Well I don’t often bare my personal thoughts publicly, but there has been something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while so here goes…
A year ago I started something that meant a great deal to me, that as yet I’ve been unable to finish. I wanted to make a film. It started out as a simple film about musicians from India and the UK touring each other’s countries. As someone who has moved away from everything I know and love in the uk – my family, career as a sound engineer, being part of a community of techies, musicians, artists and crazy circus performers, all working doing what they love, often not for money but for a belief that through their art they can change the world for the better.
Also I moved away from a broken heart, the loss of my job at Boomtown and friendships I thought were solid until I decided to keep my baby and all the controversy that caused. While I made peace with the other responsible party involved and many of those that hurt me, I knew the UK, the small island that it is, had lost its calling and I had reached the limits of what I could do there professionally. India, the country that contained not only the man I had fallen in love with, but a music, arts and festival scene that was exploding, exciting and loaded with new challenges and opportunities to create – a new culture to immerse myself and my daughter in and a fresh start and fresh career- it was calling me.
Through my film I felt I could bring the best parts of these two worlds together. When I went back to shoot at Glastonbury festival, I was reminded of the beautiful energy of the people working there to make a positive change in the world. The film became so much more – not only about two groups of musicians experiencing each other’s culture, but about the potential for positive social change such exchanges opened up and the hurdles that existed to such a venture, both financially and in regards to freedom of movement across borders. Amongst many others, I met some people from South America running a grassroots festival there who also felt the same as me – that the power of music and art at music festivals and other such events has a huge transformative potential. The film became about facilitating this foreign exchange, advocating it – for better or worse, about this more than objectively filming that very thing in a documentary.
If I am to be very honest with myself it was also about the maybe selfish motive of keeping that connection with the scene I loved and the people I loved in the UK and the new world I was part of in India. I returned to India with grand plans of creating a non-profit entity to aid non commercial/independent musicians and artists to be able to participate in performance changes to each other’s countries – doing my bit to make the world a better place and helping out some amazing artists and friends on the way. The organisation would springboard off the film and it would begin by bringing a UK musician to India that winter. I would also finish my other (first) film project on the musicians, performers and travellers working to help the Syrian refugees.
Not long after I returned to India, I was unexpectedly hospitalised and suffered a traumatic experience involving my ovaries, a corrupt insurance company and crooked, nasty doctor. I suffered PTSD and depression and anxiety as a result, but kept on going – I had to for my daughter- and I got my head down and tried my best in my new full time job for an Indian events company. The job is fantastic but demanding and between keeping my head afloat at work, trying to organise a tour, a second shoot at Boomtown festival (remotely from India) and trying to be a good mum, I struggled and failed at pretty much all of the above.
In India I lacked the network and support of kindred spirits willing to make the tour and film happen. I couldn’t apply for Arts funding in the UK as I am not resident there and I couldn’t apply for funding in India as Im not a citizen here. I tried to seek help from the British council and received a very firm good luck but fuck off. The numerous huge forms and impossible deadlines for funding piled up with no help, guidance or time to fill and I watched everything slipping away. People who initially promised help lost interest or let me down. I didn’t have the resources solo and I just had to admit it. It felt immensely lonely and all I could do was put my project on the back burner and try to prioritise keeping my job and being there for my daughter and partner.
It was soul crushing when I had to admit that I couldn’t organise the tour and had spent the last bit of my credit card on the Boomtown shoot. I had all this footage and minimal experience in editing a film – my blind belief that sheer bloody mindedness and conviction in what I felt was a worthy cause would enable it to happen. simply wasn’t enough. It was overwhelming. It ate away at me night and day. I felt I had let so many people down – the bands, my work who had supported me above and beyond enabling me to do the first uk shoot, all my friends and colleagues in the UK, my family and myself. I couldn’t bear to look at the footage, to try to raise more funds – I felt sorry for myself that more people hadn’t helped me and hadn’t felt as passionately about the subject matter. I felt that I was wrong to have even tried and that as family finances were not great I had made a bad decision putting money I didn’t have into a failed project. I felt I owed the world who was laughing at me now surely, a huge apology and more isolated than ever from the UK.
My day to day life had become about making slogans for corporate company’s employee r&r events, pushing through the harsh crowds on the Mumbai local train and fighting guilt, insomnia and nightmares. My relationship suffered and I became a horrible person to be around. The only joy in my life was the time spent with my daughter. The only thing I felt proud of about myself was that I could still read to her every night and pay her school fees and give her fun and love.
My thirty-sixth birthday approached and with still no wedding to my partner, no sure immigration status or residency and the general feelings of insecurity this produced, along with crazy stuff going on with my hormones producing yet more insecurities about early menopause and there being no chance of ever giving my child a sister or brother in the future, coupled with the occasional urge to cut my hair and dye it a crazy colour – I had finally arrived at mid-life crisis.
Conversations with my mother had turned to her talking some well-intended nonsense (sorry mum if you are reading this) about seeing a pretty flower and it making her feel content and thankful. My partner had taken to sending me inspirational quotes and articles on food to eat for depression and trying to get me to do more yoga. A few faithful and beloved friends persistently kept in touch despite the distance and time difference and a few more over here persistently invited me out despite me rarely accepting and generally not being any fun at all when we did meet. I was absolutely adamant that I didn’t want to have a birthday.
Then the day came. I went to see a doctor about my hormones – whatever it may be it should be treatable and there is hope I can feel normal again in that dreaded week of my cycle. I refused several lovely offers of lovely company and sat down at my computer to face my demons. The first thing I was faced with was broken files, lost work and missing data. My wonderful partner convinced me it was salvageable and despite being on the other side of the country, conspired with my friends, teenage niece and six year old child to get me a cake, beautiful golden gift, pink roses, nice wine and a lego pass-the-parcel containing some hair clips that belong to me, various barbie shoes and home-made beads.
The next morning with the help of a dear friend, I started afresh with a new edit project for what I have shot of my film so far. I know it will not be easy and maybe it will never be the film I had originally planned, but if I can make something meaningful and call it my best shot I can maybe live with myself. Who knows, maybe if I can make something that gets my belief across, that if we don’t give up in life when it feels like the world is against us, and keep on being creative, putting our art out there, regardless of what it earns us or costs us, or what anyone else thinks, maybe, just maybe we can make the world a better place.. and maybe, just maybe someone else will feel the same, maybe, just maybe one day with the help of others, I will be able to make something more than what I can do on my own.
I think of the people I have shot and interviewed in my film so far and the ones I still want to shoot – they are the ones who have achieved this and are living this – the ones who inspired me. I owe it to them to finish what I’ve started. Better late than never..