Animation in Motion: Conflicting Tales in Vidharba
Til Gold and his team from NowHere Media are traveling through India telling the stories of the famers who have committed suicide. Gold will add the farmers’ voices to the story through animation using the Wacom Cintiq Companion. In the first post, Gold and team had just arrived and were getting their bearings.
In this post, Gold examines the inherent challenge of the project: teasing out the truth from the stories.
The second research phase started with the scorching sun. In Vidarbha it was hot... a minimum of 37 degrees and a maximum of 45 Celsius (98 and 113 Fahrenheit, respectively).
The heat didn't hold us back. We started with background interviews. From the day we arrived, we met journalists, experts and activists working on the issue. Their views were conflicting and contradicting. Some experts believed there was a definite link between agrarian distress and farm suicides, while others rejected the correlation altogether. Some thought government initiatives have helped farmers in the region, others regarded the schemes to be mere vote-gathering stunts.
We knew we had to hear from the families. We traveled to villages around Wardha where we sat in their homes and had a glimpse at the lives they left behind. Despite the contradictory reasons for the suicides, the farmers did share some commonalities. Most of these farmers were growing a hybrid variety of genetically modified Bt cotton – a cash crop in the region. They also farmed soya bean and wheat. A lot of their stories were identical – they had taken loans for farming (to cope with increasing seed, fertilizer and pesticide costs), been unable to pay their debts back and had committed suicide, not knowing what other options lay ahead of them.
Meeting the families solidified the project for us. As a team, we compared notes and discussed the stories at every opportunity, looking for the answers and trying to unearth the story.
We were left feeling like the farmers had all fallen into the same trap. As we planned for the next phase, we knew we would need to understand all of the elements that led to the farmers’ decision and that we would never know all of the reasons.
In the next post of this series, Gold finds hope in an unexpected place.