For the final project, I was to choose a compelling character to feature in a three-minute video story and accompanying Q&A.
My video, Nandapriyā Sikdar: Choosing the Hare Krishna Lifestyle, features Nandapriyā Sikdar, a 27-year-old Alachua resident who was born into the Hare Krishna movement and has devoted her life to it ever since. I knew I wanted to do a story that included a religious angle, and I wanted that religion to be one that I did not know much about. A peer put Sikdar and I in touch over Facebook, and she was immediately open to working with me and providing opportunities for me to visit the small farm community she lives and works in.
On a Wednesday, I spent from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Bhaktivedanta Academy campus with Sikdar and her teenage students. I had not had much exposure to Hare Krishnas before that, and I admit to have made negative judgments about them. Upon spending extended time in the insulated Hare Krishna community, I found that my judgments had arisen from a) being uninformed about what the movement is about and b) never sitting down with a devotee to actually get to know them. I found that everyone was incredibly compassionate, kind, open, warm and authentic. Although I was clearly an outsider, everyone was friendly and much more normal than what I had expected. There is only one major difference I noticed between Hare Krishnas and outsiders: Hare Krishna’s lifestyles are dominated by their spiritual beliefs, while other religious followers only let religion be a part of their daily life. I went in with an open mind and it was enlightening to receive insight into a community that is totally different from what I am used to.
I did have a stumbling block while out filming. In the morning, I was in the middle of recording when my camera stopped recording and showed a blinking question mark. I panicked a little because a) I didn’t know what was going on and how to fix it and b) I was 30 minutes away in the middle of nowhere. I stepped outside to call my boyfriend, and we figured out that my S.D. card was full. I never anticipated that to happen, but I made a quick call and deleted a bunch of video clips from the card on the spot.
With this being my last Digital Storytelling project, I have looked back at the immense growth I have made throughout my journey through this class. I started out scared and intimidated, and now I will leave feeling confident and enthusiastic. Before this class, I had no experience with immersing myself in the lives of strangers and telling their stories through media. And now, I have decided that storytelling is what I want to be doing for my career, and time will tell what that will look like for me. Before this class, I had a lot of unclear ideas of what I wanted to do with my life, but after the challenges this class has given me and the pride it has filled me with, I know storytelling is what I want to do. I want to keep uncovering the human condition, layer by layer, with the hopes that it can teach us about what it means to be human and why we are here in the first place. I know I still have a lot to improve on, but I am excited to keep learning, growing and creating.