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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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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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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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I feel like the little boy I used to be about 10 years ago. Excited that I’m going on this exclusive overnight trip with my school. Excited to be with friends from class. Excited because my favorite teacher whom I’ve had twice is the teacher on the trip. Even more excited that its to Mumbai, India, a place I’ve never been before! I feel like a little school boy  going on a field trip all over again.

Mumbai life has been awesome! The minute I stepped out of the airport I was amazed by the liveliness of the city. I honestly think Mumbai gives New York City a run for its money in terms of a city that never sleeps. There is so much noise that its hard to even  hear yourself think. You can’t go a second without hearing a horn honk and speaking of horns, the driving here is crazy to say the least! There are no traffic laws(if there is you can’t tell) and every moment your in a vehicle your bound to have almost gotten into a car accident. I know that even in the States you are putting your life at risk anytime you get into a car, but here you actually feel that way! Since I stepped foot out of the airport I’ve snapped about 1,000 pictures and 90% of them happen to be pointless, but because I’m in Mumbai for the first time I just feel it’s necessary. Not to reiterate this is my first time out of the country like it ushers me a pass for it, but. I can’t help to not look like a foreigner everywhere I go here.

Fresh off the plane and into Mumbai

To say the least I’m enjoying my time here. I have not fully adjusted to the nine and a half hour time difference. I find myself dosing off throughout the day and up like an owl through the night. Hopefully I get adjusted soon because not getting any sleep is starting to take a toll on me. Only if I had some sleeping pills 😦 My diet has certainly changed as well. I’m consuming more carbs than normally and I haven’t drink so much water in my entire life. I literally drank about three litters everyday. My mom would certainly be proud of my water consumption. When it comes to food here I’m very limited to the Indian dishes I can eat because of my dairy allergy, but I’ve found one dish that doesn’t have any and taste really good! Rice and Dall! It was my first Indian dish and I absolutely loved it. I’ve had almost everyday since I been here. It’s a yellow soup like dish over rice that is sort of spicy. Spice makes all Indian food and I love it.

For first day we met up with Kanchi and Maria from Whistling Woods Film Institute. It’s one of India’s premier film schools and it has partnered with SU in doing this trip. It is a really great school. They gave us a great welcome and  have been extremely helpful. On our first day out in city they treated us to lunch at this college hang out spot. I loved the vibe and outside seating of the place. 

Once we were done we took our first rigshaw to the market! The rigshaw experience was epic! A smart business man would definitely bring them to the states. Their like go carts with seats for passengers and don’t cost you an arm and a leg. You can take the same trip in a cab in the states and it would cost you about ten to fifth teen dollars, but here it would be about a dollar or two.

My first Rigshaw!

So tomorrow starts an eventful week of my “big kid field trip”. Yoga, lectures, shopping, site seeing, oh yea and more insignificant pictures. lol

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It’s just one day before I board my flight to Mumbai!  It has yet to set in that I’ll be boarding a plane to India in 24 hours. This will be the first time I have ever set a foot outside of the United States. It’s common for the average American to have gone on vacation to somewhere like the Caribbean or a nearby beach. My situation, however, will be different. When I tell people I’m going to Mumbai for an internship, their favorite response is, “Wow” and “For what?”, both of these responses of which I expect.

Yesterday, I was at the doctor’s office getting my Hepatitis A shot for India (Yes, I am a very last minute person!), and the nurse asked me why I needed the shot. I told her I was traveling to Mumbai for a month-long internship, but left out all details about experiencing Bollywood firsthand after learning about it in a class I took this semester. Her initial response was, “Oh. Bollywood! I’ve seen a couple.”

She then went on to talk about the two Bollywood films she had seen. While she was telling me this I could not help but show my amazement on her Bollywood film knowledge. I was expecting her to say she had seen “Slumdog Millionaire”, but the films she had seen were “Om Shanti Om” and one I had not seen myself, “Dostana”. She then asked me about the films I have seen and picked up her clipboard to write them down. Who knew I would be having a conversation with someone who actually knew something about Bollywood film at my doctors office? This actually made me more excited about the trip. I’ve been learning about India and Bollywood all semester and cannot wait to have that experience. T-minus 24 hours till Mubai!

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Syracuse University is back in “Bollywood” for a fourth time. Follow our blog and follow us on Twitter also. #SUBollywood

Students travel to Bollywood, study with Indian filmmakers

May 4, 2012

By Wendy S. Loughlin • (315) 443-2785

Nine students from the Newhouse School will soon embark on a 15-hour flight to Mumbai, India, as part of the SU Abroad course “Bollywood Snapshots: SU Internships in Mumbai.” This is the fourth time the course has been offered.

Under the direction of Tula Goenka, associate professor of television-radio-film in the Newhouse School, the four-week internship course allows students to work directly with Indian filmmakers and production companies.

The course is based at leading Bollywood director Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International (WWI) Institute for Film, Television and Media Arts, and various other locations in Mumbai. Students will leave on May 18 and return to the United States on June 20. As in past years, the trip will include a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra.

“I was so impressed the first time I visited Whistling Woods International campus in 2007, I knew I had to share it with my students,” says Goenka. “Since then, I have brought 30 Newhouse students to Bombay to receive hands-on experience in the Hindi film and television industry. It’s a life-changing experience for them, and it never would have been possible without WWI.”

Despite recent legal issues regarding the land deal that allowed WWI to be built, Goenka says the institute is “ready to welcome students with open arms once again.”

The students will blog about their experiences at https://subollywood2012.wordpress.com. Follow them on Twitter via #SUBollywood.

Participating students include Gautam Badgujar, Anthony DiBiase, Alexandra Hayes, Mina Johnson, Luis Lopez, Iris Park, Kelvin Sherman, Danielle Skipper and Kishauna Soljour.

Goenka, who was born and raised in India, has more than 30 years of experience in the film and television industry. She serves as co-director of SU’s annual Illuminating Oppression: Human Rights Film Festival. She is currently in post-production on a documentary film on Mithila painters in the Madhubani region of Bihar, India. Her book, “Not Just Bollywood: Conversations with Indian Movie Directors,” will be published later this year by Om Books International.

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