Trolls answer call for help
By Roshne Balasubramanian | Express News Service | Published: 19th June 2017 10:35 PM |
Juhi Sharma tried crowdfunding in the hopes of raising enough money to study a three-year course in New York City.But instead of encouragement, she became the target of online abuse, with some users even telling her to become a prostitute
CHENNAI: The internet can be both a beautiful and a scary place for people who decide to reach out for help. Juhi Sharma (25), a Chennai-based cinematographer, recently became a victim of internet trolls and abuse, after trying to raise funds through a crowdfunding campaign to study movie direction at a premier institute in New York. The young cinematographer, who has worked with big brands including Flipkart and TI Cycles, shares her ordeal with City Express.
“I was happy with cinematography…but after I had the experience of shooting documentaries and meeting several people every day, I realised I have a unique way of telling a story. That’s when I decided that I wanted to tell those stories myself,” she shares.
After a lot of research, Juhi applied for a three-year Master’s programme in direction at the Brooklyn College, New York, and was accepted in April. Even before she could apply for a scholarship, she was offered a partial scholarship by the school, which would only cover a small fraction of Juhi’s tuition fee. “I decided to try for loans but banks didn’t help, as it was a ‘cinema’ course. That’s when I decided to do crowdfunding,” she recalls.
Though crowdfunding is popular with youngsters, it’s still relatively new. So Juhi was prepared for negative comments, but not for abuse. “It was a simple and innocent campaign. If you believe in my work, contribute. If not, don’t. But, I faced a lot of cynicism and abuse,” she says and painfully recalls that it all started when a user shared her campaign on twitter as a joke — ‘Urban poor version of begging’, read the tweet. “In that circle, my campaign was a joke. A friend shared a screenshot of the post and I was shocked,” says Juhi, who was shaken up after reading the tweets. “I was travelling when this happened and it was the most traumatic one-and-a-half hours of my life. I thought it was over and didn’t know what to do,” she rues.
From being asked to become a prostitute to offer sexual favours at Marina beach, the comments turned downright nasty. “There was even a person who hunted my profile on Facebook and sent a message asking me to stand at Marina beach and perform fellatio to raise funds. If you don’t understand the concept of crowdfunding, debate with me about it…why do this? Is it because I am a woman?” she tears up.
With people frowning when a woman brings gender in a conversation, Juhi states, “People ask why women bring their gender into everything. This is why. People don’t see a woman as a person and what happened to me is a classic example of male gaze,” says Juhi who’s the sole breadwinner of her house. “People look at my photos, the way I talk and label me as a rich person who is doing this to get it the easy way...these people didn’t even care to read my story. Why would I be here, If I could bear the expenses?” avers Juhi who is paying a loan she took to pay the mortgage of her home, and to fund the school fees of her 15-year-old diabetic sister.
Ask her if she reported the social media handles of her abusers and Juhi sighs. “I did. That’s all I could do…but the posts weren’t taken down. I wonder why?” says the cinematographer who wants to make films with values that the children in the society will learn. After all the abuse that the ‘faceless users’ put her through, she says she’s putting up a fight and not bowing down. “I received support from people around the world…they told me beautiful stories and there was a stranger who messaged me and said ‘I was never interested in studies but, when I wanted to do something my parents supported me. Your story inspires me’. He gave away his first salary that he had earned from an internship for my campaign. And I am grateful,” she adds.
To fund her education visit www.generosity.com/education-fundraising/help-me-get-to-new-york--7