False Flowers and Real Wasps

My headscarf by another name is called a ‘chunni’. And this broek I call a ‘gharaara’ with a lange aaaa. They are both made of the flimsiest of cotton and fall in folds. The gharaara, from my large hips amply spreading around the clogs my feet are in. Big flowers in blues, yellows and greens spread themselves over an orange background. I wear it with a kurta, a loose tunic that the traders from Delhi sell in the market nearby. The tunics are quite popular with a certain section of the population here. The outfit makes me stand out. To stand out is not good practice in the Netherlands is it? As the saying here goes,  ‘you are odd enough when you are ordinary’. Is that why the wasps found me?

False Flowers…(Full text)

Picture credit – Nathalie Gaston

Here Comes the Rain

The little radio on top of my refrigerator announced this morning that what we are experiencing is ‘tropical heat’. There’s a storm brewing. An unruly, wanton wind threatens to lift up my short dress to dangerous levels. Bicycling as best as I can, I try to hold it down with one hand. There’s a man walking his dog that takes a look at me, makes a loud remark and laughs. But the wind has picked it up and flung it in a direction that I am not cycling in.

Here Comes the Rain (Full text)

Picture credit – Param Bedi

A ‘non Western immigrant’ – or should I say ‘allochtoon’?

On the gracht

If February thinks its job is to test my relationship with my beloved city, summer confirms our courtship. Short, but sweet enough.

The other day I was in a chat room with some people who I have never met. I typed, ‘its sunny and warm in Amsterdam’. Someone replied immediately, ‘ Oh so you are in the great city’. I asked, ‘and where are you?’ ‘Calcutta’, showed up on my screen. ‘Also a great city’, I typed. ‘Yes and similar’, is what appeared in a jiffy. Then we had to get down to the business of the day. So I never got around to asking him what he meant by ‘similar’.

On the Gracht (Full text)

Picture credit – Param Bedi

Notes on Man Capture

To capture a man, then immediately marry him, you need a chicken

Single mothers also qualify for man capture

It is a truth (not widely accepted) that to capture a man, then immediately marry him, you need a chicken.

But not because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

The Garo Hills. An extension of the eastern Himalayas. When the cotton is in full bloom, it is the season for man capture. Men from one village capture men from another for marriage to their unmarried sisters, cousins and nieces. If a man accepts the marriage, he moves into the village of his wife and shares her property.

And if he doesn’t?

Ratmi, a young, single mother wants to get married. The film follows the process of capturing a man for her as it observes the players behind Ratmi’s marriage in 2000/2001 and again in 2006.As we follow Ratmi’s story, some questions emerge for us. What doesIndia look like as it is in some types of unseen fringes, where power shifts back and forth from individual to group, man to woman, the person behind the camera and the people in front of it? This film about the India that we don’t see, reverses some of the dominant images we see all the time about caste, gender and difference.

Produced by Chitra Katha Productions

Directed by Nandini Bedi

Distributed within South Asia by Under Construction, Delhi (UCL Films)

Distributed outside South Asia by Chitra Katha Productions

43 mins. Garo with English subtitles

A captured man may run away never to return.
Life in the margins


De Balie Amsterdam – November 2008 – Followed by a discussion

The International Ethnographic Film festival of Delhi – November 2008 – Followed by a discussion

The 10th Madurai International Docu. abd short Film festival – December 2008

Bangalore Film Society screening – January 2009

The India Institute, Amsterdam January 2009 – Followed by a discussion

The Kolkotha International Documentary Film Festival- January  2009 ( KIDFF)

The Himalaya Film festival – Amstelveen – February -2009 – Followed by a discussion

The 5th Asian Womens’ Film Festival, Delhi – March 2009

Persistence Resistence Film Festival – Delhi – April 2009

LOVA Film Festival – Leiden May 2009- Followed by a discussion

The 2cd International Docu. and short Film Festival of Kerala – June – 2009

The 3rd Womens’ International Womens’ Film Festival, Chennai – March 2010

VIKALP@Alliance Screenings, Mumbai – April, 2009

The NID short film festival, Ahmedabad – January 2010

The Kaala ghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai – 2010

The Asian Womens’ Film Festival, Trivandrum – March 2010

Lamakaan, Hyderabad – July 2010 – Followed by a discussion

India International Center, Delhi – July 2010 – Followed by a discussion

Picture credits – Erik de Maaker

Ambi Jiji’s Retirement

Produced by Public Service Broadcast Trust (PSBT)Public Service Broadcast Trust

Directed by Nandini Bedi

Distributed bySynclinefilmstore

29 mins. Garo with English subtitles

Jiji in her jhum field

If the global does not encompass the local, then what does it contain?

Ambi Jiji has always planted her crops on soil on which forests have been burnt. At the end of each year, this jhum field would be abandoned and left to regenerate into forest and a new one burnt. This is ofetn referred to as ‘shifting cultivation’. The burning of forested lands and the choice of new fields was an action performed by the village as a whole unit. Jiji is one of the custodians of the community owned village lands.

When Jiji was a young woman, she didn’t need to buy food. The people of her village relied on the great variety of crops that their fields produced. Forest cover was not reduced over the vast area under the control of her village. Now Jiji is about to retire. The rampant felling of trees for cash has aggravated the ecological balance for shifting cultivation. Chekjak, her daughter has been converting her fields to orchards, taking them out of circulation from the shifting fields. Waljak, another daughter, continues to depend on shifting cultivation but cannot meet her food needs any more. Chekjak and other villagers orchard produce give them cash and food security. Community lands are being privatized without consent and mono crop orchards are replacing organic multi crop fields. As some move aggressively forward, the disparities in wealth between villagers in what was a more homogenous society becomes inevitable.

This observational film follows conversations between the protagonists and other villagers that suggest an abuse of social control over land use by the village folk themselves. It focuses on Jiji, who spends her days between planning her retirement and trying to regain control over the threads that are the fabric of her society. Through her opposing actions, the film points to just how difficult it could be to turn events around in her village to bring back a balance into community life and the environment.

Are we witnessing more generally known global phenomena in a remote village in the Northeast of India?

Ambi Jiji with Nandini

First Prize – Jeevika – Livelihood Film Festival- Delhi – July 2007

First Prize – CMS Vatavaran Film Festival – Delhi – August – 2007

Also screened at

India International Center, Delhi – July – 2007  (Followed by a discussion)

Shared Histories – Celebrating India in South Africa – Johennesburg – Sept. Oct. 2007

The 9th Madurai Documentary and Short Film festival – Nov 2007

CMS Vatavaran traveling festival – in 8 Indian cities in 2008

Watson institute of International Studies, Brown University, Providence  – February 2008 (Followed by a discussion)

Bangalore Film Society – January 2009 ( Followed by a discussion)

India Institute – Amsterdam – January 2009 ( Followed by a discussion)

Nepal International Indegenous Film festival – Kathmandu – June 2010