3rd February 2015
I got up to Venky's call at 7 a.m. There was no reason why a batchmate would call at that time of the day. Day began around 10-11 a.m for most people. For some like me from 3 p.m. So it was not hard to guess the whole story. NN's folks who didn't want her to miss the train home had rung all her batchmates and me, her roommate, up to wake her up. I sprung up from bed sensing the disaster and quickly woke NN up. Attended her mother's call and was surprised to hear myself say that we had started.
We left for Howrah, us limping women. We surprised ourselves by how agile we were. Better than people who are fit as a fiddle. Nobody like women to rise up to the occasion and hurry. Fret is an alternative word which i refrain from using here.
After seeing her off i took a bus to Sealdah. I had asked D Jeet to text me the name of the church and directions to it. I am very bad with direction and geography. I get lost everywhere. Home town, non-home town. Anywhere, everywhere.
It was Baithakkhana Church that i had to go to. It was called 'Our Lady of Dolours'. It wasn't difficult finding it with the first name. I loved the road to the church through the grocery sellers' lane and the huge baithakkhana market.
At the church i was asked by the sexton to wait in the parlour for the minister. I waited. I read. I waited. I read. Nobody came. When i asked for his number they said they couldn't give it to me. It was the first time i was in a church where the priest simply refused to speak to a mere visitor. It was strange. I left the place after waiting for an hour.
|Parlour, Baithakkhana Church. The Sexton is not pleased with me.|
On 4th February 2015 D Jeet, Aalayam, my editor and i set out to the graveyard determined to shoot at any cost. D Jeet went inside and started shooting. The keeper asked us if we had got permission from the minister. I lied i had. He demanded a letter which said so. I asked him to call the father and ask himself. During the time they took to make the call and confirm we shot more. There were more questions and some nuns gathered to ask us what the matter was. D Jeet asked me to go the church and get permission again. I walked all the way to the church and said i wanted to meet the priest again. They asked me to wait. I understood it was going to be the same. Nobody was going to come. I walked back.
D Jeet showed me the footage he had shot. I was really happy with that but we had not been able to shoot Madeira's grave. Which meant we would have to go back. I asked Venky, my producer to try for obtaining permission from the church. He called back later to say that they were not letting him speak to the minister.
Why was a minister of a church refusing visitors! I was confused and amazed at the same time. I had never seen this. In all the years of belief and even now from what church goers in the family tell me the clergy was a sort of family. The minister at the family church would be a frequent visitor at houses. If it's from a belief where they are allowed to marry, the priest's wife and the women gel well. Recipes, embroidery talk et al. [I wonder if this happens when the priest is a woman]. In most Malayalam movies which show a christian family story, there will be a minister who actively participates in the family affair as a moderator. Sphadikam comes to my mind. There was a scene which involved drunk Mohanlal wearing the minister's cassock and Thilakan, his father mistaking him for the real minister and having some sentimental talk.
So i learnt that in Kolkata, or in this church, things were different. That you couldn't see a minister. I thought of attending the service once and catching hold of this elusive character once and for all, seeking permission. A sermon and a service was a huge price to pay for a shoot. I was having enough headache pretending to be a christian everywhere.
We returned to Chandni, to Madeira's. There Florence again refused to talk to me. The woman needed wooing. We guessed that her change in attitude was because she had seen us talk to her neighbours with whom she is fighting many cases.
We decided to speak with some shop owners next to the Madeiras. We went to a tailor who had been there for over thirty years. Contrary to what we thought, he had only niceties to speak of the Madeiras. He said that what happened there was none of his business and that shop keepers all stood together and that helped them fight anti-socials. 'Anglo-Indians are very nice people', he told us. We asked him about the landlord. He said we could find the name written on the building. We found it but there was no address. When we asked around we were led to a building not far from the Maderias. But one of the flats was closed and the inmate at the other one told us that the person we were looking for had shifted some place else.
Disappointed, we walked down. Then we met an old man who claimed to know the owner. Told us that the owner's name was Abbas Ali and that he had his son's number. I asked if he could call him and ask him where he was staying. He rang him and i spoke. It was Abbas himself who picked the call. I asked him for his address and he gave the location of his shop in Stand Road.
Aalayam, D Jeet and i returned to the institute thinking of how to shoot the grave, the woman and her landlord.
Documentary Diaries #8: Locked