One thing leads to another

In 2013, when I was researching GIFT, I was excited to come across a self-published book called Reclaiming the Gift Culture, published by a grassroots group in Mewar, Rajasthan, India called Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development.

From the introduction:

“We have come to understand that the ideas and practices of deep learning, self-organizing learning communities and vibrant learning ecosystems are predicated on a culture of generosity, care, trust and mutuality. The gift culture is critical to decommodifying our collective intelligence and underlying diverse human learning processes; that is, removing it from the realm of monoculture and artificial scarcity, monopolized packaging and distribution, and institutionalized hierarchy and exploitation”

It talked about local and international practices of “the gift culture”, from local traditions in Mewar, to Wikipedia as a form of gift economy.

– Hosting a pyaoo is the spiritual practice of sitting on the road and offering drinking water to those passing by – humans and animals alike. It is done in a spirit of sewa (selfless service for the benefit of all, performed without any expectation of reward or personal gain). The Sanskrit word, sewa, translates directly as ‘string’, implying that all things are connected in the thread of existence. In India, it is still a cause of great disbelief for many that corporations are charging money to provide clean drinking water to travellers.

I wrote to Shikshantar saying I’d be interested in filming one of the storylines of GIFT there, and wondering if I could come visit them in Rajasthan. I didn’t hear anything back for several months. In October I reached out again, and got this response:

hi robin-
i wanted to share this invite with you.
it is next week in istanbul. sorry for the short notice. but if you can make it, you will meet lots of amazing gift culture people.
let me know if you are interested.
we can host your local stay and food.
with deep gratitude,

Manish Jain
Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development

On crazy short notice, i ended up flying to Istanbul-! and making some encounters that would change the course of the film.