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Archive for the ‘SUBollywood’ Category

About two weeks ago we took a trip down to Dhobi Ghat. It’s an open/outdoors laundromat were workers known as Dhobis, work in the open to wash the clothes from hotels and businesses all over Mumbai. It’s one of the largest outdoor laundromats in the world. The British soldiers used to wash their uniforms there when they occupied India.

The Dhobi Ghat

Working hard!

Before seeing it I thought it would be like some big pond or lake where people just stood in the water scrubbing clothes, but I was wrong. It was actually more structured than I imagined. There was a whole system going on where there was concrete sectioned blocks for each person to wash and rinse the clothes, then hang them to dry. It was really cool to see these people washing clothes the traditional way. Matter of fact it was so cool that I was inspired to wash my own by hand. Well TG had already suggested it, but I never gave it that much thought until I seen the whole washing operation at Dhobi Ghat.

So here I am now in week 4 of my trip here and I have washed my clothes by hand for the second time. Well just my underwear because we don’t have a clothes line outside. Shorts and shirts are thick so they wouldn’t dry well. Still a great effort none the less.

Hand washed undies!

I must admit it was a little weird and still kind of is because I’m used to washing my clothes in a machine and now I am using a bucket of soap water and scrubbing my underwear to death. At the same time it’s fun because I feel like I am completing a challenge. I know a challenge sounds silly and an Indian reading this would probably laugh, but after finishing I felt very accomplished and also frugal. I saved about 500 rupees by washing myself. Everyone on this trip knows I’m about saving a rupee or two and couldn’t pass that opportunity up.

My little Dhobi Ghat in our kitchen

Anyways,I think I’m done with washing for the remainder of the trip. There’s only one week left and everything thats dirty is getting piled into my suitcase for an excellent welcome home present for my mom. I normally wash my own clothes, but when I went to college I realized that my mom misses me a lot and doing the little things like washing for me. When she has the opportunity to do it she hops on it. That normally last for the first week I’m home and its all on me. So will I continue hand washing my clothes? I’ll be honest and say no. I’m American what’d you expect.

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Yesterday we took a trip down to South Mumbai aka “SoBo”. The B is for Bombay for those of you who were wondering. No your not stupid, just a little slow. Anyways I had a ball! Sobo compared to the rest of so much cooler than the rest of Mumbai. We’re staying in Puna which is way on the other side. It’s about the equivalence of Manhattan to Queens. Sobo is right on the water by the Arabian sea and a host of India’s elite stay in the area. We got to see the “King of Bollywood”(SRK’s) house. It was was huge. It had a house that he originally bought and attached to it was a four or five story apartment building. It was sick!

We then went down the street to the Bollywood walk of fame. Not really what I expected. I’ll just say it’s a work in progress. Serious progress. Before we left we went over to one of India’s premiere hotels, the “Taj Lands End”. It’s beyond nice. When you walk into the lobby the fresh scent of Jasmine is lingering through the air. Everything is so nice and it felt too expensive for us to even be in there. When I come back to Mumbai I have to stay at this hotel for at least one night. It’s a must.

Next on the agenda was to visit TG’s old neighborhood and her favorite temple. We didn’t get to see it because it was closed, but the town was cool to be in. We walked through a bunch of curves and turns to get to the beautiful pool that was at the center of the town and surrounded by homes and temples. A tranquil sight. Next on the list was to visit the hanging gardens.  As we were walking through the garden we got hounded by this guy named Ravi who was selling peacock feather fans. Some of us were tempted to buy them, but TG told us they were over priced and we could find them cheaper in Colaba. He followed us for the entire 30 minutes we were there. By the end of the trip he got us all to buy one of his fans. With some negotiation and compromising he came down to a price of 150 rupees. As much of a pest he was I never got annoyed with him because he reminded me of myself with his persistence and entrepreneurship. I had a little candy business growing up from middle school to high school and understand the world of hustling. I find it funny that we all ended up buying one, even those of us who didn’t initially want one. Imagine if he wasn’t persistent. He likely would have not gotten those nine sells. I’m sure Ravi will someday be running a company in India. It’s def his calling.

After enjoying the coast of Mumbai we headed over to the city’s biggest attraction, the Gateway to India. The Gateway was colossal. I kept thinking to myself, “All of this for King George?”. Obviously not a fan, but the gate was epic to see and be around. It was so funny being there because white people are a hot commodity. Many of the people visiting the Gateway are from small areas of India and have never seen anyone white before so when they saw all the white kids with us it was like a new species was discovered. Even I was asked to take a picture with someone. I wasn’t as hot as the white kids, but I did get a request. The one person who did request me made my day as much as I did theirs. They met a black person for the first time and I felt like a celebrity for 20 seconds. We both were winning.

After taking a thousand pics we headed to the original taj hotel, the “Taj Mahal Intercontinental” hotel to see the memorial for the people who were killed in the bombings at the hotel 2 years ago. It was great monument and reminded me to be thankful for my life. The hotel was also really nice. One of the nicest hotels I’ve ever seen. If I had to choose between the Taj Lands End and Taj Mahal Intercontinental, I would go with the first one. I think because it was more modern and smelled like Jasmine everywhere you went. Oh yeah the bathroom was better at the Taj Lands End. Both were extremely nice hotels to say the least.

Now that we saw Mumbai’s biggest attraction it was time to shop at Mumbai’s Colaba. It’s a strip that stretches down blocks and blocks with countless vendors trying to sell you almost anything. What’s even better is that its a buyer’s market and you can bargain for some awesome deals. I got so many of my gifts for people at great prices. I had a budget for gifts and I won’t tell you what it was, but I didn’t go over. I actually was under. Anytime I’m saving money, I’m happy.

I’m the king of bargaining. I even got a couple of people here on the trip with me some sweet deals. For instance I helped Shawnna get two 6-packs of key chains for $200 rupees. We went to Hiranandani today and say one of the keychains for 55 rupees. Made me realize that we were def winning last night.

After leaving Sobo I kind of wish we stayed there. Leaving Sobo was like leaving New York City and heading into Jersey, such a let down *D Woods voice*(Trip insider). No disrespect to New Jersey, but that’s how I feel every time I leave New York City. Ending the night at Colaba was great! Good call TG. We all got on the bus happy because we felt like we got our money’s worth and more. It was a great bus ride home with some epic tunes. I’m def coming back at some point in my life. Shout out to Sobo!

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Since the beginning of time humans have been inventing ways to travel faster. Two feet were not sufficient. The fastest horse was too slow. The bicycle took too energy to propel. And the car had a passenger limitation.

Then came the train…

In my various experiences of traveling by train, I recollect the hum-drum rides of Metro North, the steamy C train from Fulton to Ralph, the business compartment of Amtrak, the whizzing of objects on the Japanese bullet train, the Parisian pink, green, and red lines connecting the city of lights, and watching Senegalese trains chug past our jeep into the distance of sand dunes.

None of these experiences could prepare me for traveling by train in India.

After purchasing our tickets, we waited for the train to arrive. As the train approached we were overtaken by the stampede of women rushing to get a seat. Separated by gender, there are male and female compartments of the train, that are later broken down into first and second class.

Against prior advice and our better judgement, we chose to be daring and travel by second class, which is a lot cheaper than first class.

After picking up the passengers at one stop the doors do not open and close, instead they remain open. More people enter. After squeezing 5-7 people on a bench, the unlucky ones have to stand. Or congregate on the floor. There is no conductor to collect tickets. There are vendors selling everything from nail polish, hair clips to fresh fruits and veggies. The compartments are not air conditioned, fans loom overhead and luckily the doors remain open providing gusts of wind as the train rattles along the tracks.

From my travels I have amassed a list of ways I have serviced ladies on the train.

  1. My shoulder was an armrest.
  2. My back was a railing.
  3. My foot was stepped on as part of the finish line for the race to get off the train.
  4. Unsuccessful direction-giver (Hindi lessons are needed ASAP).
  5. My hand was grabbed as a seatbelt when the train lurched forward unexpectedly.

Although the train is the fastest mode of transportation to get from one place to another in Mumbai, please remember the following…

Shauna’s Rules for Traveling by Train {For your own safety and preparation}

-The Personal Bubble Rule will be broken

-If you have acquired a seat, realize you will have to move over

-Know your stop, because you will have to be ready to get off the train, immediately

-Hold your ground or you will lose your spot on the train

If you follow these rules, you will reach your destination without casualty or trauma.

And if that doesn’t work you can always travel by zipline!

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Safe Travels!

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I never realized until coming to India how fruit deprived I have been. When eating fruit, I stick to the basics: apples, bananas, strawberries, etc. In the past few weeks I have eaten some fruits that I didn’t even know existed, and a few I had only tasted in Snapple drinks.

The best thing about fruit in India is it is all fresh from the source, unprocessed, and sold to you for really cheap by street vendors.  Luckily, TG was there to photograph my entire fruity venture.

My first “exotic” fruit and all time favorite was a coconut. I’m not talking about the brown, hairy, dried-out kind, but the green fresh coconuts. The street vendors use their giant machetes to cut a little hole in the top and stick a straw through. After drinking the delicious, extremely hydrating water, you return the coconut to the vendor and he cuts the actual coconut flesh out. So, you get the awesome water, and the actual fruit for a total of 25 rupees (50 cents).

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Next fruit I tried was a lychee. To me, lychee’s taste exactly like grapes, but are much more complicated to eat because you have to remove the outer skin and pick the fruit around the massive pit.

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I’m not sure if I have ever had an actual mango. I probably have. I have definitely had mango candy, juice, and sorbet. The mangos here are great, super fresh and juicy.

Despite having plenty of pomegranate juice, I have never had a pomegranate. The pomegranates we bought both times were very disappointing. They were dry and had a few bruises. Despite that, I really enjoyed pomegranate, which shows that when I eventually have a good one, I am going to really enjoy it.

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The weirdest fruit I tried was the jackfruit. Jackfruit can be cooked raw to make a curry, or when ripe, you can eat the outer seeds. The seeds were complicated to take apart, but I really enjoyed the taste of the fruit. I can’t think of any other flavor to compare it to. It was very unique.

The only fruit that I have had here that I didn’t really like was the papaya. I didn’t really like the taste and thought it tasted less fruity and more like a melon than I expected.

That’s all the fruits I can think of. I still want to try a guava; maybe I’ll update this post later if I try one. Till then, Namaste.

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One thing I have learned on this trip is that there is a major difference between a tourist and a foreigner. For the first two weeks, I felt like a tourist. I wasn’t at all self-conscious of the way I acted, dressed, or spoke. I was in India to see the sights, not to assimilate.

It wasn’t until I started interning that I started feeling like a foreigner. For a few days, I assisted the floor director at Coke Studio@MTV, a program by Red Chillies Idiotbox. It was a great experience and I really enjoyed it. I met a bunch of great people and was actually pretty upset that the shoot ended so briefly after I had just begun to work there.

I have had plenty of jobs in many different industries. I worked at a grocery store, announced baseball games, interned at a radio show, and much more. However, none of my work experience helped me with the extreme difficulty I had with this job.

I can count the amount of words I can speak in Hindi on two hands. That being said, every task I had to do, even things as simple as grabbing an extra bar stool for a guitarist to sit on took much more work than normal. I was extremely grateful to the floor director for putting up with my inability to communicate and using excess English.

This experience was really eye opening to me. At a few of the jobs I have worked, I have been with people who speak very little English. After a few failed attempts, I usually just gave up on communicating with them and got annoyed with them for not understanding. Having this situation flipped so that I was the one unable to comprehend was incredible. It truly gave me a whole different outlook.

In the few days I was there, I could tell the major shifts from people eyeing me like I had no place there on day one, to making small talk and a few even thanking me for the work I was putting in.

As much as the three days on set were all major struggles and journeys in communicating, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Can’t wait to see what’s next. Namaste.

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During my stay here in Mumbai, I’ve been continuously amazed by the stunning divide in regards to the wealthy and the poor in this city. In a mere rickshaw ride, this separation is immediately apparent; one can see how the sumptuous excesses associated with the rich can immediately transform into hamlets that are devoid of those excesses.

This delineation truly became apparent to me yesterday (Tuesday). An excursion to the J.W. Marriott hotel showed the other half lived. The hotel itself was luxurious almost to the point of absurdity. It was a place not too far removed from a hotel that one would see in Las Vegas. High ceilings, fountains, expensive wares for sale, hand towels to dry your hands in bathroom; this hotel had it all.

Upon leaving that bastion of ornate opulence, the rickshaw ride back to our apartments immediately translated a tale of two cities: the aforementioned temple of extravagance versus an existence that communicated simple living. Of all the cities that I have visited in my world travels, Mumbai is the one city where the split between the rich and the poor is incredibly profound. Short increments of distance and time give an indication of that separation.

Despite that division between the two cultures, I think that it is important to note that it appears that people are content with the existence they have carved out for themselves, no matter their socio-economic status. Poverty has not worn people down; they wear it as a badge of courage, in other words, it’s a source of pride. They are not shameful of their surroundings in the slightest.

I keep on mentioned the word divide, or some variation thereof, but any appearance of “division” seemingly is not part of vernacular of the citizenry of Mumbai, outwardly at least. Everyone’s existence is on their own terms.

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Most people choose which sports team to support based on proximity, tradition, or players. After arriving in India, where cricket is treated like a religion, I knew exactly which team to support: The Kolkata Knight Riders.

My support for this team was solely due to my obsession with their owner, the great Shah Rukh Khan . SRK is probably the most famous man in India, acting in a crazy amount of Bollywood films. According to T.G., he is the equivalent of Tom Cruise in fame and people’s wavering opinions about him. Almost every clip we saw in class had him in it and I slowly became a borderline-creepy fan. I find it amazing that very few Americans know who he is, when he is absurdly famous here. I had no idea who he was before taking this course.

As I said before SRK owns the Knight Riders, so obviously I chose them as the team I would support. I knew they were doing well and advancing through the playoffs, but how no idea how far they had gotten. Yesterday, I was thrown off guard when I heard they were playing in the finals against the Chennai Super Kings only about 20 minutes after I had bought a knockoff Knight Riders jersey and my “King Khan: A Collection of SRK’s 8 Greatest Films” set.

So, I raced down to Chilies, where the rest of our group was and, after Gautam and I had changed into our new jerseys, took our seats to watch the game. I’m pretty sure every person in Chilies was making fun of us 10 Americans attempted to cheer for a team when we didn’t even know the rules. I kept asking people, “is that good,” or “why is he doing that?”

After finishing our food, we waited for halftime and then caught a rickshaw to bring us back to the hotel. Once we got back, a few of us huddled around the TV and watched the rest of the match.

Here’s where our ignorance of the rules has a major effect. Imagine how hard it is to see the team you are supporting lose, and how exciting it is to see that team win. Now picture the emotional rollercoaster we were on as we thought we saw our team lose twice until they finally won. We had not the slightest idea of the rules.

Me and Gautam posing after the win with our new jerseys on

After a quick celebration and twitter update, I stayed by the TV a little longer to watch them interview SRK. All in all, after watching all of my favorite teams lose in the playoffs this year (except the Celtics, knock on wood), it was nice to finally have a win, even if I didn’t know the team existed two weeks ago and only supported them for a period of three hours.

Now I’m more excited than ever to start my internship Wednesday, because SRK also owns Red Chilies.  Until then I have some downtime, and 8 new movies to watch. Namaste.

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