our films (In the Shadow of Memory: The Legacy of Lidice, and Never Turning Back: The World of Peggy Lipschutz) which they will incorporate into their library, and talked about how we might work together during our time here. We will present our work to the students in a few weeks; perhaps one or more might care to participate. Our idea had aways been to work with Indian photographers to use the ‘Following the Box’ images as inspiration for creating new work. With inexpensive digital frames now available, we can incorporate short films into the eventual exhibit as well. We next met with faculty member Samiran Datta, a cinematographer and still photographer, who expressed interest in joining the team. Both he and Ondrilla had seen and appreciated my photography website (http://alanteller.com); I’m always amazed that my work is “out there” living a life of its own.
On our way back for our last night at the Middleton Hotel, we stopped by the Earth Care bookstore, a marvelous eco-feminist-left place, filled with a wide assortment of books. We bought one called ‘Magical Indian Myths’ that will help us understand at least a bit of this culture. They also publish books, including ‘Calcutta Full Frame’ an excellent book of photographs by Thomas Kiernan, an Irish photographer who spends half the year in Kolkata. He won’t use a computer or even a phone, preferring his communications to only be person-to-person. He’s at the store most afternoons. A visit is on our ever expanding list.
The next day, courtesy of the Fulbright office, we piled into a van and moved to our apartment: Flat 4A, 26 Deshapriya Park Rd., Lake Market, Kolkata, 700026. The market itself is an exciting jumble, but people the word over want new things, so there is a mall sandwiched in between the street peddlers and the flower markets, the fishmen and the fabric merchants. It is jammed with middle-class Indians, eager to take advantage of modern conveniences (such as long lines at the checkout, sales people hovering about, constant selling over the loudspeaker, stacks of cheap merchandise, etc.) It looks like a typical American store, a K-Mart or Target. When you go back outside you see what it is meant to replace, which may not be cleaner, but is a whole lot more interesting. I feel like an agent of globalization entering that mall. I keep my face hidden.
The following morning, Julie brought their cook to see us. Tapoti will clean the house, do the laundry, cook our meals, 6x/week. She works for us 3 hours/day. She had to increase her rate because we will only be hiring her for 4 months, instead of a year. It will cost the equivalent of $75/month. We have yet to figure out how to reconcile our political beliefs with reality. This is a good job for Topati, a godsend for us. Context is everything, a hard lesson to learn.