4:30 am. Today we must get up early. As a matter of a fact, I had a sleepless night. The after-effects of the typhoid fever have battled against my vaccination and worsen my discomfort, even so the filming of the Sigra suburbs continues. The streets are filled with silence, they seem different. It is still dark and street dogs await as if guarding their territory with defiant looks. Their high-pitched barking is enough to gain respect.
At Godowlia, the central point of urban chaos where the silence of the night can also be heard rickshaws start to pass by, considerate of our whereabouts.
We arrived in Sigra just before sunrise. The slum lights turned on as quickly as mosquitoes bit my ankles. As soon as we were noticed, the colony arose.
We are once again filming, this time something very private, allowing you to enter their house, to see them wake up, work, cook, look after their children, listen to their conversations, be part of their daily lives, away from everything. We are eager to share it all with you.
From meeting to meeting
Filming continues, and so do the meetings. Each month, we meet the mothers of the children who attend school. This time, we had the help of two volunteers from Alicante, Victoria y Marina, a physiotherapist and a nurse. It seems very surprising to have to stress the need for hygiene habits normally used on a daily basis. Marina and Victoria participated in a talk where the emphasis was on essential hygiene habits for children as much as for their mothers: habits such as washing your hands before and after eating and how to adopt an adequate posture for long working hours.
Mothers listened attentively, correcting their posture, and making comments to each other in a disconcerted yet interested way. Even Soma, the coordinator, was surprised to discover some tricks like washing one’s hair with vinegar to fight lice.
A meeting also took place in Sigra. The new school was the central point where families from all the colonies congregated. It was a day we had all been waiting for, a session where the critical questions of worried inhabitants of the area would be answered. After the fast and unexpected increase in the number of pupils, it was vital to give them the full details about the program. They were impatient, to the point of coming to the school a few days early to find out what it had to offer. We were remarkably impressed as we entered and saw them sitting down in an orderly way, expectantly following us with their eyes. The room was filled with colours and whispered comments. The men were sitting on high stools, observing everything; women were holding their babies and were nervous. As well as the coordinator Soma, a mother of two joined us in our educational program. Elegant, with a pink shaded sari and golden sandals, she enjoyed the treatment of a special guest. Her testimony helped to start a circle of trust among the colonies, which still had doubts about our prompt and selfless help. The colonies knew her, and she explained the benefits and improvements of her children who attend school splendidly and proudly. She responded to the families’ questions, many of which had been prepared in secret to get rid of their doubts. Their looks of approval and the fact that they put their hands together in front of their chest was a clear sign of their consent and respect. Namaste.
These last two weeks have been delirious. One can no longer distinguish reality from imagination. Filming in the suburbs creates an inner discourse that leads to sleepless nights and the unavoidable search for an immediate yet impossible solution. After spending time together, you become so involved that your conscience is worryingly affected.
Watching them through a lens offers a vision that the human eye cannot see. The colony opened up, they all wanted to be a protagonist of something that they did not even understand. They united as a big family, where everything is everyone’s business. They all want to know, ask questions and have hope that we will free them from their situation. Nothing remains a secret. Jealousy also took place when capturing the attention of the camera. The little ones were eager to see themselves portrayed in the viewfinder, whilst parents gossiped and ordered the chaos. Perhaps, this will open a door that will allow us to glimpse at their deficiencies and give voice to their needs.
We are all looking for a way out, an improvement, when we face difficulties. I could feel this need on my skin when my body was burning with fever. With a thermometer under your arm, your perception is never quite the same, but in this case, my perception was similar to what was really going on in my room. I woke up on bed sheets wet from cold sweats, imagining the worst, when a man with an assistant and a briefcase showed up. It was the doctor. I had had a high fever for 48 hours; therefore, in spite of not being able to understand what they were saying, I was glad they were there. Then a third one came. He had a big elastic band that he strongly tightened to my arm in order to take a blood test that would help diagnose which bacteria was swimming in my veins. Never before had I had a blood test carried out at home. They spoke continuously and did not give me the opportunity to ask any questions in order to save time in their search for the best remedy. After some days hiding away to make a full recovery, I took to the streets with a smile on my face, but I still felt weak. I was glad to be able to greet the neighbours again, who were worried about me: a big family who asked about me, who got involved and looked after me. This affection is mutual; we will go on taking care of one another.Author: Vanessa Escuer