Being a Vegetable Vendor:
- Who did I exchange places with?
I tried to take the place of a middle aged female vegetable vendor at K.R.Market.
- What did I consider while getting ready or dressing for the event?
There were an awful lot of considerations while I tried to ‘get into character’:
This included not only what the class of women I was trying to imitate wear, but more importantly how they wear it.
In India, a small variation in they way you accessorize lends different connotations. Hence the question, what is the type of jewelry to be taken? How is the hair tied and what goes in it? What type of shoes would a lady of that stature wear in the market?
The availability/ non-availability of resources directly affects the type of person that you become. The relationship that a person has with the objects that he/she carries is a clear indicator of lifestyle, value and the like.
How should I carry money? What is my relationship with it?
Is there a reason to carry a bag? How relevant is that object to be carried in this person’s life?
This consideration was for my time in the market, after all the surface level, visual preparation.
Here the question goes beyond the realm of acting and enters this reflective space of ‘being’ another person. Of course, I’d still be acting, but the very defining of these actions as separate helped in stating who I was and what I was trying to do.
How should I answer people? What will my walk be like? How will I sit? Does a working class woman smile a lot? How does she yawn?
This consideration, I observed, became a constant process during my time there.
What story about where I am from needed to be concocted to complete the illusion?
- What were the events that occurred? What did I feel about what occurred?
The events that occurred were a direct reflection of how we, ( Prerna and I) were bring perceived in that space.
Firstly, if it was in the case of a veiled Muslim woman who told us that ‘such business did not suit us’ or an old Muslim man from Lucknow who kept prodding us about where we were ‘actually’ from, it was clear that we did not belong to that cultural context.
However, as time passed and we became more comfortable in our roles, people, initially were struck by our presence, but seemed to buy into our act when we paid no attention to them, talked amongst ourselves in Hindi and sold vegetables like it was the most obvious thing to do for us.
The trusting nature of the vendors was striking as the lady whom we were tying to imitate, left the responsibility of money transaction entirely in my hands while Prerna dealt with arranging and selling the vegetables. A close friend of the lady’s and neighboring shop owner, who knew the actual reason as to why we were there bought us eats and drinks, hence unintentionally throwing water over our efforts to some extent.
Also, I observed that young men were more suspicious of our presence that middle-aged women who came to the market. Men in their twenties showed an amusing change in expression when they spotted us as opposed to women, who were far more subtle about it and abandoned all doubt once they began buying.
5) What were my insights about what happened?
There is a difference in documenting a person and ‘being’ that person’.
Acting and imitation can only take you so far in the journey of trying to ‘be’ some one else to the fullest. Although I believe that you can never be anyone else but yourself, to whatever extent you go, going beyond acting is definitely a step towards understand what the essence of this person is.
Attire, behavior or objects are not the only things that shape who a person is. Time, experience and memory are extremely influential.
Although philosophically speaking, there might be no distinction between people, at a material level; there is a very clear difference in ‘them’ and ‘us’.
I have observed that people of different classes do differ in the way they think, about who they consider important and what they think as acceptable.
Neha Bhat and the joys of a Long-lasting Stimulus
Hand reaches out. Grabs something in space. Cut.
The earth beckons the tender bottom. Hands assume thread and flower. Up, down; in a circle. Cut.
“Sexy, madam!”, “Hathu rupaya”. Familiar words resonate. Memories flow like swirling sweet tea. I reach Cubbon Park with a bun in hand, listening to the voice of a Bangalore gone by.
We’re audience. A bangle breaks. My boundaries expand. I reach out.
What has theater been to me, but an expression of myself? All through my time in the art of performance, it has given me confidence. Opened up that sub conscious self that calmly ignores conditioning and contains the essence of the sights, sounds and smells I perceive everyday.
It has given me plentiful.
Traversing the barrier between the performer and the audience, the theatre workshop helped me see ways of giving back.
Giving back , not in the notion of ‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours’, rather, stepping beyond the self and traveling to another.
Shortening time, being another person from another life without a necessary ‘audience’, per se completely overthrew the conventional idea of what a performance is.
It is amusing. How theater and lies are so passionately intermingled. And yet, you need your truth to detangle it all. Making up stories and living them in my head is my idea of joy. Being a flower selling Laxmi, a vegetable selling Gauri, a lesbian feminist or a rebellious, spunky teenager are things that have enhanced my experience in this workshop far more than reading out a script and entertaining on stage.
How our bodies say a lot more than we do or intend to mean. And the art of manipulating that very fact.
Performance is not merely entertainment.
I realized the joys of challenging, provoking, inviting another set of lives to be a part of your own. Or your assumed own.
I found theater as a medium to be far more powerful than any other, in terms of the approach we had taken in this course. Stimulus-Response. Through Deepak, I found the joys of understanding performance to its crux. I felt one with the theory of theater.
I finished the workshop thinking that much was left unfinished and I hope to take it forward in a project that sees the culmination of my rich experience in a public space.
What was most intresting about the theater workshop for me is that even though i could hardly participate, i can still say that i benefitted from it.
Firstly, the theater excercise called ‘photograph’, really helped as a tool of performance – sculpting teamed with photograph helped us to construct a performance that was unique because its charecter was mobile, brief, interactive and still effective. I really liked how because we identified a particular problem on sunday, we modified our approach and were quite successful because of it.
It takes a lot to do impromptu in an alien space. Its even harder when we have also to illicit participation from the audience. But i found that my feelings of akwardness dissolved once i realised we were in fact actually getting responses. This is a little sad though – i think i still need a alot of validation in erms of performance.
An important node i think was the arguement about ’giving back’ and how we need’nt see it as changing or altering, but simply as sharing. This i think had a lot to do with our vigor on the last day.
The theater workshop was followed with a much needed talk with jyoti. Although heavy, i think the talk helped conclude what we had been doing very well. Jyoti put into perspective how various roles are infact performances of diffrent kinds which i think are all fueled by needs of diffrent kinds.
” All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:” – W. Shakespaere
After the talk with Dr. Jyothi, it became clear that there are various dynamics to a performance that are seperate from it’s own dynamic nature.
Addressing the three aspects that she introduced, i would like to start by talking about the switchboard hybrid activity.
The activity started with simple projections of the pictures we had taken during our visits there. This relates to the third concept Dr. Jyothi talked about – the ethics of negotiating relationships. While ethics remain relative, it is important to respect certain universal ethics, which are not necessarily binding at all times but rather fulfilling ways to sometimes conclude (especially in our case). As we were at the recieving end of so much knowledege and information from the public space and its people, it was only natural (and circumstantially ethical) to want to share or learning. In the second half , we carried out an interactive activity. This was very performance and since it was more the performance of the audience, participation based. This therefor used the idea of body as site of discourse. The participants had to use their bodies to interact with the projections – creating a dialogue between themselves and the projection.
Finally the sculpting excecise with Deepak. This used all three concepts. The idea of performance as a fresearch metadology, as through the audience’s performance and their reactions to ours, we were able learn the point of view of the people. The idea of the body as a site for discourse also used as the audience had to interpret diffrent body gestures and actions in terms of a freeze frame photograph and hence again use the body to dialogue. The third concept about ethics was alos pulled in as using this particular medium with these people was appropriate as they share a certain comfort level with us. Also it gave them a forum to express themselves and was our way of giving back.
Reflection on exchange of role
This exercise required us to be a part of the market. Each of us had to pick the role of a person and be the same for a couple of hours. I choose to exchange places with a old woman’s daughter.
In terms of preparing for the exercise i had to think of how to make myself merge into the crowd. In general look for old clothes or that which goes with the flower market surrounding. Also, before entering the market space I had to get into the mood of selling goods in relation to the surrounding which helped in being more fluent with the activity.
Once the activity started the neighbouring shopkeepers were pretty curious about a new member in the market. This tells me that they are all familiar with, which space belongs to whom.
Some of the other vendors came upto to the lady who let me sit with her and said, “do not let her sit with you this way, she will use you and then leave”. To this the lady gave a very bland response, in the sense she was almost like how does it matter , if my letting her sit with me is helping her then its good thing that i am doing it and she was convinced that i could cause no harm.
To this i felt like i was invading their space because some of the vendors cleary did not like my presence as opposed to others who were asking the lady if i was her own daughter or some other person. I was really suprised when she said, it is ok if she is using me because in a more general sense nobody would like to be used.
Another issue was that of trust, after a while she left the stock for me to handle and she was confident that i would not do any wrong.Maybe she was willing to take this risk hoping that my presence would arouse curiosity and attract more customers.
The issue of trust comes up once again when this guy from a restuarant comes to take orders for their breakfast and takes money from them before actually giving them food. The person who takes orders is also not the same everyday but yet, she gives him the money for the food and believes for sure that he will come back with the food.
Here we see that the situation is very similar to that of an office in terms of functioning of the market. Yet, it is different in terms of surrounding and activity. But, at the same time you see similarities in function of different classes of society.
At the end of the day, she offered me fruits and along with the fruits she gave me one hundred rupees saying “keep it, this is for you” and when i refused to accept it she tried forcing me into taking. Finally, i did not accept it, i said i am grateful foe the fruits, thank you.
When she gave me the fruits during and at the end of the activity i felt a bit guilty because i thought i was firstly, using her space for my own needs and over that i felt like i was reducing her sales by accpeting the fruit at no cost.
Before observing the issue of trust at the market i would usually think that they would be guarding their sources of income more than us and that they would be more protective of their stock and money.But on the contrary, they are more giving in nature than any of us would be. Even though every penny counts and means much more to them they are still willing to share whatever little they have with them.I was quite overwhelmed with this benevolent nature of hers.
What i really liked about the workshop was that it really made me things which i usually would not have volunteered for. Usually, i would not want to participate in theatrical activities because i was always worried about how i could face so many people looking at me.
But, after this workshop i found myself not minding much about how i came off or what others would think about to a large extent.
It was really interesting to work with the flower vendors and perform both for them and with them. Initially, it was very difficult to get them involve in the activity but eventually quite successful. As soon as we started to get responses we were more confident of our activity and also were encouraged further. It was very nice to see that some of them came up with interesting stuff and to see how each one had their own likes or dislikes for the market which they wanted to portray.
Another exercise which could help even for the future would be that of doing an impromptu. I think this would help us with our reflexes and to think quick. Also, it helped as a tool to look at things with a different view and get different responses in terms of performance.
The exercise of being a vendor and merging with the market space relates to the concept of performance as a research methodology as it helped me to learn how the market functions to a certain extent and provided me with a different perspective into the market space. It helped me to understand the people better than i would have otherwise understood and also get them to be more comfortable in having to converse with them and vice versa.
Clearly my body was acting as a site of discourse because it was body which helped me to come across to the other marketeers as one amongst them and helped me belong to the space whereas in my head there was still a distinction between then and me. It was important for me to change the behavior of my body rather than my mind in order to convince them of my belonging to their space as just thinking of being in their space in my head would not have convinced then that i belong there. This clearly brings about a difference between my body and my mind and how both can help communicate differently. It also comes to say how an ‘action without thought is barely anything’.
My relationship with the vendor was based on both trust and honesty. At the end of the day she was willing to give me fruits and also some cash so i could have lunch. But i still felt the need to either give her something in return or talk to her and share with as to what i gained regarding the exercise. Also, being a part of them in terms of dressing like them, sitting with them, behaving like them and being honest helped me to gain her trust.
This exercise was done by us mainly because we felt the need to give back something to the people from the market and from that we learnt that giving back could also be in the form of sharing something. By doing this it felt like we gave them belief as to how they were a part of our work and they could take back with them an experience of what we shared with them with us not always having to be the only ones at the receiving end. Personally, for me the need to give back arises from the previous exercise where one of the men in the market asks the lady i was working with, ” What are you going to gain by letting her sit next to you ?”.
After we shared the images with the people we had some silhouettes of the people from the market projected on the screen and the audience had to respond to these projections by forming a complete picture with the image on screen with the help of their body. Here we see the body acting as a site of discourse by completing the image with the help of the body and conveying something. Through this we could see how each individual responded to the image on screen relating to performance as a research methodology.
For this exercise, the audience were supposed to use body to create a photograph by sculpting people. The people were supposed to portray what they liked or disliked about the market. This helped us in knowing their view point regarding the space. Some of them portrayed events that had already occurred while the others clearly showed us their feelings through this. They used body to communicate feelings, whether it was to show someone who was drunk or another who was beating up a third person. They conveyed all this by using us like clay and by changing our posture and expression helping us know how each individual shows us the same thing through different actions. Hence, performance being a research methodology and body as a site of discourse.
The concept of ethics is negotiating relationships also comes into place with the help of this exercise as it helped the people in getting comfortable with us and also letting them share their thought about the space.
Piyush Kumar Kashyap:
Reflections on Exchange
1. Who did you exchange places with?
> in the beginning with a Pan Shop vendor but eventually i realised i am sharing the space not only in the shop but in the market. Their is an interaction between him and the market and neighbouring shopkeepers which i had to build.
2. What did you consider while getting ready or dressing for the event?
>I wanted to be a member of the space and that is why i tried to bring maximum believe-ability in my dress. I considered the visual appearance of their clothes that comes from what they wear, how clean do they appear and how do people manage their clothes. I looked upon the colours and patterns they choose as it reflects their taste and mindsets, also their accessories that sometimes are strong symbols of their culture,religion or society.
3. What were the events that occurred and what happened?
> I was recognized as a trainee assistant in the shop as i wasn’t very quick and smart with customers. Language came as a big problem in the beginning, lateron i was just responding to their gestures and transactions. I did transaction around Rs50-60.
4. What did you feel about what occurred?
>I was really moved by the way my person managed his life and his shops, how he trusted me and helped me for my assignment without any shelfish accounts, I wonder if i would have done the same for anyone else! It was really inspiring and learning to be there with them and perform as them,in a way living a glimpse of them! It was avery different perspective of observation this time. Also,for the first time i noticed the buyers and interated with them in a whole new level.
5. What were your insights about what happened? What are your thoughts after reflecting on what transpired today?
>I think it is a deeper level of observation when you actually be that person rather than observing them as artists or photographers or whatever. This is i guess my first sincere learning from Theatre
1. I think more than spaces it was roles that were exchanged.I was trying to be one of them. So i helped a tailor called Kumar. But i think it was not just with one person but it was with a group of people.
2. while getting ready for the sesion, i considered dressing up like a tailor that i was helping but also like people around him.
3. I just went and sat with the tailor. So imn the begining i told him what i intend to do. So i told him that i wanted to work with him. But he was quite apprehensive about this thing. But then he was fine with it and he thought me various things in stitching. He introduced me to people that came to his shop. He wanted to know me better and he was quite open , like he used tonm scold me when i made mistake while learning. So we both wre trying to know each other.
4. It was quite an experience asas we did not know what is gonna happen. Well came and they were talking to me in Kannada and Tamil and then he had to reply as i do not know both the languages. We had built a mutual understanding at least for that moment.
5. When we shed all the luggage that we come with and when we just become nobody, it is easier to understand what we are getting out of a person or a space. There are certain things that a soace teaches you and you believe in those. Like nobody told these shopkeepers to trust anuone and everyone that interact with them. But they believe in the space they inhibit , work or live in.
I tried to step into the shoes of a 16 yr old knife sharpener, umbrella repairer and a key maker boy named aamir .
while getting dressed ,a lot of things crossed my mind.however i dressed ,wrinkled and loosely worn shirt with unbuttoned sleeves,i knew that i would stand out due to difference in complexion and language.even rubbing little mud over didn’t help so i just hoped that my activities would help me to merge in the space.
as he came a bit late than his scheduled time i got to observe,imitate and help him in setting up his shop.the daily cycle of packing and unpacking of his hundreds of knives and dozens of tools compactly in small wooden and steel trunks compelled me to reconsider my organisational skills.as he took out a bunch of keys to open a cobalt blue steel trunk ,hundreds of knives arranged according to their type and size were beautifully laid as if each knife knew its place in the trunk. i was awed as he would just pick bunch of knives by blades without any fear untill i realised that each bunch of knives bound together , had its sharp edge facing inwards;his way of taming these knives’.the way he tossed some of knives in his hand just before keeping them on the display made the act even more theatrical.But aamir seemed to enjoy the awe on my face. i reminded myself of my purpose and tried to repeat some of the activities he would do .as i looked up to him, he smiled and suggested “ sit ….you better sit down”.i knew that clumsiness in handling those knives could not be hidden ,but sill i was expecting a more supportive reaction.as if he immediately understood this,he says” training….many years” and opened his fist to show the marks left by bruises.i somehow foresaw a hidden story these marks want to tell me,but before i can decipher anything he closed his fist with a rusted knife. as the stone wheel started revolving , the rusted knife was slowly brought to touch charging sparks of fire. Soon Amir was gliding and bending the knife blade with precise varying pressure as a musician would glide the bow over violin strings.
though language was a barrier i managed to sell 3-4 knives,but what bothered me that when aamir left the shop to me, every time a customer came,he/she would look around to find the shopkeeper until i would say “yes….”.a game which me and aamir were playing were guessing if the potential customer by just looking at the way they surfed their gaze through different knives and aamir ‘s intuition worked for him in 9 out of 10 times.aamir suddenly left the shop and at a distance he turns back and calls me to come with him. i was apprehensive of leaving the shop unguarded but aamir seemed to have no worries.he ordered two coffee and i had decided to pay for it. but he quickly snapped and returned the note to me and replaced it with a note from his pocket.i was overwhelmed by this gesture ,but i knew that aamir felt quite offended.
i kept wondering how street had made a 16 yr old boy as mature and smart as a grown up man.aamir had learnt to dominate where he could and compromise where he should,a survival skill which even an mba graduate endeavours to master.my pre conceived notion of aamir as a kid whose childhood was ruined due to labour,turned out wrong.aamir enjoyed his small world,where he had true-friends whom he trusted for every thing ,namesake friends whom he had to do favours to and vice versa .He took pride in little victories like buying himself an electric motor or even winning an argument. the street has interwoven fragile relationships which depend on each other to survive and everyone seems to understand this fact hence no one tends to disturb the system for his own cause at a macro level thus harmony and trust is instilled in the system.
aamir has a dream , i have promised him to bring lot of pictures of America next time i come.
BEING K.R. MARKET
1. Who did you exchange places with?
I went into the market thinking of sitting with a bangle seller whom I had met with earlier. Unfortunately her son-in-law passed away and she didn’t come to the market which led me to find a vegetable seller around the same area. Neha and I chose to sit with the same woman.
2. What did you consider while getting ready or dressing for the event?
My aim was to look as inconspicuous as possible in the sense I didn’t want to scream out which strata of society I belonged to or even for what purpose I was there. Although I knew and accepted the fact that because of my complexion and lack of knowing the local language I would be considered an ‘outsider’ I still wanted them to consider that I was there to become a part of them even though I was from a different culture. I went in with a background that I had come from Faridabad to look for a job in Bangalore and having lived in Bangalore for sometime I had taken on some of the traits of the women there (which was something I observed in 2 Rajasthani women who had lived in Bangalore for a while and were selling sprays in K.R. Market).
On the basis of previous observations I wore a synthetic saree with a mismatched cotton blouse. I wore a bindi which is what most Indian girls wear more so in the south. I wore bangles in one hand which i later split and wore in both hands based on observations of the women in K.R. Market. I also put a safety pin through all the bangles to keep them together. I drew a swastika tattoo on my forearm which showed my religion. I also oiled my hair and tied it back into a bun and wore a gajra of orange flowers a tradition among women in the south.
I made sure I carried my money in a removable pocket tucked into my saree much like the pothlis carried by the women at the market.
3. What were the events that occurred and what happened?
On arrival at K.R. Market Neha and I were shocked to find out that the bangle lady we were supposed to sit with was absent on account of the death of her son-in-law.
After talking to a few women in and around that area (since that area was relatively unknown to us) and finding out if they knew hindi, and telling them that we were there to shoot a film that required us to sit with them and behave like one of them for 2 hours we found a lady selling vegetables who was willing.
We introduced ourselves to her under pseudonym’s of Lakshmi and Gauri. For a good 20 minutes she was busy telling her friends and family about the shooting till we asked her to keep it a secret which she did respectfully.
For quite sometime we interacted with her relative (brother or brother-in-law) who worked in the local wine shop. Unfortunately he treated us like people from a different social strata offering us tea, coffee and breakfast. Hence it took us a while to get comfortable sitting in the space and for all the excitement to die down.
We received quite a few curious stares as we clearly looked a little out of place, culturally. Luckily the message of the shoot didn’t travel; instead we started spreading the story of our lives in Faridabad. But all of that didn’t stop this one woman clad in a burqa to look at us for a while, make us uncomfortable, snigger under her breadth and say “ yeh aap kya kar rahin hain, aisa kaam apko shobha nahi deta!”
After some time we made a breakthrough in terms of our disguise. 2 ladies who looked like they belonged to the middle class, looked at us strangely but dismissed their doubts when they questioned us about the prices of the vegetables and bought vegetables from us.
By this time the ‘amma’ of the shop had taken a back seat and entrusted the vegetables to us. In fact she didn’t even bother to collect the money from Neha, she allowed me to arrange her goods and sell them and Neha to keep the money from the transaction. In fact she didn’t even bother to count the money when we handed it to her in the end.
Another interesting incident that occurred was this group of young boys who passed by us and started eave-teasing us under their breadth. As if they weren’t so sure as to who we were.
During one of our attempts to sell some vegetables, because of some misunderstanding we sold it for a lower price (actual price 2 for Rs.5, our selling price 3 for Rs.5), amma went after the customer took out one vegetable to get it to the right selling price.
One muslim man from Lucknow found us quite interesting. He realised without us telling him anything that we weren’t from Bangalore. He seemed overly friendly with us and the ‘amma’ who didn’t really respond positively to this chatty man.
Towards the end of our time spent as vegetable vendors the amma’s relative came and bought us some tender coconut almost blowing our cover luckily it was a quiet time of the afternoon..
One of the highlights of my experience there was that Deepak passed right by us and didn’t recognise us.
Through out our time there, like most of the women around us, Neha and I engaged in some small talk. We tried our level best to keep it in Hindi but when we did break the trend and spoke in English we lowered our voices.
At the end Neha bought some vegetables from ‘amma’ who absolutely refused to take money for it till we forced her to.
4. What did you feel about what occurred?
Initially I was highly doubtful of this exercise especially when the amma we were working with started spreading the news about this film shoot and her relative started giving us some sort of special treatment. As time passed I was highly curious to read the minds of all those who passed by us and looked at us strangely making it seem like there was an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. I really wanted to know whether they figured out our ‘class’ or believed that we were just culturally different.
All the time we were there I felt this immense trust from amma and her friends and relatives. In fact I was quite surprised that this vegetable vendor just left all her goods to us and not only that, but trusted us with the money also. I was rather hesitant to keep the money with me, every five minutes I’d try and give it back to her.
While my mind was buzzing with observations, I had to focus intensely on my body. A lot of this experience was bodily. I was constantly aware of how I sat, that my feet were too clean to have them sticking out of my saree, that I smiled and showed my teeth much more than the people there, that I could yawn without bothering to cover my mouth. I was constantly trying to figure out where their eyes moved, I saw none of them looking above eye level to see and observe the people towering above us. I was constantly trying to keep in check my loud hand gestures as well as the content of our talk. Even while speaking in Hindi I had to be constantly aware of my language so that it doesn’t sound like I don’t speak the language too much. I was aware of the fact that I touched my face to wipe it many more times than they did. Little little things like that made up the entire experience. It was indeed thinking through the body.
When that muslim woman told us that the work we were doing doesn’t flatter us, her gaze was such that I was put off guard. Just when I was settling into this character and my surroundings she came along with that strange snigger which made me feel overdressed, for a minute I even thought we looked like prostitutes.
As time passed by the ritual of the labour- arranging the vegetables, chit-chatting with someone, staying quiet, keeping your eyes to the eye level, selling goods and coming back to arranging some more vegetables, started becoming meditative. There was a sense of calm that I felt. I also felt that in a strange way we were being accepted by that space. But there were times when I felt like a complete outsider to their community. There was also this feeling of being ignored.
In the end the tender coconut and the refusal to take money from Neha for the vegetables just overwhelmed me. It made me think of the fact that how much ever we may boast about being charitable we cannot match their generosity.
5. What were your insights about what happened? What are your thoughts after reflecting on what transpired today?
. As an afterthought, I think it is very important to go into a space without a strong prejudice and preconceived notions. I think it was very important to unlearn our previous responses to the space and concept about the people. In that way we could just physically place ourselves in the space and mould ourselves into someone like them (I hate the idea that I keep bringing up the word them, it’s almost like in my head I’m going into the space with that notion of us and them). But somewhere there were activities of the nature of staring that made me realise that there is always an “us” and “them” may it be 2 different cultures or 2 people from different religions.
One thing I thought of was how being design students we are trained to observe our surroundings, question it, respond to questions, and take the opportunity to converse with people to get to know them. This proved as a disadvantage when we went into the space with the idea of merging with it. Our strong conditioning to question affected our body language. We were constantly looking around with a keen eye, noting things in our head, all these movements made us conspicuous. We had to force ourselves to just sit and absorb what came before us, in our line of vision. It was difficult to hold ourselves back from knowing more, observing more. But somewhere it was peaceful to just be.
Another insight was their way of living and working. They live in so much trust and co-operation. They are very clear about their work and another’s work. They see the distinction and they have a sense of understanding and respect for each other. That makes me rethink the notion I’ve had all along that Indians are competitive. Maybe it’s a certain class of Indians.
I liked how people there are willing to make their thoughts known to the other either through words or actions. I like the level of comfort they have with each other- may it be a customer salesman relationship.
Who did you exchange places with?
I had an opportunity to exchange roles and be a tea shop cashier for the morning. Considering we had to be a character we had not spoken to or interacted with prior to this assignment, I felt being in a tea shop with those people would give me an insight into a very interesting business model.
2.What did you consider while getting ready or dressing for the event?
One of the main things i took into consideration when I dressed up for my role was my appearance. Having been to KR market so many times, I had a very clear image of how a working class middle aged/youngster male would look like. Hence, I made myself look like one of them. Wearing a full arm shirt with design patterns on them, and formal trousers with chappals, I was able to merge with the crowd to a great extent. In terms of behavior, I needed to be a little rustic and loud which over my stay there, I was able to incorporate those traits and quirks into my character.
3.What were the events that occurred and what happened?
Sitting at the cash counter and pretending to be a cashier was pretty exciting and intimidating. Attending to real customers and being involved in a real trade and instructing the boy who made the tea was pretty eventful in itself. But when Piyush, dressed as a muslim man, came to my shop to buy a cup of tea, the interaction was exciting as we had to interact as characters and not as ourselves.
4.What did you feel about what occurred?
The first sight of Piyush entering my shop broke a serious rhythm I was maintaining as my character. But the moment we had eye contact and realized we were still in our characters, the interaction changed completely. The exchange made me feel like a method actor and felt proud of having managed to stick on to my character.
5.What were your insights about what happened? What are your thoughts after reflecting on what transpired today?
One of the main thoughts that surfaced in retrospect was that to understand a character or a community or a group, observing them gives one a certain degree of understanding and insights. But being with them and being as them gives one a whole new level of understanding and comprehension.