Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Documentary Diaries #6: A Fall and a Cemetery

1st February 2015

After a break of a day we set out to Bow Barracks again on 1st.

Nikki was around. I asked him if Florence was there. He said that she had gone out and didn't know when she would be back. I felt he was lying. We went to the neighbours. One of the neighbours who said he was Leon Madeira's cousin came out with newspaper reports on the place which said that Florence was running an unlawful business. He refused to speak on camera and said that his wife would speak after she was back from church. For the first time in my life my second name which is christian was of some use. When i showed my id card to make him believe that i was indeed a film student, he read it out aloud and asked me if i was Catholic. I said i wasn't. Tried to bring some faith on my face, the kind i have often seen on Sethuvamma's face when she thinks of me and raises her eyes up seeking help from god almighty, and said i was protestant christian. He seemed very happy. 'That is good', he said. I was relieved.

Even though he refused to give his face to the camera there was no end to his complaints about Florence. Speaking of how she was having an affair with an inspector at the Bow Barracks thana he used 'She is worse than Elizabeth Taylor' as a refrain. Someone was peeping through the small window opposite the man's house. It was a woman and he promptly turned to her and told us that she would be able to tell us more about Florence's evil ways. Her name was Prescilla.

We started talking to her. She narrated her experience with Florence which made me cringe. She had been hugely violated by Florence and her employees. After talking for a long time in the stairway and her dog barking from inside, we bade goodbye and decided to go in search of the landlord of the building in which Florence was living and working. I went up the building next to it and D Jeet and NN followed. One of the inmates said she knew where he was and led me down the stairs. I heard a loud sound and a crack. I turned back to see NN on the floor, cringing in pain and unable to move. My heart skipped a beat. I knew that she had twisted her ankle just by the look of it.

I ran to get the pain killers i was taking for my own knee. It was a Sunday and most medical stores were shut. By the time i was back her foot was twice its original size. We rushed to Medical College, College Street. Again, being a Sunday the OP was shut. We had to go the Emergency department. Took an X Ray and found that her bone was intact. She had sprained her ankle. Was given pain killers. She couldn't walk.

When i was on the run looking for a medical shop, Prescilla had called me to say that she had some more things to say.

NN decided to record sound in spite of her ankle and we went back to Bow barracks after lunch at Spanish Cafe. She held on. Suffering.

Prescilla, who is an Anglo-Indian and is neighbours with Florence was asked by the latter to vacate her own house. Prescilla was having problems with her family. It was something regarding her marriage. She didn't divulge too much about it. From the complaint she had filed at the Bow Barracks thana and which she showed us later, it was a grave matter. The family was forcing her into prostitution. Prescilla said that her family had paid Florence to evict her from the house she was born and grew up in. When she refused she was harassed by the male employees at the Madeira's. When she walked to work and back they would pass lewd comments on her. Once what she called 'a gang of burqa clad women' stood outside her door along with Florence and showered abuses on her chiefly accusing her of prostitution. They took her male friend to Madeira's and threatened to harm him if she refused to leave. When she approached the police thana they refused to file a complaint. Once she was arrested and had to spend a night in jail. This was based on a complaint that Florence had filed against her accusing her of disrupting peaceful environment of the locality. After that Prescilla approached the women's commission. Things got better after that. Florence and her associates backed off.

Throughout her narration Prescilla kept repeating the line 'I was alone and i fought the battle alone'. I felt a lot of respect for her. It is not easy to do that. If she won it is only because of her will which didn't falter in the face of terrible times. It is not something everyone has and those who have it have not had it easy.

Prescilla's dog Sally was barking throughout our conversation with her.

After that we decided to shoot a graveyard. We were thinking of which graveyard to head to when NN came up with a brilliant idea. We could go to the one in which Leon Madeira was buried. It was in St. John's Church, Sealdah. We went there. NN sat in the car giving some rest to her foot and D Jeet and i set out looking for the church. We found the cemetery and Madeira's grave.

In fact the whole family was buried there.

Both D Jeet and i at the same time sighed that it was a perfect love nest. That people should really make use of the place to make love. Since we had nobody to do that with we decided to get the documentary done and seek permission to shoot there.
We had to shoot there. When we asked the keeper he asked us to get permission from the priest at Our Lady of Dolours Church, Baithakkhana. We went there and were told that he would be available only on the next day and the day after that during 8 a.m and 9 a.m. We returned to our gaadi buying pappad for everyone. 

Pack up and back to the institute. 

On 2nd February we let the institute know that our sound person had injured herself and that we were unable to shoot. It was pathetic to watch most of them consider it as a ploy to delay our shoot. NN was to leave for Mumbai the next day. I decided to meet the priest on that day after seeing her off at Howrah station. D Jeet was also busy that day with another shoot so it would just be me and mr jesus christ after a long long time. 

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