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Archive for the ‘SUBollywood’ Category

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…

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Today marks one week since I’ve returned from India to the United States. Overall, I enjoyed my time abroad, but it feels good to be home. As the saying goes: home is where the heart is. Since being back in the States for a week, I’ve realized the myriad of American customs that I missed experiencing on a day-to-day basis.

First off, I never thought I’d write about the fact that I miss the concept of a line. In India, it seems as if people are incapable of lining up anywhere with any semblance of order. In essence, lines in India are organized chaos, bereft of any acknowledgment that someone is next in line. During my time in India, this concept drove me insane. It just seemed so horribly inefficient to randomly serve people in a line by not doing it in an organized manner.

Second, traffic. Much like how lines are not organized, traffic that I witnessed in Mumbai has a very survival of the fittest mentality attached to it. Cars, trucks, rickshaws and motorcycles jockey for position with reckless abandon trying to get to point B from their point of origin. If it’s narrowly missing pedestrians or other motorists, it’s pretty much on the cards for any driver in Mumbai.

Thirdly, I like how I can finally communicate with others without feeling helpless. One of the most frustrating things for me during my time in India was not having a great command of Hindi. I would know basic directional phrases to tell rickshaw drivers, for example, but some drivers would continue to engage me in Hindi despite the fact I did not know any other phrases. Though we did go to places around India where English was spoken, when it came to going to places where English wasn’t predominantly spoken, that’s when it would get a little bit hairy.

Fourthly, I enjoy being able to get from point A to point B on my own volition, rather than relying on taxis or on rickshaws. I consider myself very independent, and I will depend on my car to get from place to place instead of counting on other methods of transportation. It was definitely an adventure each time I would jump into a rickshaw, but, I don’t necessarily miss it.

In sum, I enjoyed my time in India despite the differences in culture between there and America. It was definitely an adventurous journey, one that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

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Well, it’s been a week since I returned to the U.S. and what a week it’s been. One of the things I loved about India was how busy I was at all times. If I didn’t have anything to do, I could simply take a walk and absorb some more Indian culture, or catch a rickshaw to any part of the city. Since I’ve been home, I have felt completely useless.

The last week in India, we were all talking about what we missed about the U.S., mainly food. The first day back I had cheeseburgers for dinner, which was amazing. I still haven’t had the Big Mac that I said would be my first meal back. I had spaghetti and meatballs the other day. And yes, I had a BLT my second day back. I missed beef…a lot.

My friends and family are already starting to get annoyed with how much I talk about India. There were just so many experiences that I can connect to so many topics. I think the biggest thing I miss was the chaos and discomfort. Since I have been home, I haven’t really had to go out of my way to do anything. Everything is so neat and outlined.

Horn OK Please sticker on the back of trucks, so rickshaws know to honk their horn continuously and obnoxiously when you pass any and every thing

Another thing I miss is the rickshaws. I know that may come as a shock to anyone who has read my blogs, because of the amount I complain about them. Every rickshaw ride was a new adventure. I actually came close to getting hit in a rickshaw a few times, and had countless bad experiences with hijras and beggars. Going from that to driving within the lines in my parent’s car with A/C is a drastic change. I think that is a good metaphor for India: Where America is driving within the designated lines, India is driving wherever you please as long as you get to your destination in one piece. Chaotic, yet efficient.

Feeling small on the side of the Taj.

I also really miss the group. Going on the trip, I knew everyone through class, but didn’t really know anyone’s true personality. There were a few people on the trip that I actually went in with negative views towards. I loved our group though. Everyone was so different and brought something new to the table. Needless to say, I left India with completely changed viewpoints of every single person on the trip. I am actually pretty upset that since I am going abroad in the Spring, and a few people are going abroad in the Fall, I’ll have to wait a full year to see them.

Roommate Picture: Gautam and I at the Taj

I am so glad I did this trip. Not only was it great work experience (I got to see two major TV shows in production and post) but also it was great life experience. I talked, in my first post, about never before leaving the country. This was an insane trip to have as your first time outside the U.S. I want to see what I’ve been missing out on now. I want to start traveling to exotic places and experiencing different cultures.

I can’t believe it’s over. This trip went by so fast, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve talked about it so much already, and I know I will continue to talk about it for the rest of my life. I also have decided that I am not done with Mumbai. I will return later, be it a few years or a few decades. So for now, namaste India.

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If there’s one pastime that I love to consistently engage in, it’s going to the movies. It’s a well-worn romanticized cliché, but I am consistently enamored by the notion of going to a theatre, watching the lights dim, and then being transported on a filmic journey for two hours. Since returning from India last Wednesday, I’ve already gone to the movies several times. One movie that I recently saw was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, featuring an ensemble all-star cast that included some of the biggest acting luminaries that Britain has to offer.

Moreover, the main attraction for watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was that it was set in India. I’ll be upfront and readily admit that I would not have seen this film if it wasn’t for the fact that I just returned from India only days ago. I wanted to see if any of the experiences that I had first hand knowledge of jived at all with anything that was captured on the screen. Of course, there were going to be a measure of artistic license taken in the film, but I wasn’t going to let that detract from my film going experience.

To briefly set up the overall story of the film, seven disparate British retirees travel to the titular hotel for the “elderly and beautiful,” which is advertised as being a newly restored palatial place to stay, but is actually run down. Despite that, the hotel slowly charms each individual in unexpected ways.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow recap of the entire film, but, with this post, I do want to cover some of the situations that were encountered by the British foreigners on their sojourn to India. Many of the situations that were experienced by the characters in the film were almost exact mirrors of what we saw during our time in India.

For example, there is an early scene where the seven retirees take an auto rickshaw ride (referred to as tuk tuks in the film for some reason). Their ride is crazy and out of control, much like what we had experienced. Another scene featured Judi Dench attempting to buy a sari for 1000 rupees, with Bill Nighy’s character attempting to negotiate a cheaper price. In the end, Nighy is unsuccessful, and Dench’s character buys the sari for 1000 rupees.

Little touches like those made me enjoy the film all the more. Also, the film really captured the beauty of Jaipur. Even though it was a city that we did not visit while we were in India, the overall travelogue feel that the film took of Jaipur was very successful. In summary, I’m glad I got to watch the film, and I feel that I was able to enjoy it even more on a deeper level fresh off my journey to India.

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There are some things that are ubiquitous in Mumbai: the traffic, piles of trash and auto rickshaws, just to name a few examples. Another interesting aspect that remains a constant presence in the city is a piece of graffiti, which can be seen on a myriad of places throughout the city.

That piece of graffiti reads: “Bean Bags 26407383.” You can find this bit of graffiti emblazoned on walls, pipes and a bunch of other places. At first, I had no clue what it meant. I thought it had something to do with a viral marketing campaign for some film or television show in India. As it turned out, this unique marketing scheme, more visible than any billboard, is the idea of a savvy business owner named Farooq Ansari, owner of Dolphin Bean Bags.

According to Ansari, it took almost a decade for people to readily accept that the advertising was real and that the number wasn’t some sort of hoax. “Often, men would call up to ask for call girls. But there were a few genuine callers who kept up our hopes. The investment started converting into sales only two years ago,” Ansari said.

Moreover, Ansari has taken a concerted effort to make the font and color scheme for the ads the same so that people can immediately recognize it. It’s all about the beanbags, rather than the name of the store.

Personally, I think it is rather cool than someone took the effort necessary to subvert the normal processes of putting up ads in order to bring more business. It is a very unique way of getting new clientele to show up. The amount of interest that has been piqued because of ads shows what a worthwhile endeavor it has been for Ansari.

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With only a few days left, I have started to compile my favorite memories from the trip. I would never have experienced all these events, met all these people, and been to all these places without the rickshaw. Rickshaws have to be the most dangerous, insane method of transportation. Below, I’ve analyzed the main steps to surviving a rickshaw ride:

A random rickshaw. Taken from Google Images.

1. Hailing

Depending on the time, rickshaws can be very hard to come by. That’s not       saying there aren’t plenty of them around, but for some reason at certain  times none of them will stop. Once you get a rickshaw to stop, you say where you want to go, with about a 50% chance that the rickshaw will actually take you there. The other 50% is that the driver just shakes his head and drives off, almost hitting you on his way out.

2. Directions

When you finally get a rickshaw, you tell them where you want to go and they do the typical head bobble, which is the Indian equivalent of nodding your head in agreement. Even if someone agrees to take you to your destination, there is little chance that the driver actually knows where he is going.

3. The Journey

Once you’ve finally secured an auto, it’s time to get to your destination. The same ride from one place to another can range from a simple, straightforward 20 minutes to a traffic-filled, convoluted hour and a half. The rickshaw is entirely open, with no doors, and is supposed to be able to fit 3 people. Actually riding with 3 people is extremely uncomfortable and claustrophobic. Because there are very few traffic laws in Mumbai, the rickshaw squeezes in and out of traffic, so, often you find yourself in the already ridiculously hot sun, squeezed in between two buses with the exhausts straight in your face.

4. The Destination

As previously stated, most drivers have no idea where you want to go, but get close enough that after pulling over a few times to ask for directions, you finally arrive at your destination.

5. The Payment

Rickshaw meters are not at all like taxis. You have no idea how much you owe until you arrive at your destination. Then you check the converter sheet to see how much you actually owe. Often the rickshaw drivers aren’t satisfied with this payment, even though it is correct and will try to ask you for more. At this point you simply get out and walk away. Also, sometimes meters run fast because they have been tampered with. If you call the driver out he usually backs down.

A few more tips:

-Because there are no doors, beggars, hijras, and salesmen will approach you and get very up close and personal. There is nothing to do besides say maaf karna (forgive me in Hindi) and look away. I started to bring little packaged candies for the kids who come up begging for money or food. This way you know they eat it and don’t just give the money to a third party.

-Never get in a rickshaw with a random guy who says he’s a Mumbai tour guide. Story to come in my next blog. Until then, namaste.

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I think its safe to say that yesterday I had one the best times in India I had thus far. I played a game of cricket for the first time ever! It was beyond epic. What made it more epic was that it was with some random kids!

Everyday on my way back from lunch Gautam and I see a group of kids playing cricket. We always would stop and take a look at the game and talk about how we wish we could play with them. I know we sound like a bunch of losers, but that’s how we felt.

So the day before yesterday I said to Gautum, “lets go!” Of course I’m the one who was oblivious to the fact that we had to get back to our internships. Well maybe not oblivious, more like I didn’t care,  but not in a nonchalant way. Like I never played cricket before in my life and had the guts today to go up to some random kids and ask to play with them. Gautum ended up being the responsible intern and telling me tomorrow will spend less time eating lunch and then we’ll use that time to go play.

Looking from the outside in

So thats the backstory. Here’s the story!

Gautum and I both planned to where our cricket jersey’s because we were determined to play a game of cricket with those kids today. Lunch time rolled around and we went to get a bite to eat. I literally inhaled my lunch because I was that press to go and play cricket. We left the lunch spot and headed on our 10 minute walk back towards the office. So we get to the field and it’s like we’re both scared to go ask the kids can we play. Finally Gautum gets the balls to look over the concrete-barbed wire wall to ask one of the kids can we play. I stood in the back like a little punk scared that the kids would tell us to fuck off or something. Kids can be cruel people. I was one of them.

Anyways, The kid gestures to Gautum and I to come over. We were both elated. We rushed to the concrete-barbed wire wall to climb over to the field. We walk onto the field and the kids give us the “Indian Stare”. It’s a stare you’ll only get in India. If you been to India you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

A  group of kids left the field we were on and went over to another one. I’ll admit that I felt some kind of way. It was like being the new kid on the block and wanting to play with the neighborhood kids. Everyone has experienced that at some point in their lives. Didn’t think I would be hoping for the acceptance of a group of kids anymore in my life. We watched them play for about 15 minutes until one of the little kids came over and said we were next.

Next couldn’t come fast enough. It was soon our turn and Gautum was up first. I quickly pulled out my iPhone and slid my camera to video. Gautum took his first swing and missed. The kids bursted into laughter. After a couple of swings he got it together and hit the ball. Gautums strong spot was bowling the ball. He made a lot of the kids miss.

Now it was my turn. I walked over to base, bent my knees, swung and missed! I’ll admit the first couple of swings were terrible, but I eventually got it together. The kids were so excited when I finally hit the ball. I was like the kid on the team who sucked and when I finally did something good everyone was so happy. Not to say I hit out the field, but I did at least hit the ball.

Getting my swing on!

Getting schooled by the kids

And I got it!

They then invited us to play an actual game with them. Thats when I knew they actually liked us and wasn’t annoyed by our bad skills. We got in a circle and they had two kids pick teams. This definitely made me feel like a kid again except for getting picked last. I never got picked last when I was little. First time for everything even though I was a tad be salty, but whatever.

I was out in the field trying to avoid getting dirty, but I was having so much fun that I forgot all about trying to do that. By the end of the game I was picking up a ball that was just in sewer water. Yeah I made the same face your making now when I first saw the kids do it, but in the midst of having fun all of that flew out of the window. I just didn’t care if I was dusty and dirty going back to work. So be it. i just played a fricken game of cricket!

Playing a game of cricket was fun as hell. I will remember this forever. If I’m 85 with Alzheimers I think this will be one of the few things I’ll remember. What average American has played cricket before? I know I’m not average, but still you can’t name any. I felt like I was in the movie “Sandlot”, the Indian version. I met some cool kids and just as the made my day, I made theirs. They taught two Americans how to play their game. They were beyond excited that they did that.

The game was over, which meant we had to get back to work. All good things must come to an end so to make sure we would remember it we snapped some pics with the kids and went on our way.

After leaving I felt like a little kid on the block again. Running  down the street to go play with my friends and coming back home later dirty and with rips in my clothes. Yes, I ripped my pants climbing over the barbed wire fence. Can’t tell you how many times I did that growing up as a kid. A great day to say the least. Definitely one for the books.

My team! We were Kolkata

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