The Day We Met Shanta
We knew we were meeting a girl who had people’s attention. They spoke in reverent tones about her intelligence and ‘spark’.
Amy and I loaded up, one with the gear into the back of the tiny car, the other on the back of a motorbike, and wound across Kathmandu–a city seemingly made up entirely of back alleys–to the ancient red-brick neighborhood Patan. We were led down a further succession of alleys, too narrow for automobiles, and turned a corner to enter a brick and cement apartment building.
“Shanta, this is Amy; this is Scott. They are making a film about how educating girls is the best thing we can do to help fight poverty here.” Our cameras and tripod felt so huge and ostentatious in the doorway of that dingy 150 square foot flat where Shanta lived with her brother, sister in law, and neice. “Would you be willing to let them film with you?”
Shanta looked at us, back and forth, then at our gear, for fully 10 seconds. Wheels were turning, this much we could see plainly. She nodded, and said in English, “I will do it.”
Amy and I looked at one another, ‘She gets it,’ was the meaning of the look. This girlGOT it.
In those ten seconds we knew she must have weighed questions and implications we had no idea about, and some we could guess as well. She knew her neighbors would talk about her welcoming foreign filmmakers into their home–
“They’ve gone Hollywood, they’re too good for us now;” “How much do you think they’re paying?” “They are taking advantage of her;”
But Shanta knew, without our ever saying as much in words, that our being there was somehow going to help her.
At least, that’s what we all felt at that doorway, the day we met Shanta.
Here is a blog post Amy wrote after a few days with Shanta, back in 2008.