From Snehalaya, With Love

My word for India, since I’ve now been asked on several occassions, is masala. It’s usually a little spicy, everyone does it different, and it’s always good with absolutely anything. My time here has run the spectrum of experiences and flavors, the end result of which have left me wanting more of the feast that is India. I’m already pushing aside the impending sadness that will come from departing Snehalaya next week. I know I’ve grown attached when I find myself sauntering up to the new guests on the compound to talk about my adoptive home of the past two weeks and my 300 little brothers and sisters (they mostly call me “didi” (sister) because none of them can remember Tiffany).

There’s Habib, who studies 12 hours a day for his university exams in architecture but still finds time to play translator for us and to help run sound for our interviews. Monali is a beautiful dancer and is picking my brain because she wants to become a journalist and change India for the better. Bahkrishna and Shankar just want to use my camera, but they’re good fun and both have a real eye for framing. Pamila has the best smile I’ve ever seen on any continent. Sunil is a better acrobat than I’ve paid to watch at circus performances. Parvesh is a flamboyant ray of sunshine and my heart breaks a little bit when I think of how hard his road is going to be in a country that recently passed anti-homosexual legislation. I don’t know many of their personal histories before they came to Snehalaya, though there are visible scars and signs of internal damage on many of the children here. I’m so happy that they all have Snehalaya to call home now, and I’m so proud to be a small part of making positive change for this organization.

Like all projects that must go through multiple layers of translation for all parties to be in the same chapter (I’m not going to be so optimistic as to say that we are ever on the same page), it took rounds of explanations and requests to get the first animation workshops set up, but it all came together and was a great success. Eighteen excited children from Snehalaya got their first feel of celluloid and had a blast coloring, painting and snacking their way through an afternoon of artmaking.



In light of the rigorous schedule the kids are handling because of oncoming exams in early March, the documentary workshops model underwent some adjustments. Our prize assistant Habib took ownership of the first Playsport video camera and is working on a documentary of his own about his routine, and the second Playsport was assigned to be the roving video camera for the kids to use for individual long take exercises. Unfortunately, after one afternoon the second camera inexplicably had a software crash and I haven’t been able to restore it to proper working order. Faced with the disappointment of so many kids, I’ve given up my digital Pentax to be the public use camera, and we’ll generously say the kids are doing photo essays of their lives. You’ve gotta go with the flow in India, even when the flow takes you in the opposite direction from where you intended to go. I’ll try to salvage the few videos and will have plenty of photos to share from the budding visual artists here.

<3 Tiffany


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