I am back.
Internet connection has been nil. So sorry in advance for spelling errors.
Team roots went on a ten day road trip through West Bengal. It was a long, hard, interesting and beautiful trip. I will try to do justice to my experience with pictures and some stories from the places that we visited.
The first thing we had scheduled was an interview. we were supposed to meet this old man in the city with the two cars we rented, a Qualis and an Ambassador. When we went to pick him up he was with his wife and son he forgot to tell us we were giving them a ride as well. To say the least it was a bit cramped for a couple hours. I made good friends with the stick shift especially when it was in 2nd gear.
When we got to the man’s house it Reeked of moth balls and the weather was about the consistency of a steam bath. Filming was a bit chaotic, I caught each crew member in my frame at least four times as the old man feverishly moved around excited to show us all of his different scrolls. According to the translators, for a majority of the interview he talked about himself and the book that he had written. The man had about 3,000 Patua scrolls, one of the biggest collections in the world, well worth the peek.
We stopped off for lunch at a roadside then made our way to our first village, North Southern Chalk. This was our first experience of what we came to call “The Circus” Crowds and crowds of children and curious villagers greeted us with wide eyes. In this interview we decided to include ourselves in the filming. The man we interview proceeded to tell us that film was dying and that it was the medium which had spun his art form near extinction . It was very Ironic. We continued to interview the man on a rickshaw. Hundreds of people followed us.
We made a little pit stop for some dinner. We experienced Our first Taba, kicked back a couple Indian beers. A taba is an Indian truck stop café that has either decent or disgusting food. Beer and taba food was our fuel for the duration of our travel. Once we had our fill of taba we made our way to our first sleeping arrangements.
We got directed to the house the government of India was going to put us up in. The roof was caved in and the entire complex was filled with stacks of bricks. We knew something had to be wrong. We went to the PDO block office down the road. The man in charge showed us another place where we could stay. It was a town hall where CPI (Communist Party of India) would gather. There was rotten food on the floors and chewing tobacco on the walls. The bathrooms looked like something out of the Holocaust. We affectionately named this sleeping complex “COMMIE INN”. We gathered our things and continued to search for a hotel for the next four hours. Finally we found one in a sleepy little trucker town called “Debra” The accommodations were rough around the edges but, definitely sleepable. The three days that we were here we got to know our drivers very well. Raj the driver of the Ambassodor and Ram the driver of the Qualis. Awesome guys. We got drunk with them almost every night. They both can speak about a sentence of English. Raj’s Sentence was “My car, best car” Ram’s was thank you so very much” a true couple of characters. We all became very close to them.
Next morning we drove to Noya about 30 minutes away. We stayed there for three days and became part of the village while filming. It was awesome. One of the founders of the village took us in and feed us every day. Children surrounded us every minute but by the end they left us alone because we had become a part of them. I even got a name and so did Ronnie. The children called Ronnie Caca which means uncle in Bengali. I was named Shada Bhooth which translates to white ghost. Where ever we went the children would chant our names. We were treated like rock stars. One of the women who took care of us told one of the translators that she would do anything to trade for my skin. I told her light skin is over rated. Raj one of the drivers had to leave because his wife and baby were sick. Raj got switch for a nineteen year old a man who could relate with the scarecrow from the wizard of OZ. Luckily Raj will be joining us again on trip two.
Ronnie set up some amazing field recording set-ups for all the all-Star Patua singers. It sounded great. One day we shot in a rice patty. I hung out and snapped some photos of the entire thing. One of my favorite things that we filmed in Noya was this woman’s union of singers. About fifty women sat outside singing songs as a quire at night. I lit it with two sets of headlights and kerosene lamps. The sight and sound was breath taking. Time at Noya quickly passed and before I knew it we were leaving with a couple of beautiful art pieces and tons of memories.
Next we were off to Purulia. Each place was much shorter visits two a few small villages and not nearly as much of a hands on experience as Noya. We stayed in a government housing called the chemical house for two days which was very nice and they treated us like rock stars. It was rainy, which enhanced things . amazing red dirt and interesting buildings everywhere. Emily got sick for two days and couldn’t stop throwing up. She slept almost two days strait.
The last place we went to was Bishnupor. There were these 600 year old temples of Krishna. We shoot some 16mm film of these awesome structures. They were extremely detailed. While at the temples we stayed in this giant bungalow the space was shared with tons of exotic and strange looking bugs. I am pretty sure the mosquito nets saved out lives.
Angshuman, Ronnie and I went to go film a giant festival called Ayodha which celebrated Manosha a Hindu snake god. There were Fireworks food and thousands of drunk people. It was the biggest festival I have ever been to. Ram was our bodyguard and an amazing one. He was peeling people off of us and throwing them to the side. People would come to talk to the “White Folk”. Everyone thought we were the big television station Z T.V. Im not going to lye, we played it up. We came across some sparkling fire works, which looked harmless at the time until they exploded on us and shattered our eardrums. We were wondering why every one cleared the space while we sat there and recorded the fire works. Embers flew on my foot but I got them off before they could burn me. It’s sorta funny looking back.
The last day we interviewed a Baul singer and then made our way back into the city. There was a giant truck that broke down in the middle of street so Ram the driver thought it was a smart idea to go against opposing traffic on the other side of the highway to shave some time. After a couple near hits, disasters and fights, we are back in the city all in one piece and happy to have a small break before we have to go out again for another week.