We lived together for a month and worked very hard. We also took some time off to enjoy the wonders of India. Missing my fellow travelers…

Come Ride With Us

A lot has been posted about our auto-rickshaw rides in the suburbs of Bombay and I have to add my bit. It is one of the very few thing things I like the least = hate about the SUBollywood month-long trips. Perhaps just a little less than leaving my children behind in Syracuse. Truly.

I am extremely grateful to all who helped with the internship placements for my nine students this year. Everything went smoothly and each one  learned a lot – professionally and personally.

Gautam Badgujar and Kevin Sherman

Carving Dreams
Danielle Skipper

UTV Motion Pictures (Disney)
Iris Park

Mirabai Films
Mina Johnson and Shauna Soljour

Red Chillies Entertainment
Anthony DiBiase, Lexa Hayes and Luis Lopez

Home Sweet Home

Every time I think about writing this post, I feel like I’ll come off sounding like such a brat.  I spent just about six weeks in India, and I had an amazing experience.  It was the first time I travelled there without any family and I definitely had an eye-opening experience that changed my life and made me look at things differently, now that I am mature enough to appreciate or understand the things that I’ve seen.  However, I am so, so happy to be back in the good old United States of America.  The first thing I did after giving my mom the biggest hug in the world at the airport was thank her for coming to America and raising me here.  There are so many little things that one does not appreciate while living in a first-world country that are not so easy to come around in a place like India.

Where do I begin?

Hot showers.  It’s nice to have hot water coming out of the shower head, for the first time in over a month.  The only hot showers I had were the first couple days in the hotel, before the water heater decided to konk out and stop working.  The only hot showers I had came from a bucket of hot water collected by my aunt while visiting my family in Nasik and Amulner.

Transportation.  I don’t have to ride in a gosh darn rickshaw again.  Weaving through traffic in essentially a three wheeler motorcycle with a small couch as a back seat, banging my head on the side and leaned over peering out the side to make sure we’re going in the right direction.  Always followed by an argument with the driver because his meter runs twice as fast as it normally should take, or because he’s reading a price off a card that I’m almost positive he made himself.  Now I get to drive my own car and go wherever I want, whenever I want, on a smooth, safe road with actual traffic laws!

Peace and quiet.  As a result of no traffic laws in India, honking is a necessity to let the drivers around you know that you are there.  Different from in America where usually if you’re honking, it’s to be an asshole or to make the other person feel like one.  I played a game sometimes where I would try and count to five without hearing a honk.  I never won.  There is constantly someone honking, even if you’re in traffic, not moving.

Food.  Don’t get me wrong, the food is my favorite part of India!  The food is not preserved or mistreated, but fresh.  Always fresh.  The chicken must’ve been running around in the past hour before I ate it because it is always the freshest tasting chicken I’ve ever tasted.  The spices in all the meals are so delicious and flavorful, it’s making my mouth water just thinking about it right now.  But consequently, my stomach could only handle so much of this change in food before deciding to give in on me and give me sharp stomach pains for days.  After taking antibiotics, I was fine, but still not a fun couple of days.  Since I’ve gotten home, I’ve gone on an American food binge: burgers, fast food, fries, pizza, hot dogs… did I mention burgers and pizza?

Language barrier.  Although I can roughly speak Marathi (and I mean roughly), it was still near impossible to communicate with some people in India.  There are dozens and dozens of dialects in India.  Hindi is the most common language, but there are so many others that people speak in different states, it’s mind-boggling.   Most of the time, when any of us would say something, we’d get a blank stare, followed by an unsure head bobble, followed by an incorrect order.  Can’t tell you how many times I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich with fries and ended up with a chicken club sandwich with potato chips.  Oh, Rupesh.  I made some good friends in the kitchen, not including the fat guy in the suit who was ever so mean to his workers, but, granted, they almost always got our orders wrong.

Fresh air.  Being able to walk outside and take a deep breath without inhaling a plethora of lung-polluting toxins is something I believe we all take for granted.  The first thing I did when I got off the airplane was took a deep breath and took in the fresh air.  Although I was in dirty Jerz (sorry, Iris), I still appreciated the cleanliness of the air I filled my lungs with.  In India, there are always trucks spewing out a dark cloud of fumes and the rickshaws puttering around, spitting out tinier clouds of the same dark gases.  There’s dirt flying up all over the place.  Both animals and people are taking a number two just about anywhere they can find a spot.  In some cities, the sewage system is just a gutter on the side of the road floating downhill to a designated spot, sometimes filled with pigs bathing in it.

That is a small list of things that I appreciate so much more after my experience in India, even if we weren’t even really roughing it too bad while there in our nice hotel rooms with room service and what-not.  I miss my India gang, including you, TG.  But it’s so nice to be home among my best friends, celebrating America’s birthday, and hanging out in the sun, relaxing and driving around, visiting other places, going to the gym, and adventuring around, going on hikes.  Sometimes it takes something big for one to recognize the small, and maybe that’s what I needed.  It’s been real, SU Bollywood, thanks for the trip.

Taj Mahal, NBD.

There really are so many words I could use to describe our trip to Agra from Delhi, but after seeing the Taj Mahal, the only word that comes to mind is awe.  So many people who have seen it before me told me that it’s something that’s beauty you don’t understand until you’re actually there, and it’s true.  Pictures do not do the palace justice.

As we walked under the twenty-two crowns that mark the years it took to build the palace that is dedicated to his wife, emulating heaven in the King’s beliefs, my eyes couldn’t even believe what they were seeing.  We had already seen the structure from afar the day before from Agra Fort, but being in its presence so up close is unreal.  It took me a minute to just stand there and soak it in.  Being the first person in my family to visit the Taj Mahal was a big deal to me, so I wanted to appreciate the moment extra for them.

Our wonderful tour guide, after we took our several pictures with the Taj, told us several interesting stories and facts about the Taj Mahal.   For example, clearing up the myth that the King chopped off the artists hands after they were done working on this piece of art, telling us that he only asked them to never create something more grandiose and beautiful and amazing as this piece of art they’ve helped him create.  The entire place is symmetrical down the middle in almost every single way, except for the King’s tomb placed to the left of his wife’s inside the palace.

It amazes me how perfect the palace really is, being almost four hundred years old, down to every small detail you can find.  There are so many little, and I mean little, semi-precious gemstones embedded into the beautiful structure.  Patterns, flowers, and designs decorate the cool, marble walls and floors.  We had to put on feet covers so that we didn’t dirty up the floors and drag in any unwanted mess.  Anu, our tour guide, said that we were contributing by shining the floors with these feetie-covers.

I felt the need to touch all the walls so I could try and not forget the feeling of being in this monumental edifice.  The perfection achieved such a long time ago in every single detail of every inch you can find is perplexing, and exceeds the work we have today even with machines, in my eyes.  What skilled artists were able to perfect each shape down to the curve and size in all areas of the Taj Mahal, from top to bottom, left to right.

The inside was not nearly as large as I had expected it to be, however.  It was explained to us that the outside dome is much larger than the inside dome shell in order to maintain a certain temperature to preserve the wife’s body in her tomb, creating a cooler temperature on the inside due to the air and stones.

Needless to say, the trip to the Taj Mahal was the opposite of a let down.  It was more than I had expected in almost every single way, and I was able to experience it with such a great group of kids that made my trip to India so great.  It won’t be the last time I go to the Taj, but I definitely won’t ever be forgetting this trip🙂

Dear Bollywood

It’s ten years down the road.  I’m sitting across from yet another interviewer asking me about my current movie. (Yes, I’m optimistic.)  I answer the many questions that seem quite familiar to me after these long weeks of interviews.  I give my generic answers, not bored, but just in the routine fashion.  That is until he asks something peculiar.  He simply inquires, “What is it that you hate most in the world?”  I sit there puzzled for a few moments: what an odd question.  The boring and expected answers might be ‘death’, ‘hunger’, suffering yadda yadda yadda…  But no.  We’ve all heard these answers before, and as sad and horrible as these things are, I don’t want to sound like a Miss America.  So I think for another moment until it’s there.  It pops up in the front of my mind and the answer becomes quite obvious: ignorance.

Now, I’m not going to tell you my life story, but I will just say this.  I grew up in a town where if ignorance was currency, we’d make the top 400 of the Forbes 400 list.  How does this all connect, I’m sure you’re wondering.  Well, it has to do with the week after returning to the US.  When I got back I expected to be bombarded with questions, but that just didn’t happen.  And, to be honest, I was rather disappointed about that.  My mom and best friend obviously asked me about the trip, but even that didn’t last long.  When I told other people I went to India, the response I got most of the time was, “Good for you, cuz I know I’ll never go there!”  Now this wasn’t said in a way that would make one think these people wanted to go.  Instead, it was in a was as if they were saying that I was crazy to have gone and they would never go because it’s just too different or ‘wrong’.

That made me so sad because everyone who says they’ll never do something doesn’t know what they’re missing.  Just because you are scared doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take that leap.  Go for it.  You may get dirty and you may get a few cuts and bruises, but they go away.  What doesn’t go away is the experience.  India was difficult.  Not being able to easily communicate is hard.  Adjusting to new foods, transportation and really just a whole new way of life is not an easy feat.  But just because it’s difficult doesn’t make it not worth trying.  Being scared just adds to the adventure and sense of satisfaction when it’s over.  I admit I was definitely nervous before the trip and even a few times during, but every second I was there I was happy that I took this opportunity.  If I had had the attitude of many of the people I talked to who said they’d never go, I would’ve missed seeing wild monkeys and elephants, and riding in rickshaws and going to the Taj and meeting some of the best people I know.  So if India has taught me anything, it’s always be willing to try something new, never say never and don’t be afraid to get a little dirty in the process.

Ignorance should be avoided at all costs because you never know what you’re going to miss as a result of it.  Thank you for everything you have done for us TG.  This truly was a trip of dreams.


Lexa Hayes❤

Dear Bollywood

I know, I know.  I’m really bad at goodbyes, too.  So that’s why I won’t say one.  I’ll just say see you later.  It’ll probably be a while until we see each other again, but until the time that we do meet, I’ll make sure to keep all the memories you have given me locked inside my mind, but shared with everyone I meet, as well.

I’m so anxious to be home, but I know I’ll think about you all the time.  I can’t wait to brag to everyone that I got to see you.  Usually I am not one to brag, but you are far too cool not to talk about.  I’ll make sure to remember Whistling Woods, and all the fun we had there with Bollywood dancing and Cinema 100.  I’ll remember meeting Nagesh and Onir.  I’ll remember the long conversations I took part in with people I’ll never forget and will miss often.  And the rickshaws, and the heat and the difficulty communicating and the crazy food and the monsoons and, and…   Wow.  This is so overwhelming.  The memories I have gained in a month and stories I am now able to tell will always be a part of me and they are the best souvenirs I got from this trip.

This blog is really mostly a thank you to the people who I feel have become a sort of family to me.  My India family.  So, like I did in my very first blog, I want to mention everyone because I want to thank you all for making this experience one of the most positive in my life.  So thank you Anthony, Danielle, Gautam, Iris, Kelvin, Luis, Shauna, Mina and TG.  Thank you with my whole heart for making me feel a part of the group no matter how many times I was “making a scene”… Haha.  But seriously TG, thank you so much for listening to me that first day of COM 100.  This trip has made my life so much more full and had really made me a more well-rounded individual.  I feel my mind has become much more flexible!  Finally, thank you mom.  I know it wasn’t exactly easy to get me here, so I’ll be forever grateful to you for helping me go on this trip of dreams.  It is truly a unique experience that I’ll have for the rest of my days.  I’m so sad my next blog will be the last one, but who knows?  Hopefully in a few years I’ll be back, and I’ll write again.

Thank you Bollywood, and everyone who was a part of my Indian experience.  I’m not saying goodbye, but hello to all the new friends I’ve made and to all the new experiences to come.


The Most Grateful Girl in the World

My India Family