This is the page for field notes and observations. If you wish to scribble your thoughts on our project or a related issue, do mail us your note. This is where that might appear.  

 Voices from experts

We went to interview Prof. Ashok Sen.  He began by talking about his work and his interest which led him to work on Daftaripara. He not only discussed the present problems of the binding industry of Kolkata and its roots but also introduced us with the social and a complex economic side of the story. He added a new perspective to the project. While talking he highlighted Marx as well as Rabindranath.  He as a teacher for the first time guided us to the fact that there is no space for any sort of guilty feeling as we are exploring our history. It is not only the story of the binders but it is our story. It is the story of the society where we live and thus, we are not at all far away from it. It is a part of our own history and we should document it and explore it. Prof. Sen’s interview was full of new information, which has opened new doors for us to explore in this project. Listening to him was of course a treat as it was extremely enriching for us.

Our next interviewee was his daughter Smt. Rushati Sen. She teaches in the Department of Economics in Basantidevi College. She told us that right now she is working a project on women in unorganized sector. In this project they have spoken to women working at Daftaripara. She said that binding industry is another field from where female workers are getting omitted due to the advent of the machine. She believes that it is like an axiom that women are incapable of handling machines, and that is why they are not even trained to operate the machines. On the other hand she has seen boys below 18 years assisting the machine work. She came up with the observation that a sense of inferiority has also grown in these female workers regarding handling machines and thus, they never question any allegation of inferiority imposed on them.  She then referred to the history where technology has always neglected women and demarcated them in various ways. Her interview opened a new field for us to explore Daftaripara.


দফতরীদের কথা

কলেজ স্ট্রীটে কত কত বই ! নতুন পুরনো কত রকমের ! নতুন বই খুলেই আগে সেটার গন্ধ শুঁকতে ইচ্ছে করত ছোটবেলায় ।  কলেজ স্ট্রীট পুরনো বই-এর গন্ধ শুঁকতে চেনাল ।

এই গন্ধই টেনে নিয়ে গেল বই-এর আঁতুড়ঘরে । পূরবী সিনেমা হল আর মিত্র ইন্সটিটিউশন-এর উলটোদিকের একটা গলিতে ঢুকে পড়লাম ।  হঠা্ত্‌-ই । বাল্ব- পাখা আছে । ঘুপচি ঘুপচি ঘর । বৃষ্টির দিন। আবারও ভিজে গেল শ্যাওলা-রঙা ইঁটের পাঁজা । কান জুড়ে হাত-মেশিনের আর কাগজ ফুটো করা হাতুড়ির শব্দ । মেঝের ওপর সার দিয়ে রাখা বই আর বই। পুরনো হয়ে যাওয়া বই-এর বাঁধানো চলছে । আবার ।

আলাপ হল নন্দ বিশ্বাস-এর সঙ্গে। গত ৫৮ বছর কাজ করছেন । ওনারই কর্মকাণ্ডের জায়গা এটা । দাওয়ায় যেখানে বসে কাপড়ের ঢোলা আণ্ডারওয়্যার  পরে কাজ করছিলেন তার পেছনেই তার ছোট্ট মন্দির । বিশ্বাস বাবুর দিকে পেছন ফিরে বসে বই-এর পাতা, সেলাই-এর জন্য, ফুটো করছেন দৃশ্যত আরও বয়োবৃদ্ধ একজন । ঘরের ভেতরে সেলাই করা বইতে আঠা লাগাচ্ছেন আর একজন পুরুষ । বাঁধাই শ্রমিক ।

মনে পড়ে গেল আফসার আহমেদের লেখা ‘দপ্তরী পাড়ার ডায়েরি’ বইটার কথা । আচ্ছা, এই বইটা বাঁধাই করেছেন কারা? তারাই কি ছড়িয়ে আছেন বইটার পাতায় পাতায় ?

বই পড়ি আমরা । এইসব বই তৈরি করে দেন এই সমস্ত শ্রমজীবী মানুষেরাই । এঁরা না থাকলে তাহলে আমাদের বই…? তাহলে আমরা ?


Towards an aesthetic of cramped spaces

Every image has its own politics. Documentary film makers, especially, learn to capture moments or figures from eye-level. Thus one tries, at least, to approach the subject through an aesthetic and politics of ‘sharing’. Gaze plays a vital role here.

DAFTARIPARA has pushed us into such a problem where we can’t shoot, i.e. document, the faces of the book-binders along with their busy, efficient, smooth hands together. One needs to go down to their eye-level. But most of them work on the floor.

Can you shoot one’s process of working (binding) and the experienced face at a time in a fixed shot?

Probably one can. Create a distance with the worker(s). Simple!

No. You can’t, because there is scarcity of space. Almost always there is another machine or a stack of papers /pages/books (bound or yet to be bound) or other worker(s) or some utensils behind you which will not let you move as far as you need to keep your image-politics/ ethics intact. Do you understand the problem?

No. Just use a wide-angle lens.

Wide-angle lens? That is a costly piece of equipment. Who is going to afford it to document the lives of the toiling binders?

Is this a problem unique to the binding industry?

Probably not. Shooting in cramped spaces does have such problems in all fields. It is a limitation that the field puts on the audio-visual researcher. The field starts dictating a certain aesthetic of its own. One can disrupt the flow of life; create situations to shoot in a comfortable setting. But that will simply be unethical in this case. The researcher must experience the space to engage with the field. Search & explore for unique solutions. Negotiate with the ‘condition’. Big media is hardly interested in such conditions. Un(der)-reported human stories don’t allow the ‘conventional’ devices to work with. The audio-visual researcher has to think of new ways, unconventional unique approaches to engage with such fields.