That trip to Pastapur…

by shalinijena

To watch what you think is impossible a little more closely – isn’t it amazing?

An early morning at the end of the rainy month of July, we zipped up for one of our most awaited journeys that was going to take us from Loyola to Pastapur. Most awaited because it was a picnic of its own kind and ours picnics are always the best. Why? Because we are Mass Commers! It’s a very simple funda. We are like a family. We might not be best friends with everyone around, but each of us cares equally for the rest. And when we are together, none of us is lonely. Our parents with respect to the class, yes I mean our lecturers are always there to make us feel special and I am not exaggerating! We have never been threatened or bullied by any one of them and the best part is if someone else tries to, they all come together to resist with us. I love my family. We all do and that makes us so special, so endearing and perhaps the best feeling we will cherish of our college life.

But today, I don’t want to talk about my faculty and my department. That can wait. I want to talk about something that has affected me inside out after the trip. I don’t know what it is, but writing helps me figure out the unsaid. From the moment we reached, the scene in front of us was far more than amazing. Let me first tell what Pastapur is all about. Before the trip, all we knew was that this village is the base of the organization called DDS (Deccan Development Society) which is famous for its all-women community radio station that is the first of its kind in the country. We all knew it was something great, but how great? That is not something I could describe in words.

Satheesh sir is one of those few people who made such a change possible in the village of Pastapur that now has changed lives of more than 70 villages around. When he spoke to us, there was this different aura about him. Neither strict nor too friendly, it did not even seem like he did not care. He cared – but not for us as students of mass communication but as youngsters who will step into the world of media soon. He criticized our country’s media, something that I always do, but he said things that refuse to leave my mind and I am glad. He cleared the doubts that were bothering me for days, doubts I didn’t know how to be framed into sensible questions. And I will always own my lecturers for this day, if not many.

He talked about interviews and the difference between a good interviewer and a bad one. The good interviewer knows that he or she is there is take the personality out of their subject, not harass or enforce opinions on them. While, the bad interviewers (like Arnab Goswami) who take up most of the screen space, unnecessarily hype giving the interviewees so much less time than themselves and their opinions. He talked about how Globalisation has diluted us from our roots and now whatever the media stirs within us, we become that.

To look at media at such a critical point of view is not something we are used to and things like this affect a lot in the within, at least they did for me. Now I have an answer to why I can never be a part of the real media, why it is only the research that interests me. Because there is so much about the media that is unexplored, untouched because it is ABOUT the media and supposed to be given out BY the media and that is why we are unable to change anything from the core. Even if not the one, I would definitely want to witness that change which will happen, if the world survives.

There is so much I want to talk about but that would mean compromising on something that affected me the most. It is not the sight of the most amazing studio I have ever seen or the hi-tech equipment that are operated by the uneducated women of Pastapur, it is the mere simplicity and the rootedness of the whole scenario that has touched my heart more than anything else. Every year so many students must be visiting them to view their work, the films that they have made and propagated not only in their state or country, but all over the world! Yes, Narsamma is one of such women working under banner of the DDS who have travelled more than a dozen countries already, going around teaching and training rural women of socially supressed communities there about videography and making of films  – a medium of expressing themselves.

Suryamma who in her 50’s learnt how to use a video camera and made a film in 6 days. These are few of the ten Dalit women who have empowered themselves and their community by talking about their own issues. What makes me think I am more privileged than her? … than any of the women who belong to the so called lowest of the society’s hierarchy order (the dalits) and still have done things that is a like a dream for many of us. They have the power of their language and their experience and sight which looks at reality, not what people try to show them. We have none of it. At Satheesh sir said, with globalisation, we can’t even see our real identity being snatched away from us and we go on with the flow because we want to be ‘accepted’ by the world out there. I can’t say if I have ever condemned myself more before, condemned to the nameless culture that I am a part of and now even if I try finding it, it is like a lost cause. What has happened to us, where do we stand?…

When we were having lunch, one of “THE” women was standing near the plates guiding us through the food. As we sat and ate, she looked at everyone, with such interest and curiosity that I wanted to cry as well as laugh – at us. I am not exaggerating. It is just the fact that even though she sees people coming and going almost every day, all of them who come to see her and the great work they do, she still thinks we are worth being noticed. She thinks we are ‘something’ because we are out there. I hope she knows that she is an inspiration for every man and woman who visits Pastapur, I hope I could take something, something of significance from that village that has changed lives of so many people! It is not just about living under better conditions, it is about dignity, about self-preservation of your language, of your root and community. Where has it all gone in my life, in our lives?

All the building in that area which possibly is meant for theirs get-together (which trust me, they have many and that too not just for the sake of it) are all dome shaped. This enables people to talk in a low voice and yet be heard all across the room. When General Narsimma (Yes, that is what they call their boss of the studio) was addressing us, I was disturbed by the weird recorded-kind of voice of a fellow classmate. I wondered where it came from. ‘Was he not in the room?’ I thought. But then I looked around and there he was in the other side of the room – perfect lip-synch.

The community lives in the most democratic way I have ever witnessed. Even the studio doors are never closed, anyone can walk in at any time of the day. From the development programmes based on agriculture to family or women issues to recording and singing of their local cultural songs every evening, all of it is a sight that is inexplicable in words.

As a human being, there are so many questions that bother us – Of our culture, thoughts and existence. It is all a matter of time. When the time comes, the questions will be answered making way for more questions. This was perhaps the deepest of all emotions I have ever had when it comes to my outlook on my future, of where I stand and where I want to be. I hope it doesn’t go in vain, I hope my life will be of more meaning than I thought it would.

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Here is one of the videos made by these women in Pastapur. Do watch them for a better insight. For more information, you can also visit their site, here.