Correction: In the video, it says Fatorda is in North Goa. It is actually in South Goa.
CashRelief.org, a non-profit, hired me recently to help them bring out the story of why they started this crazy program to offer close to 1 lakh rupees to all families in a village, unconditionally. I have tried to show what the typical perception of most urban Indians is, when it comes to using cash to help poor and why the co-founders of CashRelief don’t necessarily agree with the predominant narrative. This video-story would help them in raising funds for expanding this pilot in different parts of India. I also created a behind the scenes video from the few days that I spent in the village in Rajasthan, where the pilot has been rolled out!
This was a pretty stimulating experience for me. When I first heard of the program, I was both excited (because something like this was never done in India before) and skeptical – how will something like this ever work? In fact, it was my idea that I should meet some of the funders of this program to ask them why they agreed to be a part of this? And that day of meetings with many of them, did make it easy for me to understand their thought process and why this experiment deserves a fair chance! That’s pretty much what this story is about. What do you think?
Rajasthan, India. 2018. It was a struggle to get this picture right. I am glad I got it right. Ambalal and family are trying to finish their house. There is a flash hidden on the left side (of the photograph) and there is natural light coming from the right. Let me explain why it was challenging to make this photograph. It was a hot day today. This is a small village in Rajasthan. It was so hot that my flash (Godox AD360ii) started acting absurdly and would fire only once in a while. Now I pretty much knew I wanted a picture of the family right here, but without flash this picture wouldn’t look as good as it looks right now. When the flash would fire, the expressions wouldn’t come great and when the expressions were great, the flash wouldn’t fire. But I kept at it, and kept the family smiling to the extent that I could (kids lost interest in my jokes pretty soon). Finally, I got this. And I showed it to them the moment I got it, because I knew I had gotten my shot. Why was I so keen on having the family smile? Because I know they are genuinely happy for the fact that they very recently received a gift of INR 96,000/- from CashRelief.org – a first of its kind initiative in India that selects a poor Indian village and grants this much money to each family in the village with no strings attached / no conditions imposed. The money has been pooled together from various rich donors. This village is the first pilot and I am documenting the story as a film-maker. The whole photography thing, is just a side thing. I do have something interesting in mind, for some of these pictures though! 🙂 Ambalal and his family put most of the money they were gifted to finish this house that had been under construction for over two years now. It is very difficult for the poor to save / raise enough money to build a ‘pakka’ house. From what I have observed in this village of 34 people so far is, those who have started building a house, are using the money to finish it. Those who have a house, but no animals, buy cattle. Those who have cattle, buy other stuff from a motorcycle (to ease their commute) to a fridge in a small shop.
This is Hiralal, and his wife. They are blushing because I asked them to imagine themselves as newlywed. 34 families live in the village where Hiralal lives. Most of them own farming land but are able to produce only enough to consume themselves. There is little money to be made / saved. When there is no farming work to do, all the villagers go for daily wage which fetches them between 200 to 300 rupees per day. On an average, the monetary wealth they can create in a year is about 50,000 rupees. But how does it matter? Every villager wants to have a safer, better house that doesn’t collapse in rain. And a house like that costs anywhere between 1 to 2 lakh if not higher. So it takes villagers like Hiralal five to six years to build a decent house, that could have been built in six months. The house you see behind them is that house, btw. Eventually everyone takes loan from somewhere or other, mostly at absurdly high interest rates (upto 10% per month) and live a poor life, all their lives. As part of new program initiated by a private entity (cashrelief dot org), close to 1 lakh rupees was given to Hiralal and each family in the village – all the 34 of them – to see what they do with that money if there are no strings attached and no conditions imposed. Hiralal already had a decent house, so he bought a buffalo. He still has 70k left. He says, the first priority now is to make a shed for the animal. And then the two of them will figure out what next to do with the money. He really wants to figure out how to double the amount that he has received. Many others used significant portion of the money to pay off their extremely costly debts. Others put that in finishing their house (thus freeing up productive man-years for the family). It’s been less than a month that this money was transferred to the families. #documentary #story #stories #rajasthan #ruralindia #photojournalism #documentaryphotography #3ms #3minutestories #couple #strobe #ruralcouple #bharat #cashforrelief #ruralstories
Getting children to love reading books (not talking about textbooks here) in this digital age is difficult. But it’s important. Devaki started solving this problem for her own children few years ago, and today manages a network of 60 mothers, spread across the country, who have been trained (by her) to use the power of storytelling and other activities to lure children to get hooked to reading books! And it’s working! This is that story. This is LRN‘s story.
PS: I was commissioned to shoot this story!
PS: Here’s a link to others stories that I have done, around education.
Many slum children who manage to go to schools, don’t enjoy their school life. The environment outside school does not encourage them to do anything productive and most just waste away their time. Some pick up bad habits, other pick up fights. Kamya solves this problem. This is her story.
“My Perch is a space that I run in the Barola slum in Noida. Children come over, generally after school hours and spend as much time as they feel like, just being themselves and doing whatever they feel like doing, without the fear of being judged”, Kamya had said.
I was on my way to the place, expecting to find a dilapidated space in the middle of a filthy slum surrounded by broken houses next to unpaved roads.
The location was none of that. ‘My Perch’ was essentially the basement of a typical NCR building, right on a main road. I would discover soon that the slum from where most kids came over to this space, was not far behind the main road.
Let me tell you what typically does not happen in most schools and definitely not in the types where most underprivileged children manage to go.
Nobody asks them “so what would you like to learn”? Few months ago, when the children were asked this question at ‘My Perch’ – some said they wanted to know how to cook healthy food. Just reading about the dangers of the kind of food that they ate outside was not enough for them. So, cooking materials were put together and soon, with the help of Youtube, the children started learning and cooking, teaching each other in the process, and even selling the ‘healthy’ cooked food for nominal prices to those who wished to eat it.
I was commissioned by India Fellow to make this 3MS on Kamya and other fellows, who are bringing in a change in society in their own ways. India Fellow is a 13 month long social leadership program where young Indians can apply, and if chosen, get to experience what working on ground for various non-profits and social enterprises across India is. Visit their website to know more about the fellowship and to apply.
Charity can never solve the huge issues that farmers of our country face. So what are the some of the better ways to improve their lives? This is what this video-story is about. By the way, this is the first 3MS that I shot but did not edit. 🙂 It was edited by a different team sitting in Amsterdam – a team at Zoomin.TV. I stumbled upon a story on the brothers online and pitched the idea to Zoomin – a dutch media house curating stories from across the globe on various topics; “local heroes” being one of them. The story got a go ahead, I contacted the brothers and soon travelled to Kapurthala to meet them.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#ffffff” text=”#52548d” align=”left” size=”2″ quote=”Although most farmers in India operate in a high risk setup, the return is not high enough.” parallax=”off” direction=”left” revealfx=”off”]
Pawiter and Harjap are cousin brothers and belong to well-to-do farming families. They don’t have money issues themselves but they have seen first hand how smaller farmers don’t have it easy. Although most farmers in India operate in a high risk setup, the return is not high enough. Small farmers have a poor negotiating advantage when it comes to selling their produce; the mandi guys dictate the price and the farmer doesn’t have much option (can’t store, can’t take back the produce and has very little knowledge of where else he can sell). The middlemen at the mandi easily sell the same stuff for 75% to 100% higher rates to the end buyers. And the brothers see this as an issue.
Harjap did farming himself for a while and hated this lack of control that farmers had (on deciding the price). Farmerfriend, their website and app addresses this problem. They have been putting together buyers and farmers on one platform (for free) so that farmers don’t have to depend totally on the middlemen – and can directly strike deals with bulk or retails buyers in nearby urban areas. Using this site, they can now sell for higher price and at the same time, for the buyer, the overall cost is lesser (compared to procuring from middlemen). The journey for these brothers has just begun. They will have to raise a lot of money if they want to spread this across India (a lot of groundwork is required to go meet and convince the farmers). But they are confident they will figure out a way to scale this up. Farmers across India, need such platforms. Like, right away!
[aesop_content color=”#ffffff” background=”#ffffff” component_width=”700px” columns=”1″ position=”left” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]Not only does India have a blind football team, it actually ranks better (global rank) than India’s regular football team*! 🙂 This is their story! And it’s amazing! Some time last year (2016), I stumbled upon the website of Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) and was amazed to discover that blind people played football and all that! This was such a cool discovery! I immediately sensed a story that could be told and wrote to Sunil right away. He was the Sporting Director at IBFF. He informed me that the first international blind football tournament in India, had just concluded and if only he had known me earlier, I could have shot that and made some film! 🙁 But well, what was done was done! To my delight, Sunil said he was in the process of organizing the next tournament. It would take place in the next few months and I could probably shoot that. And then, finally that tournament happened. Last month. I travelled to Kochi to be there on the last two days of the tournament and made this film.
Because of my friendship with Divyanshu (he is blind too) when I made a film about his Himalayan cycling adventure last year, I have a relatively better understanding of how most blind folks expect the sighted world to act (compared to someone who has never properly spent time with a blind person). From whatever little I understand, most blind people never feel bad about their disability (to see) – it’s just a part of who they are. Most of their struggles are not because of their disability – it’s usually because the world in which they live is simply poorly designed to take care of their needs.
Most blind people never feel bad about their disability (to see) – it’s just a part of who they are.
I carried this attitude and understanding during my interaction with all the players. And I hope that shows in the film. This film is not so much about blindness. It is more about a new kind of sport in which India really has a chance to do something big at international level.
I had kind of pre-decided that I would focus on two protagonists – one from each of the two teams that reach the final, and make this film like a typical sports film where both sides want to win. And use that framework to bring out the story of how this sport is growing in India; who is behind it.
I know it’s not a three minute story. It’s an eight minute story. 🙂 But I hope after you have seen it, you do agree that there is nothing that need not be told. I already skipped the whole part where Pankaj, Anish and Falhan explained to me how they got into football. Everything that’s in the final film, I believe should be there.
I congratulate Dehradun on the win and hope that Sunil and IBFF are able to secure consistent funding / sponsorship for the next few years so that they can improve the quality of the game and hopefully get team India to make our country famous internationally. Share this story, if you like it. More the number of people who know and care about this sport, the better!
*Indian Blind Football world ranking is 25 (source) while the regular football ranking is around 100.
Earlier this month (Apr 2017), Umoja, a travel portal focused on ‘accessible’ travel, organized a week long event in Goa where I got to meet few wheelchair tourists who had found a great reason to be happy about being in Goa. You might think everyone is generally happy about being in Goa anyway, but watch the story first! 🙂 You will know what I am talking about!
Talking about this film, I would have loved to shoot how these guys went about setting up the special ramp but unfortunately I came to know about this event only after all that had already been done! 🙁
By the way, there is an interesting (and inspiring) article on Yourstory, on one of the protagonists of my story . If you liked the 3MS, you can read more about her. As usual, if you are doing something interesting yourself that I can come shoot and tell your story, or if you want to sponsor one of my stories, do reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In May first week, I am flying to Kochi to capture the story of the blind football players of India! Will keep you guys posted!
I read a story about these special women cops in Udaipur who were trained to tackle women harassment cases. Udaipur is one of the bigger and popular cities of Rajasthan state (Jaipur is the capital city). I thought it would be cool to shoot some of these cops in action and also find out what special training they had gone for. In the process of finding a connection in Udaipur Police, I ended up being connected to the head of Rajasthan Police Academy – Rajeev Dasot, IPS. I was told that the training for all the cops in Rajasthan happens in his academy (located in Jaipur). And that included the ‘special’ training of the women cops of Udaipur too. He also told me that one such new group was being trained as we spoke and I was welcome to shoot them and interview them. So I headed to Jaipur and did exactly that. That’s what this 3 Minute Story is about.
I would have loved to also shoot the cops in action (on field) but let’s hope that happens some other time. What’s happening in Udaipur is not happening in Jaipur and I had only so much of time in hand to be in one city at a time.
I have also Vlogged about my experience and if you see it you would also get to know about two upcoming stories. Hope this story of what Rajasthan Police Academy is doing, was worth your time. If you know of other stories, anywhere in India, that you might want me to consider, do let me know. Until then, hope 2016 was not all that bad and all the best wishes for the new year. As for me, I haven’t made any plans for what to do tonight yet! I hope you have? 🙂
PS: I would like to thank my IIT junior and friend Gaurav Jain for connecting me to Rajeev sir. And of course Rajeev sir for his hospitality and time and insights.
You need a certain level of fitness to cycle from Manali to Khardungla, a distance exceeding 500 Kms over one of the highest altitude roads in the world, but every year, hundreds of cyclists do it anyway. When Divyanhsu wanted to try this though, everyone told him it was impossible. This story tells you why.
It also shows what cycling in the Himalayas is all about and why it’s worth it, especially for someone like Divyanshu.
SPOILER ALERT: Read on further only AFTER you have seen the 3MinuteStory.
[highlight]If you want to use the video in you site(s), please do follow the Video Credit Policy.[/highlight]
Your phone sounds like a Mickey Mouse.
I told Divyanshu within the first 15 minutes of meeting him in person in Manali. Below is a short audio clip of how his phone sounds like.
‘This Mickey Mouse keeps me independent’, he smiled and explained. It made sense for him to listen to the audio narration of his iphone at as high a speed as possible, to be most efficient in using it (yes, that’s how he uses his phone, some app narrates everything that’s on screen).
Divyanshu lost his eyesight from Glaucoma when he was nineteen (he is in his forties now). After going through a short low period, he jumped back to life and took things in his stride. He wanted to learn computers. No one would teach him computers. So he learnt it on his own, thanks to internet. He worked in the IT sector for six years and then shifted to clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience (in the year 2000). At present, he runs a company called Yellow Brick Road that offers corporate training in behavioral facilitation. He also runs a not for profit called Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF).
Those eight days in the hills and how I went about shooting it all
I traveled with the team throughout the journey. ABBF was kind enough to take care of my return flight from Goa (where I live). They also took care of the entire stretch of travel and accommodation. Other than Divyanshu and Gagan, the team included Herman – Divyanshu’s friend from Mumbai, Tanya – who works for ABBF and the youngest of all – Rahul – our local guide (from Manali) who drove the support vehicle (his 4-Wheel Scorpio Getaway) like a boss.
Those of us not cycling, travelled mostly in the support vehicle. At times, I would ask Rahul to cross the cyclists and stop the vehicle some distance ahead where I would then wait for them to approach the frame as I filmed (mostly handheld) . At other times, I would stand on the Scorpios’ rear luggage holder while Rahul kept driving his SUV, at slow speeds, just ahead of the cyclists, and I would film tracking shots. On several days, I also ran on the road (though only for few minutes at a time), that being the only way to get close-up moving shots as they cycled. The quadcopter (my 3rd one; purchased just a day before the trip started) was flown for the aerial shots obviously, whenever the landscape called for it (and the batteries had juice in them). I was clear I did not want to overdo the aerial bit and definitely wanted to avoid the cliched time-lapse and hyper-lapse and super slow-motion shots. Vimeo and internet is full of them already and lately they have become the biggest excuse for not telling what matters most – a good genuine story (IMHO). Enough ‘music videos’ already!
I did not want the video to be about my cinematographic abilities and over-exploit the beauty of the landscape. I wanted the video to tell the story of Divyanshu’s journey. And why it’s important.
When I finally put together the first cut, I had a one hour movie (yet to work on the longer version). There is so much that this short story doesn’t show. In the opening shot of this 3MinuteStory, you see Rahul trying to fix the loosened crank (which by the way never got properly fixed till the end; these guys managed to cycle nevertheless). Dealing with a loose crank was only one of the struggles. One day, the chain broke. The same day they realized that the backup cycle was impossible to ride because the shafts were way out of sync. On another day, Divyanshu felt feverish (but thankfully recovered soon). On yet another day, Gagan suffered from a mild high altitude sickness and the team had to help him with Oxygen. There were times when I felt dizzy too. But nothing devastating enough to stop the ride, ever happened. We all held up fine one way or other and at the end of eight days, the expedition was successfully over.
From that first Micky Mouse conversation to the many more that I had with Divyanshu (some on record, many off the record), I bonded really well with him. During the course of the expedition, it was obvious to me that this story was not about ‘blindness’ at all. That is not to say that any of us ever forgot that Divyanshu was blind. We did not. But that’s similar to how the rest of them never forgot that I had beard and held camera in my hands for most part. Or that we all never forgot that Tanya was a woman. And so on. We all were different people and that was that. There was nothing more to it. And that’s pretty much the bottom-line. When able bodied people like me hang out and do things together with folks with a disability like Divyanshu, we are able to move over the stereotypical notions that we have and this makes life so much better because we become more accepting. We see each other as different individuals (with different abilities and disabilities) but that never becomes the basis to draw conclusions about what one can and cannot do.
Now that Divyanshu has shown that tandem cycling on the Himalayas is pretty much doable for a blind person, his not for profit Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) plans to organize expeditions for more cyclists every year. ABBF already organizes marathons for blind (a sighted runner holds hands of a visually impaired person and they run together). And I am sure, Divyanshu and team will keep coming up with more ways to bring together the two communities. The world needs this.
If you want to use the video in you site(s), please do follow the Video Credit Policy.
Climb Against Sexual Abuse from Amrit Vatsa on Vimeo.
This is the first 3MS (technically, a little over six minutes 🙂 ) where I didn’t shoot anything. Climb Against Sexual Abuse (CLIMB), a global non profit, organizes climbing expeditions for survivors of sexual abuse, across the globe. They provided me with the footage from one such climb in South Africa (courtesy eNCA.com). At the end of this expedition, one of the survivors recited a beautiful poem that she had written. Listening to it will make you feel powerful.
Above: a snapshot from the video where a rape survivors reciters her poem.
This video story is obviously beyond her poem. It’s more about the need for more and more survivors to come out in open and speak up about what happened to them, without any shame or taboo. Yes, it’s not easy to speak up but it’s a viscous cycle – if the survivors don’t speak up every time they go through this, it will help sustain the existing rape / sexual violence culture and that will keep making it more difficult for the next batch of abuse victims. This is why, the cycle has to be broken. And that’s what CLIMB does.
If the survivors don’t speak up every time they go through this, it will help sustain the existing rape / sexual violence culture.
The idea to organize climbing expeditions is to give back to the abuse survivors, a sense of ownership of their own bodies, which can help them open up. When they are not organizing climbs, the members of this non-profit (spread across the globe – mostly young folks who also have their day jobs) help find survivors and then encourage them to share their stories (via blogposts, videos, workshops, talk sessions etc).
If you are a sexual abuse survivor, please share your story with CLIMB – email@example.com . If you were lucky enough to never suffer abuse yourself, do remember that statistically one in every 3 women suffers sexual abuse once in her lifetime (men too; don’t have the statistics with me right now) – so may be if you share this story, some of your friends might get inspired to do the right thing – share their story (in spite of the societal conditions where victim-blaming, gender policing, false notion of manliness and several other factors make it so difficult for them to do so). And you might be so surprised, how many people around you have stories to share!
You could also go to the CLIMB site and donate for the next expedition that they are planning (Mt. Kilimanjaro).
If you run a site and want to embed this video there, give me a buzz (firstname.lastname@example.org and I will share the embed link – without which the video might not appear on your site because of its privacy settings; I will also let you know how to offer credits).
Video footage acknowledgements: CNN and eNCA.
I should also thank Poonam, the co-founder of CLIMB, who patiently answered my questions (which I sent to her over email) and her husband who recorded it so that I could use some of the footage, to create this story. CLIMB needs all the support they can – go for it!