While my six months in India seemed to last a lifetime, the year after leaving the subcontinent has rushed by like water out of an overturned glass.
How can geography mean such different experiences of time? It’s something I will never understand, so I chalk it up to the magic of human existence and perception. There’s some combination of new sensory input, traversing long distances, and overcoming challenges that makes you feel you’ve lived a few extra months in your year. Other times, it’s the opposite. A weekend feels like it passes in a matter of hours when you spend your week staring, disengaged at a computer. A minute feels like a day when confronting an uncomfortable situation.
So suddenly I find myself a year out of my world travels in my childhood bedroom in Minnesota feeling like I just stepped back on US soil. Last year at this time my family was watching a haka performance in the town square in Nelson, New Zealand. They asked all the out of towners to come up to sing a Christmas carol, and we joined travelers from England, Latvia, Germany, India, and more in a rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” each of us allowed to sing in our native language. It was 65 degrees and the sun was only just setting around 8 pm. Sea waves crashed in the background. My skin glowed from the sun in four different countries.
I have a mental proximity to those six months in 2014 that I don’t know I will experience again anytime soon. So though I’m sharing the final documentaries my classes created about 12 months late, they still feel close to my heart, imprinted on my soul, challenging my mind. Part of the feeling is mutual, it seems. Hari Priya just asked for my phone number over Facebook. Shriya wished me a happy birthday just a week ago. Shivani invited me to her wedding in Jaipur at the end of January. Nandini sent me an email with the podcast we recorded on chaos as we watched the Ferguson protests via Twitter from the other side of the globe.
There is always difficulty when you return from a place that has changed you, but was only temporary. Why not stay there longer? Why not visit, or make plans to go back? What did that time mean? Was it good? Was it nothing? What roads did it open? What doors did it close? Unknowable or unsayable now. Though I can be confident I am glad it happened.
So here are the final projects, that I share only as a conduit for the incredible work my students completed during their time with The Modern Story. We delved into issues with skin whitening, womens’ roles, and water pollution, all filmed on Kodak cameras, edited on iMovie. They aren’t perfect. But they have voice.