I had set an appointment to meet with Rajveer at 6pm on a Sunday, right after she ended her day at work. Prior to this I had mostly explained what my project was about via text messages, as her busyness attending to customers and the shop made it difficult to have a prolonged conversation. I began worrying to myself: "Will she get what this is all about? What if it's just too strange or unfamiliar?" Waiting outside Jothi store along Campbell Lane, her lack of an internet connection outside of work and a local phone number meant that it was back to more analog days - I just had to trust she'd be there. I waited for awhile... and the moment I started getting concerned she showed up, all smiles and rearing to go!
During the collaborative creation session I was amazed at how she simply understood what I was trying to achieve with my project. When asked if she had any questions, she didn't. Yet she executed everything perfectly and was incredibly willing to share, was comfortable on camera, and also painted beautifully - she was a henna artist after all. At the end of session we both made a stark realisation - over the course of 90 minutes I knew so much about her, but she didn't know much about me. Feeling a little guilty, I began to share more about myself, my background, and my personal experiences. However, it was not to a depth that she had shared with me, and it's gotten me thinking about how I can make the process in the future more of a two-way exchange. Still, my experience with Rajveer is something I truly appreciate, and we continue to exchange simple greetings each time I pass by her shop.
By Neil Chan