Saturday, January 26, 2008

Of chairs and internet gods

"Pull the curtain. You'll get sunlight to get that working."

I was standing by the window, surrounded by about thirty residents at the St. Joseph's old age home. Each time I took a small step, I could here Nilkamal chairs making a sound on the tiled floor of this old goan villa, now converted into a home for the elderly. Some were simply trying to realign their position to be able to a get a good look at the laptop in my hands. Others, were just trying to move. Unsuccessfully so. Then again ages of 85 and more..I could see how this could take a while.

Nuns yelled in the background. The nilkamal chairs continued their cacophony. As I made futile attempts to get some Internet signal. best friend was doing his job of keeping my audience from getting more restless. Sister Barbara moved in small, quick steps through the corridor as she went in looking for an extention chord. And through this all, the camera person was determined to enjoy some butter cookies that are seldom taken out of the kitchen (blame it on the residents' sugar and cholesterol issues!)

You'd appreciate the commotion a lot more if you knew the background. Just two days ago, my camera crew and me had been shooting at this very old age home. The story we had in mind, was a feel good new year story. Different from the usual partying that one associates with Goan new year celebrations. As we parked outside our destination, fully aware that we were about an hour late...a small nun walked hurriedly towards us. "Compliments of the season," she I managed a "hmph..aa..uhh..." and my catholic friend replied with the appropriate "compliments of the season" that so easily escapes a Hindu boy who doesn't know that this is how most goans greet each other after chirstmas, untill new years.

An instant later guilt set in, when we were told they'd all been waiting for over an hour now. That was our cue to start shooting asap! So we Spoke, sang, danced. And while we continued our banter, a very inquisitive (and, slightly irritable) 96 year old woman muttered to someone next to her.. "aye men! what they goin on and on 'bout?"

It took me a few seconds to shove the microphone into aunty Margaret's face. It took me fewer still to realise that she didn't hear that well. And just as I was about to begin a question.. "aye! What is this about men?" she asked.

"We're from a news channel"
"you're a NEWSance?"

I could understand how she'd misheard. the words sound similar. Laughter. Some sheepish grins. Story shot... and available on our lovely

Cut to the current situation of the noisy plastic chairs still moving the room. While our seniors gathered I was looking for something, they weren't quite sure what. Of course, that hardly stopped them from suggesting.

"Take it near the window. It'll come in," instructed one voice half thinking some passing angel was going to come and hand me some Internet network and fly out.

"Pull the curtain. You'll get sunlight to get that working," said another...convinced it was now up to the solar gods to power this thing that was standing in the middle of them watching the story we'd shot with them, on my laptop screen.

Some 20 mins later, I returned. Having managed to buffer 100% of the video out on some tree with substantial height (thank you lord of the environment!). And as we began watching the video...huddled together around the laptop screen.. the chairs stopped moving. I imagined a roomful of silent spectators who'd watch themselves on screen. Shed a tear. Give our gang a big hug..and we'd move out feeling slightly better about ourselves. Instead, the room filled with 30 old people bitterly complaining about the fact that they couldn't hear (like duh!) some others couldn't see. And better still, a few who;d forgotten why they'd taken so much trouble to move their chairs five inches to begin with!

Some Five screenings later..most had looked at the video. Some had seen it. Few watched. And a miniscule proportion of them heard it. but they all smiled. Endlessly.

And it all came back to just one thing 84 year old Uncle Jerry had said on the day of the shoot, " All we want is for people to come and see us. We have everything else here". As we packed our laptop, unplugged the extention board... we heard chatter, laughter, people saying how great these boys were who brightened up their day. And then we heard aunty Margaret again... "aye men. What's all 'tis about?"

I guess it never really ends!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

tried searching for the video... i probably missed it on your show.. its a wonderful thing you guys did. it is true that when you are 85+ all you need is people to talk to... i wish people visited old age homes more often.. even if only on certain ocassions.