A few weeks ago, this email drops into my inbox. Someone wanted to know more about the work I do, someone wanted to make a movie clip, and so on and so forth.
Don’t get me wrong–Its not that I am flooded with fan mail, or that there is a long line of producers lining up at the door, nor do people stop me on the road/train and ask for my autograph. Its just that there have been journalists getting in touch with me, keen to write about the way I am empowering women and changing lives in the hills and demanding to know future plans/quantitative data on knitters, output, turnover etc. When I explain that my focus is on the craft of knitting, on working with a few good women, on making lovely stuff…and that I have no definite plans about expansion, impact studies and everything else in between, these enthusiastic writers just melt away like morning mist in sunshine.
I have realised that this outlook does not make good copy, that its quantity which wins in getting attention, that the world is in a hurry to see results and upward curves in growth graphs. Deep growth, personal change, mutual respect and long term hard work–they dont affect TRP ratings, or increase readership.
To return to that email, I found that my usual cautionary note about “small is beautiful” etc, did not deter this organisation from taking things forward. A long conference call with the main clients, who were bowled over by my “pidgin” Arabic dialect, discussions over email about being the change agent in the lives of the knitters, plans to knit some special articles for the film shoot, and finally, a visit by the production team to Ranikhet. Hotel rooms were booked( for the large filming crew), number of plug points at home noted ( for recharging busy cameras), and requests made about talking in Arabic for part of the shoot.
The knitters and me were in a tizzy. Plans for hosting a lunch ( traditional Kumaoni fare, or modified Arab dishes), arranging the knitting in a new cupboard ( massive one), and neatening up the house, were being done in detail. I would use my morning walk to dredge out long forgotten Arabic vocabulary–exclaiming “degaag” ( chicken) while collecting milk from the checkpost, shouting “magnoon” ( mad) at confused Mili, muttering “imkin bukara” ( maybe tomorrow) while buying veggies. Its amazing how Arabic words began floating around in the limbo of my mind. Maybe, just maybe, I had not lost my memory after all!
While we were spinning around excitedly, there was complete silence after the producer’s visit. Ten days glided past, and then, Saturday morning found me wondering if this was all a dream. Instead of pinching myself, I punched the producer’s number and she asked me if there was any way I could be presented as a person who brings about change by cooking, instead of knitting. Apparently, the actual client was a huge multinational company for food products. How would they use knitters to sell powder milk?!
It did not happen, therefore. Bookings were cancelled, excited friends and family informed about the end of my movie dreams ( for now), and I returned my friend’s Arabic dictionary with a big smile of relief. The knitters just went back to their usual chatter about home, festivals, children, ripping out lace knitting and financial plans. I returned to my irregular memory and the daily routine of life.
There was sense of relief that I was not getting into something so far from my comfort zone, and that there was no need to rack my brains over Arabic, menus for lunch etc.
But I couldn’t help thinking about this entire episode and marvelling at social conditioning ( that women need to be associated with food and feeding to be termed agents of change) and the short-cut, quick-and-easy way of working ( not taking time to get a proper brief about what exactly a client wants from a shoot) which resulted in unnecessary ground work, waste of time, effort and money and a feeling of being let down at the last moment!
But yes, for a few weeks, I did enjoy the sheer delight of being regarded as ” an agent of change”, who warranted some shooting..
Now to see when the real thing comes along! 🙂