India

I’ve just returned from India. I was there last in 2010 with Steve Dixon and Cj O’Neill working on The Pol Project and making the film Entry. This time I travelled first to Delhi for the ASA (Association of Social Anthropologists) 2012 conference where I was co-convening a panel on improvisation with Anne Douglas and Kathleen Coessens, and then Anne and I went on to Ahmedabad in Gujarat for a few days.

JNU campus - photo Anne Douglas

Anne Douglas is Head of Research at Gray’s School of Art so we did talk shop rather a lot. But Johnny persuaded us to take a day off to visit the Sun Temple at Modhera.

Anne and Johnny at the Sun Temple

Johnny runs a brilliant guide and driving operation – if you are ever in Ahmedabad and want picking up from the airport or guiding/driving round the wonderful sites, textiles workshops etc. then he is your man – his company is called Ahmedabad Travel.

I enjoyed being in the city again, and this time made it to the Sunday market where Anne took lots of photographs, something I fail to do both in India and at home, unless I’m ‘working’ – which anyway means writing, drawing or videoing, but rarely photographing.

I met up with my good friend Palak Chitaliya, full of energy and joy as ever.

Palak kindly translated for me during an interview with the family who helped me so much in 2010 with the film Entry.

Talking to Mayur - photo by Anne Douglas

I asked Mayur, his nephew Naitik and Naitik’s mother (in this photo), whether anything had changed as a result of making Entry.

Naitik said that there had been more unity afterwards. Apparently, women have started meeting together far more regularly and in bigger groups to discuss community events. There has also been a two day picnic, and problems are being shared more openly than before. I expressed some surprise that such changes could come about through making something quite small. Naitik and Mayur said that the potential for change was already there, but the film was the catalyst. From my point of view the video was a form of improvisation, so this was interesting feedback. It made me think about unintended consequences in an age obsessed with foreseeing, measuring and controlling impact.

It was a very quick trip and as before I would love to return. Naitik’s mother said that the ladies group are going to discuss things they might like me to film, so I am waiting to hear what suggestions they have in store for me!

All photos courtesy of Anne Douglas