Not Goodbye

When I came to Mumbai to shoot a documentary film, I planned to come back with a hard drive full of digital memories – and I am. I wanted to return with the Niswarth program this year to capture and recreate the experience I had last year with the art form that I know best. When last year my family and friends asked “What was it like,” I knew I could not answer in words, so this film is my answer. I want everyone to have the (incredibly fortunate) opportunity to meet Ashish, Mansi, and Vaibhav, the three bright, hopeful, and wise students of the Akanksha foundation that we worked with this year and last, and to challenge the assumptions that most of us have or have had about low-income communities, and the children who live in them. So yes, the one terabyte hard drive is full of the words and images of those three students and their family and friends, and it does house a fragment of their unbreakable hope, but looking back the hard drive is not nearly the most valuable thing that I’ll be bringing home with me. The hard drive only holds those moments in which a camera was in front of my face, but what I rally cherish are those moments that I spent with Ashish, Mansi, and Vaibhav when the cameras were off, and put to the side, when we could just connect, one-on-one or all together, talking about life or playing carom in Vaibhav’s house while some dancing competition show was playing in Hindi in the background. And so, as I was waving goodbye to those three Akanksha students today, it was not sad as it was last year, not really even bittersweet, because last year as I waved and promised to return, I didn’t know if I was telling the truth; this year, I did. I know that my relationship with them will last a lifetime – and I can’t wait to see what they become.