A Village Dream
For 20 years, Kali waited with a tin bowl in her hand every morning. Her village, Kadamtolla is one of the poorest slums in Calcutta and trucks from Calcutta Mercy Hospital brought warm food to the villagers in line. One morning, during a routine food drop, something was different.
Kali took one of the workers aside and asked if they could set up a school in her village. Kali is illiterate. Her children are illiterate. But with the hope that her granddaughter, Mongala could receive an education, Kalit took the brave first step towards changing the course of her village.
Behind the Scenes
When Calcutta Mercy Hospital approached us to create two short films about Project Rhino, they requested that we create one focused on their urban program and one in the village where it all started, Kadamtolla. The challenge was that we had only four days on the ground and had very little control. We had a driver and translator assigned to us, and outside of that we were on our own to find the characters and tell the story of Project Rhino. After arriving in Calcutta, settling in and unpacking the gear, we planned to scout the next morning.
Our chaotic, early-morning bus ride to the outskirts of town led us to the village where Project Rhino began. Jeff eagerly stepped off the path to get a better view and quickly sunk into mud up to his knees. All of the villagers who came to greet us burst into laughter, and after two men helped pull him out of the mud, we were all laughing and felt welcome. Having only two days to film "A Village Dream," we knew we needed to make some quick decisions.
As Amitabh led our team through the village, he told us that Project Rhino began with cups of tea. Amitabh gauges time by cups of tea consumed, and whenever he was in Kadamtolla he had tea with Kali, a vilage elder.
He explained that it took he and Kali a while to connect on that level, but once they grew to know each other, it became clear that they both loved their families and valued the importance of a good education. Only Amitabh was able to provide this for his children; Kali did not have the means to do so.
This love of family and concern for future generations was something universal we could latch onto. Our goal would be to show how this mutual concern drove these two amazing people to work together and overcome the barriers involved with starting a school from scratch in an unlikely setting.
At the end of her interview Kali told us, "I am not far from death, then only my words will be remembered." She will also be remembered for her selfless dream of bringing education to her village, and the lives that have been touched through that dream. Today, Project Rhino exists in six communities around Calcutta and teaches 866 students, all because Kali stepped forward to request that her granddaughter be the first in her family to read and write.