Sunday, December 02, 2007

Facing the Camera : An Experience

On November 13, Alessandro Gilioli, an editor with L'espresso, popular Italian magazine, ringed me up and asked if he can meet me the following day. I had a very vague idea of his Nepal project. All I knew was he was accompanying a documentary film crew to shoot on kidney trade. I hurriedly asked: "Are you going to interview me?" He replied: "We may, we may not." I promised to meet him the next day at office at 9 am.

Nevertheless, I prepared for the red-letter day. The fact of the matter is, in my career spanning almost a decade, I've never faced a television camera, let alone give an interview. The thought of this two-minute-fame as they call it made me anxious.

At that time, my wife was away home and I was all alone. The previous day, I jotted some notes to use in my interview. I kicked off for my office at Kantipur Complex, Tinkune, Kathmandu.

Little did I know that half a dozen people had gathered in my office, waiting for me. The crew consisted of two still photographers, a cameraman cum director, a producer (and of course the interviewer, Mr. Gilioli) and an interpreter. They had arrived in a white van with a plate written 'tourist' at the back of the van. At office too, I was all alone, for my colleagues show up only after 11 am.

I didn't know that shooting a documentary would be an elaborate process. First, my cubicle disqualified for the shooting because it was narrow and congested. The director wanted some drama and element of fiction on it. So, my workplace was shifted to that of a colleague.

Lights, camera, actions! But wait, they insisted me to answer in Nepali while the questions were in English. I found this baffling. One reason I preferred English was that I had prepared notes in English. Secondly, one is expected to speak in English with a foreigner. But, the producer was adamant and I finally complied.

In the interview (I don't know how it comes out), I expressed my dismay at government's apathy in controlling human organ trafficking from Nepal to India. It turned out that the documentary had a global scope; they had a global perspective in human organ trafficking and Nepal was just a tiny part of the project. True, human organ trafficking has transcended geographical boundaries. Thus, in China you find surgeons extracting body organs from the prisoners. In Brazil, organ smuggling is rampant. Even in Iran, predominantly Muslim country, people advertise for sell of their kidney.

In India, especially Chennai where Scott Carney has been tracking the trade, post-tsunami saw a boom on organ sale. A big racket has been busted in India after the arrest of Dr. Palani Ravichandran, the kingpin of kidney mafia spreading across several countries including India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Alessandro was surprised to hear the news of Dr. Ravichandra's arrest.

In interview, I raised the pertinent issues related to Nepal-India kidney trade. I remarked that lack of transplant facility in Nepal coupled with abject poverty is driving poor Nepalis to sell their organs. Yet, the last two questions by Alessandro were tough to answer. The questions needed much soul searching but after pondering for a while, I answered them. They were somewhat like this: (1) If circumstances forced you to sell kidney, would you do it? (2) If you would have to undergo transplant, would you buy a kidney?

To the first one, I answered in negative. I premised that there are many ways to earn money and selling kidney should not be the last refuge. But, the second one was difficult to reply. I again answered in No but I know that the only way to save life after the failure of both kidneys is to undergo transplant. If one of your relatives doesn't donate you a kidney, there is no way but to resort to the racketeers. I secretly prayed that my kidneys would remain healthy all my life.

The good thing about the L'espresso cover story is that Deepak Lama, who was ready to sell his kidney to undercover reporter Alessandro Gilioli has been rescued, thanks to the support from L'espresso readers, Alessandro and all the Italians involved in this philanthropy. Now, Deepak runs a shop, is married to a beautiful girl. Kudos to you Alessandro for giving a new life to a desperate Nepali youth!

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