Driving with Selvi

  • May 2017 Newsletter

    Spring has sprung and we’re busy working on screenings, outreach and collaborations, with lots of travel in between, including Panama, India, Colorado and Ethiopia.

    Let's talk about India
    Elisa and Selvi were in Delhi a few weeks ago for meetings and screenings. The film was shown the Habitat International Film Festival, where it was co-presented by the Canadian High Commission. But you can’t go to India for just one event can you? On this trip we had the chance to meet with a number of power-house women in important centers for women’s rights.

    One such meeting (and screening) was at the University of Delhi's Miranda House, a women's college which is at the forefront of women’s rights activism in the country. The film screened to the Women’s Development Cell that organizes events on campus that challenge and provoke conversation around feminism. It was an absolute honour to share Selvi's story to 100 impassioned young women, who we hope to collaborate with on future screenings across India.

    Next stop was Zabaan, an independent feminist publishing house known for cutting-edge, progressive and inclusive work by and about women. We met with publisher Urvashi Butalia to talk about the possibility of working with Selvi on a book. You didn't know that along with driving, writing is what helped get Selvi through some of her toughest times did you? Her simple use of words and lively metaphors to comment on some of life's complexities is really quite remarkable. Yes, we are biased, but still!

    We rushed from Zaban to reach the Azad Foundation to meet with their Women and Wheels trainees. This was Selvi’s dream screening, sharing her story with a room full of women who are learning to become professional drivers. The post screening conversation was dynamic and at times emotional, as Selvi shared her experience and advice to the new generation of women drivers, and they shared stories of their challenges and successes. Our upcoming screening bus tour will bring us to many more organizations where women are training a career drivers.

    Scattered between these events were meetings with UN Women, Magic Bus, USAID and CARE India to name just a few... all of this in just 4 days! During this hectic, productive and illuminating time, third year Queen’s student Devon Labrie joined us for 24 hours, which you can read about over on our blog!

    Continue reading
  • ​Guest Post: My 24 Hour Adventure with Elisa and Selvi by Devon Labrie

    I met Elisa and Selvi on a Thursday night in late March at the International Delhi Airport. By then I had been in India for a month volunteering as part of my semester abroad and was looking forward to seeing some familiar faces. Needless to say I was excited to see them both! They had come to town for the Habitat International Film Festival and they were kind enough to let me tag along. The three of us would only be together for just over 24 hours but Elisa sure knows how to get a lot done in a short period of time!

    Elisa and Selvi are like family to one another, mother and daughter (the role switching all the time) and even sisters. Selvi sometimes calls Elisa “mom”. They had not seen each other since November when Selvi was last in Canada for the theatrical launch of the film and I could just feel the excitement these two had for finally being back together. The three of us stayed up very late talking about our busy plans for the next day, and laughing as Selvi tried to teach Elisa Bharatantyam, a South Indian classical dance

    In the morning we had our first screening at the Azad Foundation, an organization founded in Delhi which aims to teach women to become commercial drivers, self sufficient and most importantly empowered. In fact our driver, Geeta, was one of their graduates and is now employed by Sakha Cabs a social enterprise run by Azad. Those enrolled in the foundation’s training programs have lives that mirror Selvi’s own journey so the screening was particularly resonant. It was amazing to watch Selvi speak to the women for over an hour following the film. She transformed from a stranger to someone these women looked up to, felt connected to, and with whom they could share their stories with.

    Selvi and Elisa hope to show the film to women and girls across India. From this one screening it is obvious what kind of impact it will have.

    After the Azad event we rushed back to the India Habitat Centre for the next screening. Elisa is so busy she even had a phone interview in the car! We had 10 minutes to change and then we were off. It was interesting to see two different events side by side. Where the earlier one at the Azad Foundation was dedicated to sharing the film with women who could personally identify with the story, the Habitat event was full of people from organizations that wanted to partner and share the film with their own communities. Although wildly different each audience was inspired and enthusiastic!

    In the little time I spent with Selvi I feel like we are great friends. She is so kind, generous and funny. When walking back from dinner Selvi said to me: "Your mom and my mom are best friends, so we should be best friends too.” It was just a perfect moment; although we will be far apart I can tell we will be friends for a long time. Both Elisa and Selvi are catalysts for change, and I hope one day I can help make even a fraction of the change they are creating.

    I feel so lucky I was able to be even a small part of their journey towards equality not just in India but also around the world.

    Devon, Selvi and Elisa in Delhi

    Devon Labrie is a third year International Development Student at Queens University. She wrote about Driving with Selvi previously on March 9th 2016.

    Continue reading
  • Guest Post: Aidan Chamandy on Save Her a Seat

    Selvi Kunjigowda could have been another Indian woman who fell prey to her country’s brutal patriarchal society, where women are forced into child marriages and abused both physically and psychologically. Married at 14 and abandoned by her family, victim to her husband’s constant violence, Selvi decided she would end her life. One night, she walked into the middle of the road and waited. Instead of letting it hit her, Selvi hailed down the bus and headed for Mysore and her future as India’s first female taxi driver.

    That is the story behind the documentary Driving With Selvi, which was screened last night in Toronto at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Before the screening, a fundraiser was held for Save Her A Seat, a campaign recently set up by Elisa Paloschi, director, producer and cinematographer of Driving With Selvi and Selvi Kunjigowda herself.

    Save Her A Seat aims to raise funds to bring the film back to India . The three tier-multi stage outreach campaign plans to use community and educational screenings in North America to raise funds to screen it to women and girls who need it the most in India. Once working with communities in India there are plans to screen the film and provide a safe and supportive environment for women and girls to share their experiences and learn from one another.

    In order to have a more permanent impact in society, Save Her A Seat will invest in a bursary program for non-traditional job training for women.The 6-month intensive course will teach the women how to drive, the basics of self-defense, accounting and how to read and write in English.

    People can sponsor an Indian woman or girl to see the film for $10, here.

    “I do believe that Selvi’s story really has the power to create change and will have an impact on Indian society,” said Paloschi. “Not just with women, but to sensitize men to gender violence and see how they fit into the system.”

    In addition to economic opportunities, Kunjigowda and Paloschi are hoping also to create a safer transportation system for women, as this is an often-overlooked obstacle to empowerment.

    “Since the 2012 Delhi gang rape people realize that transportation is really important,” said Paloschi. “Women are often stuck in their homes and have a small little world partially because there is no safe way to go outside.”

    Aidan Chamandy is a fourth year Journalism student at Carleton University. Driving with Selvi will be screening at the Carleton, presented by Journalists for Human Rights, on March 22 at 6pm. Details here. This article has been updated and condensed.

    Continue reading
  • Save Her A Seat - why I can stomach asking my friends for money


    SELVI’S DREAM - I woke up this morning thinking, “why am I doing this, asking my friends, family, colleagues and strangers to support another Indiegogo campaign?” I started this post with an apology, but as I wrote (and wrote and wrote and deleted), I remembered why I’m raising money to screen Driving with Selvi with Indian girls at risk of child marriage (btw that would be 47% of all Indian girls!).

    I’m doing this for Selvi. I made a promise to her 10 years ago that the burden of the camera, and the weight of reliving the pain of her past would pay off. Since we released the film a year ago, Selvi has traveled the world. She’s taken selfies in front of the statue of liberty the CN tower, jumped on a Taj Mahal bed, eaten my mom’s minestrone, taken a boat along the canals of Amsterdam, talked at the UN and Ford Foundation and in front of 100s of philanthropists. She has met Bollywood stars, spoken to an audience of 600 kids who asked questions in all 5 of the languages she speaks, eaten calamari on the streets of Brussels, started saving money for her kids university, and learnt to like cheese.

    All of this is wonderful and with each new experience she has grown. But none of this is the pay off we spoke about that sweltering day in her blue stained single room house, so long ago.

    “I will make this film only if sharing my story will inspire even just one girl to get out of her bad situation and create a better life for herself like I did.”

    That’s what Save Her A Seat is all about. To show the other 47% of Selvis out there that they too can sit in the drivers seat of their own lives. So, if you are still reading, it would be grand if you’d support Selvi’s dream – the campaign will end at 11:59 tonight EST.

    Elisa Paloschi - with just 12 hours to raise the remaining $12,500 of our $30,000 goal

    Continue reading
  • November 2016 Newsletter

    Phew, what a tour! The past 5 weeks were a whirlwind. Selvi and I traveled to 5 countries on 2 continents, participated in dozens of Q&As, held multiple Save Her A Seat fundraisers, took part on panels, won another “best documentary” award, reconnected with old friends, and met many news ones. I can’t thank the organizers or the audiences enough for their warmth and welcome.

    The highlight for both me and Selvi was engaging with over 2000 youth during four screenings – In Canada with students from the Toronto and Kingston School Boards, in Providence with Brown University/Wheeler School students, and in Colorado with at-risk kids from alternative schools and youth detention facilities.

    The screenings provided an enriched learning experience, as the diverse audiences connected with Selvi both on and off screen. The impact of Selvi’s story on the young people was palpable and the film inspired deep questions, critical and creative thought and shifting perspectives.

    “I saw myself in Selvi… I’ve had many difficulties and her courage is a reminder to be strong.”
    Colorado Springs youth

    “Elisa's beautifully made film and Selvi's inspirational voice help all who see it understand why immediate action must be taken to help stop child marriage and fight for women's rights in India and around the world. “ Amy Bonnici – Wheeler School teacher.

    To read the full Newsletter from November 2016 click here.

    Continue reading
  • Save Her a Seat is Live!


    Dear friends and well wishers,
    I'm happy to announced that we've just launched the partnership building and fundraising arm of Save Her a Seat - a grassroots screening tour to create social change in India, one Driving with Selvi projection at a time.

    This isn't your usual crowdfunding campaign. There are no tee-shirts, or posters, instead your perk is knowing that for every $10 you donate, you are saving a seat for an Indian woman or girl at a Driving with Selvi screening. If you've seen the film, then you know just how Selvi's story will inspire change, and hope for the millions of Selvi's seeking a brighter future.

    Actually, we do have some perks, and we think you'll love them! From a Chai and Chat open house reception with Selvi in Toronto (Oct. 23) and in Kingston (Nov. 6th), to the opportunity to volunteer on the Save Her a Seat bus tour, to sponsoring an entire tour in the Indian state of your choice.

    Please take a look to see what we are doing, contribute if you can (even a little will go a long way), and share the campaign widely, to your social media and real world communities. If you'd prefer to contribute by cheque, or to receive a US tax receipt, you can find more info here.

    Thanks for joining us on the ride!
    Elisa, Selvi and the Save Her a Seat team.

    Continue reading
  • October 2016 Newsletter

    Hello Friends and Supporters,

    As promised, we can now announce some of those screenings we alluded to

    in our last email. Hopefully we'll be coming to a city near you.

    International Day of The Girl Child

    Since 2012 the UN has dedicated October 11 to join global efforts to ensure a world free of discrimination for young women and girls. This year Driving With Selvi has been selected to be screened at UN’s Cine Onu in Brussels!

    Elisa will be on hand with Selvi for post-screening Q+A alongside

    Jackline Waweru, Youth Activist from Mombasa and Sietske Steneker, head of the UNFPA Brussels.

    And to honour this important day on the other side of the pond too, we have our US broadcast debut on PIVOT TV. See where you can find Pivot in your area.

    Save Her A Seat

    After 11 years in production and fifty film festival appearances we are now launching our long awaited social impact and audience engagement campaign!

    Save Her A Seat aims to leverage the power of the film and Selvi’s story as a catalyst for social change and gender equality in India, through grass roots screening, education and driver training opportunities.

    We're launching a fundraising campaign in the coming weeks where you'll be able save a girl's seat at a screening. Imagine her watching Selvi and realizing that she too can create her own future. More info to come soon.

    Save Her A Seat Ambassadors
    Do you want to help get the word out for our Save Her a Seat Campaign? Are you a good communicator with a passion to stand up for women’s and girl’s rights? We need campaign ambassadors! From graphic designers, to bloggers, and social media mavens - you have the power to help up mobilize this very important issue.

    Hope to if you are one of our screenings!
    All the best, Elisa and team Selvi

    To read the original newsletter click here .

    Continue reading
  • September 2016 Newsletter

    Hello, Friends

    We’re finally doing it. In Oct. Driving with Selvi will have its European and North American splashy theatrical premieres in London at Bertha Doc House and soon after, in Toronto at the Hot Docs Cinema. It’s a dream that’s 12 years in the making and has involved so many of you along the way. We are so excited to bring the film back to London where it all began last year at Raindance, and back home to Toronto. Come celebrate with us.


    Friday Oct 7 – 6:30pm

    Driving with Selvi – European Theatrical Premiere (7 day run)

    Bertha Doc House – Curzon Bloomsbury, The Brunswick, WC1N 1AW

    With Q&A to follow with Elisa (and special guest visa permitting)

    Tickets here

    Saturday Oct 22 – 6:30pm

    Driving with Selvi – North American Theatrical Premiere (4 day run)

    Hot Docs Cinema – 506 Bloor St W

    Co Presenters - Reel Asian Film Festival (and special guests)

    With Q&A to follow with Selvi and Elisa

    Tickets here soon

    "She will move a million hearts, if a million hearts have the chance to meet her."

    – Julia Morgan, Associate Producer

    All the best, Elisa and the Driving with Selvi team

    To read the original newsletter click here

    Continue reading
  • May 2016 Newsletter

    Hello Friends,

    It’s been a while since our last major update, but not because there's been nothing to tell you, rather, almost too much. Here's just a taste of what we've been up to.


    The film has had a veritable flurry of festival appearances recently, including: Victoria, FICCI FLO (Mumbai), Kingston and Wakefield, FrauenFilm Tage (Austria), Salem, Stockholm Feminist, Women’s Film

    Festival Vermont, Berlin Feminist Filmweek, Thessaloniki Documentary festival, Martha’s Vineyard, Movies that Matter (Netherlands), Vera (Finland), Sarasota Film Festival, Atlanta, 4 Nights for Justice in Key

    West, back to Kingston for a Kingston Canadian Film Festival Encore presentation, and then on to Geena Davis' Bentonville Film Festival and Documentary Edge in Wellington NZ.

    Driving with Selvi aired in the Netherlands in March on NPO2, and earlier in the year in Jordan, Peru and Kenya on public TV, through our partner ITVS’s Women and Girls Lead Global series. Elisa has been flying back and forth across the globe (with Selvi for much of it) sharing the film with so many audiences. In fact, since its release late September, Driving with Selvi has appeared at more than 30 festivals and reached audiences on six continents.


    • Truth to Power Award, for best doc, Reel Asian International Film Fest
    • Top 10 Audience Favourite, International Documentary Festival Amsterdam
    • Best of Fest Award, Wakefield International Film Festival
    • New Mavericks Award (recognizing a woman director), Atlanta Film Festival
    • Best Feature Documentary Award, Atlanta Film Festival
    • Nominee, Golden Sheaf Award, Best Documentary – POV, Yorkton Film Festival
    • Nominee, Golden Sheaf Award, Best Director – Non-Fiction, Yorkton Film Festival (announcing May 29)


    • Human Rights and Arts Film Festival (Melbourne, Aus.): May 17 (Elisa present)
    • Documentary Edge Film Festival (Auckland, NZ): May 21 (Elisa present) and May 29
    • Doc Edge Director’s Talk with Elisa (Auckland, NZ): May 21
    • Yorkton Film Festival (Yorkton, Saskatchewan), May 27

    For full details and links to buy tickets online, see our Screenings page.EDUCATIONAL SCREENINGS

    This month we held our first official educational screening at La Salle Secondary school in Kingston, which was attended by 100+ students. The young people who watched the film were deeply moved by Selvi’s story, and Elisa was deeply moved by their response to the film.

    “Watching Selvi face so many challenges with such a positive outlook was pretty amazing. Sitting in a school auditorium watching a girl who never got to study makes me appreciate what we have here in Canada, and has given me a bigger picture of the world.” (Grade 10 student)

    All the best, Elisa, Selvi and Julia

    You can read the original newsletter here

    Continue reading
  • Guest Post: Review by Devon Labrie

    On Thursday February 25th I went and saw a documentary film, directed and produced by Elisa Paloschi, called Driving with Selvi. After the Documentary, I had the privilege of listening to an audience question period and talk with Elisa and Selvi. When Selvi was 14 she was forced into marriage with an older man who severely abused. Eventually Selvi ran away and escaped this abusive and intolerable situation. The documentary was filmed over ten years and follows the life of Selvi. When Elisa first met Selvi, she was an 18 year old living at Odanadi, a shelter for girls and women who had experienced violence. Selvi was just starting her training to be a driver. The film follows Selvi’s life in overcoming her difficult past, moving on, finding a career she loves, falling in love and through constant optimism and courage learns that life can be beautiful. Driving with Selvi is a beautiful film that brings awareness to the current issue of violence against women and child brides in India but also offers hope.

    One aspect of the film that was truly breath taking was the cinematography of the film. There were many different shots throughout the film that illustrated the beauty of India. The colours and the culture captured in the film were phenomenal and really brought the film to life.

    One aspect of this film that stood out to me was over all how uplifting it was. I often find that when people try and bring awareness of an issue they do so by showing the brutality of it. What I loved about this film was that through watching the film the audience becomes aware of all the horrendous issues that are taking place right now in India in terms of child brides and violence against women, but at the same time it was providing a solution, a way out, and it had an uplifting message of hope. Through the media we are made aware of one concern after another, about all the dreadful occurrences happening in the world. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and leaves one with a feeling of helplessness. We always hear about all the problems but never the solutions. This film not only creates awareness but it offers hope that things can change. Elisa’s goal is to show the film to one million women and girls across India to demonstrate to them how it is possible for them to be there own person and take control of their lives just as Selvi has done. Elisa is hoping that through awareness, education and training a movement can develop which will bring to an end the issue of child brides in India.

    In DEVS 240 there has been a lot of discussion about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that although they are universal they are not practice everywhere in the world. India and child brides are an example of this; girls as young as twelve, are being sold into marriage by their parents or older siblings, to men who are often is more than twice their age. Many young girls in India do not realize that they have any rights or a voice and do not know how to stand up for themselves. In my opinion, supporting human rights does not mean pushing western ideas of what we believe is right or wrong on to other cultures, human rights is giving every single person in the world the tools and the education they need to learn to stand up for themselves, just as Selvi did all on her own. I believe Driving with Selvi is a great way to start this education and movement in India to hopefully help stop the abuse of women and girls in India.

    Elisa is a close family friend and is someone I have always looked up to. I grew up hearing about her travels to India and now seeing the final completion of all her hard work and the movement she is creating it is surreal. She is one of the reasons I wanted to major in Global Development. Although a lot of the time it is really upsetting as we learn about all that is wrong with the world, this film gives me hope that if one person, well two people Selvi and Elisa, can make such a big change in standing up for what they believe in, that hopefully one day I will be able to do the same and make the world a little better one step at time.

    Devon Labrie is in her second year at Queens University.

    Continue reading
  • January 2016 Newsletter

    Hello Friends,

    It's been a whirlwind of a year (from Toronto to Amsterdam to Mumbai and back again) with so much news, but so little time. So for now, we'd like to share where we'll be screening next (check our screening page for updates) and welcome those of you new to the list. With much more soon.

    And for those of you in India, if you'd like to hear about the developments in our audience engagement campaign, or become a partner, please email to set up a meeting with Elisa in Mumbai or Bangalore from Feb. 7th.

    14th 12:00pm Victoria Film Festival
    18th TBA FLO Festival Mumbai (early afternoon - Elisa & Selvi attending)
    25th 7:00pm Kingston Canadian Film Festival Opening Night Tickets Here (Elisa & Special guest attending)
    27th 7:30pm Wakefield International Film Festival
    28th 4:00pm Wakefield International Film Festival (Elisa & Special guest attending)
    2nd 5:30pm Frauen Film Tag Vienna
    4th 4:00pm Women's Film Festival Vermont
    5th 3:00pm Salem Film Festival (Elisa attending)
    8th TBA Atlanta Film Festival (Elisa attending)
    More festivals coming soon, including screenings in Greece and Finland.


    As a tiny indie production company, we rely on people like you to get the word out about the film. Please like us on facebook, follow us on twitter and post about the film, share this email and ask your friends to subscribe to this email list.


    We'd like to thank you for supporting the film in so many ways. There have been donations for Selvi's travel and the Indian screening series through Indiegogo and in the mail. Strollers, snow suits and toys lent and gifted to Selvi. Meals delivered and shared Indian style on the floor. Translations, interpretations and graphics designed like this banner. Brainstorming sessions and sage advice. Pots of soup, parties hosted,money raised, friends made, and through all of this, a deep connection to the film and the girl/woman in front of the camera. Your kindness is so appreciated.

    Best wishes

    Elisa, and the team at Driving with Selvi headquarters

    To read the original newsletter click here.

    Continue reading
  • September 2015 Newsletter

    Hello Friends,

    A quick personal note to say that I'm on my way to London, I can hear the gate calling! You'll see below that we are fundraising again, this time to bring Selvi to some of the festivals where the film is screening, and also for the film's social impact campaign. We're doing this through Indiegogo, though in a very unorthodox way. We are not offering perks. None. Every cent minus the Indiegogo fees will go directly to the work we are doing. Many of you have been asking how to contribute, I hope you'll find this a simple way.

    Hope to see you at one of our screenings soon, Elisa

    We’re so chuffed – the World Premiere of Driving with Selvi will take place at the Raindance Film Festival this coming Monday! We can’t wait to share the film with all our friends in London, UK:
    World Premiere: Monday, 28 September, 18:00
    2nd screening: Wednesday, September 30, 15:50
    Location (both screenings): Vue Picadilly

    Elisa will be in attendance for both screenings and Q&As. Tickets have gone on sale! It’s an intimate theatre, so if you are planning to come, please get your ticket early. If you are going to be there, let us know, or make sure to say hello to Elisa.

    We now have dates for the following festivals – and tickets are already on sale for some of them. Elisa will be in attendance for all but Charleston (see note about Selvi).

    Edmonton International Film Festival, Edmonton, Canada

    Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Hot Springs, USA

    UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival), Palo Alto, USA (opening night!)

    Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York City, USA.

    Charleston International Film Festival, Charleston, North Carolina, USA,

    More very exciting festival announcements to come – stay tuned for our next newsletter, or get up-to-the-minute news on Facebook or Twitter.

    We’re thrilled to say Elisa wrapped post-production on the film last week. Here’s a nice photo of her holding the DCP copy (a special format used by theatres only) that many of our festivals will use to screen the film.

    All the best,
    - Elisa, Selvi, Julia, and the whole Driving with Selvi Team

    To read the original newsletter click here

    Continue reading
  • Guest Post: Making it Real

    As part of my role on this film, I spend time each week looking at the latest news about women’s experiences with violence or discrimination in India and around the world. We try to stay up-to-the minute on the issues affecting women, and to share the most significant stories we find (both good news and bad) with our audience.

    While I was doing this about two months ago, I had a moment that really stopped me in my tracks, and I’m still thinking about it. I was trying to find a specific kind of meme to share on social media – you know what I mean, an image that’s got some kind of quote or statistic layered over top of it. Memes don’t take long for us to look at and they can be quite impactful, which is why they often get shared.

    I had it in my mind that I’d like to find a meme on child marriage. I figured I could find an image that had an inspirational quote on it about how when we allow girls to fulfill their potential instead of marrying young, the whole of society benefits. Something like this (found subsequently). I put “India child brides” into Google’s Image search, expecting to find pages of these memes. Instead, I found pages and pages of pictures of desperate and sad-looking young girls – sometimes very young girls. They were all bejeweled and dressed in fine red wedding saris, such a disconnect from the misery on their faces. It was heartbreaking and totally unexpected. I was really seeing child marriage come to life before my eyes, and it affected me more than any amount of reading about it could do.

    Selvi is the counterpoint to all of those terribly distressed girl brides. In a previous post I talked about what seeing Selvi on film feels like. It’s a powerful, visceral antidote to all the sad stories we hear and see. Selvi makes that antidote real.

    - Julia Morgan was the Associate Producer on Driving with Selvi. You can follow her on twitter at @JuliaMorgan3

    Continue reading
  • Guest Post: John Rathiganthan

    Many of Selvi’s problems illustrated in the film originate from a society that treats women as commodities. Young women, many of whom would be considered children here, are married to men as a way for their parents to ease their own burden. Daughters are treated as a problem that can be solved by marrying them away. Growing up in a Tamil-Canadian home and within the Tamil-Canadian community, I’ve seen this attitude first-hand. I’ve seen it plenty, and I’ve seen it often. Attitudes here are shifting, but only at a glacial pace.

    This is one of the many lingering curses of a rural, agricultural society being dragged into the modern era. The Dowry system, though outlawed by India in 1961, is still widely practiced all over the country. One of the holdovers from this is a society that looks at girls and women as disposable. They are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery on a regular basis. I would call it alarming but for many it’s a regular part of daily life. So much so that it’s commonplace and spoken of as though the young woman had only moved away. The film details one such story and hers is just one among thousands of others.

    If these things are all such big issues, many people wonder how they could still be going on if India is modernizing. The answer is simple: these practices all benefit men. The patrons of brothels where girls are sold are men. This is not discussing men who patronize sex workers who are choosing their profession. These are men who know they are raping the women they are paying for the time of. These are men who are marrying girls who are barely 12. These aren’t monsters; these are normal men who are trained from birth to treat the women around them as objects.

    Part of solving long-ingrained sexism is not just empowering women; it’s also educating men who are complicit in the system that oppresses the women around them. It’s re-educating them to understand the women in their lives are capable and intelligent. Getting men who are silent on the street while a woman is being harassed to stand up to their friends and tell them their behavior is unacceptable. Part of reinforcing women’s rights in India is teaching men to not prop up a broken system. Equality shouldn’t be so hard a path. At its most basic, it’s people seeing each other as people. Everything else is an excuse for poor behavior.

    Driving with Selvi is a movie that goes a long way towards presenting the plight of Indian women in an unflinching and honest way. The sight of Selvi’s tears as she recounts a story she wishes she had left buried in memory, will haunt me for the rest of my life.

    Written by Guest Blogger John Rathiganthan

    John Rathiganthan is a freelancer writer, novelist, and comic book author. He writes about video games, science and feminism. You can find him on Twitter @fohnicus.

    Continue reading
  • Guest Post: Daniel Overberger

    Daniel Overberger - Image Courtesy of Voyage LA Magazine

    In my apartment in Los Angeles, I sat on the floor waiting with my bags and guitar case for the shuttle to pick me up and take me to the airport. I had this returning premonition that music would interfere with my yoga studies while I was in India. I jumped up and unpacked my guitar. I sat for a while, feeling sure and then unsure of my decision until I was startled by the sound of the phone ringing. The shuttle was here to pick me up. I repacked my guitar and ran out the door.

    I had been in Mysore a few days. I was sitting in the Garden Cafe behind the Yogashala thinking about how I would love to meet some musicians to jam with while I was here. I looked up and in walked a guy with this bag under his arm. I asked him if he's got an instrument in his bag. He does. I introduce myself and he says “My name is Pedro (Collares de Moraes)”. He said he is from Brazil but has come to India from Barcelona, where he is a street musician. The instrument he was carrying was a Hang. I told him I play guitar and that I was staying across the street if he would like to jam. I felt a lot of apprehension in him and he said, “I'm only here for a few days so maybe.” I took that as a big NO and felt a little judged.

    After the evening yoga class, my friend Julie came into my room. She said there is going to be a big party tonight in the house we were staying in and there will be live music. Excited, I asked what kind of music was going to be played. She looked at me strangely and said, “how should I know? It's you and that guy Pedro playing it.”

    About an hour later people showed up and I invited them into my small room until we couldn't fit any more. The rest of the people stayed in the doorway. Pedro showed up. We didn't talk much. He pulled out his Hang and started playing.

    It was as if we had known each other all our lives. We had musical conversation with ease. We played back and forth. Eventually, people started clapping their hand and stomping their feet. Three girls started singing some Indian chants and one girl was banshee screaming as the music reached its peak. I felt the room lift itself off the earth and float in the sky. I felt a part of some collective consciousness. Shit, I was the centre of it.

    Afterwards a woman stood up. She told me her names was Elisa and that she was doing a documentary film called Radhamma's Dream. She asked if we could do the soundtrack if she booked a studio for the film. I was stunned. I looked at Pedro then back at Elisa and said yes.

    Three days later we all headed to the only studio in Mysore. Because the engineers were a little bit confused I decided to put my skills from Los Angelos to help out in the end and ended up acting as the producer. We worked on songs all morning and in the afternoon Elisa brought in five Indian girls around the age of ten who sang with us.

    After we recorded the soundtrack Elisa invited everyone involved in the recording session to come to Odanadi the girls shelter she she was doing her documentary on. When we arrived everyone seemed to know Elisa. They smiled at the rest of us with discernment. They took us to a big building the size of half a gymnasium. About twenty children came in through the a different door dressed in traditional, colourful, Indian clothing and began to do a choreographed dance. After the dance, some of the children wanted to meet us and we all took pictures with each other. Eventually we were back on the motor scooters driving back into Mysore as the sun set behind us. Wind still warm in our hair. The calming sounds of engines and rubber on asphalt.


    Daniel Overberger is a musician, yoga teacher and writer in Los Angeles, California. He is a regular contributor to LA Yoga Magazine and has recorded several albums with his band Dharma Gypsys. You can learn about his work at his website here.

    Continue reading
< Older entries