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Posts Tagged ‘Bollywood’

As I mentioned in my previous post, India is turning out to be a land of contradictions.

I like to think that I have a broad, accepting palate that’s on its way to being fit to take traveling and befitting of someone who’s Korean-American and lives in North Jersey (these two traits would help make for a more adventurous eater then say, someone from small-town Vermont). Indian food in the US isn’t strange to me and I’m not adverse to diverse spices.

Despite all that though, I am having trouble adjusting to my diet here. The SUBollywood group and I have spoken countless times about what we’re looking forward to indulging in once we get home. Korean food, shellfish, summer berries, bacon, and raw veggies top my list. I get hit with cravings for simple but really unattainable things that I wouldn’t think twice about at home. I don’t eat much beef, but I want a steak just because I can’t have it.

Deciding what I want to eat and if it’ll upset my stomach is a daily dilemma that I really didn’t foresee being such a issue on this trip. India is a good lesson in gratitude.

India is also the most outside my comfort zone I’ve ever been, but I still can’t ignore that I’m living a lot more comfortably than the vast majority of the people who live in this country. The income gap is unbelievable and either the rich are very rich or the poor are very poor (by Western standards). Every time I feel uncomfortable about something, I feel chastised by the poverty that is constantly unavoidable. I crave an iced tea, but then I see street children begging for water. I feel tired at work, but then I think about how lucky I am to have a corporate internship. I think about how hard the hotel bed is, but I can’t help but enjoy the air-conditioning and think of all the people outside sweltering in the heat who don’t have beds.

Not to say that I’m not enjoying this experience and learning from it, but I will be a very thankful girl when I go home.

Iris

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I have no idea what’s going on at home in the States.

I don’t know which summer hurricanes are going to hit where, when the next Apple product comes out, why a major character died on Mad Men (thanks for the spoiler Diplo), or even what the weather’s like in my hometown.

Things that have permeated the international bubble of SU Bollywood, as pointed out by Anthony:

  1. The Zombie Apocalypse is coming. See: Floridian man who ate someone’s face while on “bath salts”, college student who ate his roommate’s organs, and cannibalistic porn actor sending dismembered body parts through the mail.
  2. The Dutch artist who taxidermied his beloved cat Orville, and then turned him into a helicopter. (Possibly my future husband.)

Wisconsin’s governor didn’t get recalled. New Jersey had primaries. The Queen’s Jubilee party was awesome. That about sums up the entirety of my current events knowledge. Can you tell that I shouldn’t have been a broadcast journalism major?

Despite my ignorance, life goes on. In fact, I don’t feel any more ignorant for not knowing how my county voted, what the latest on the JPMorgan scandal is (good job making friends SU, seriously), or what new dotcom start-up is trendy for the week. It’s actually pretty nice shuffling along in my own sphere of influence and not having to pretend that things matter when they really don’t. I tend to compartmentalize, and “out of sight, out of mind” never rang truer.

I get up and shower/eat breakfast/talk to people in the US. The first big event of the day is trying to get a reliable ride to work. I do my working girl thing at the Disney UTV office. I desperately hope for a good driver and less traffic on the commute home. Once I’m home I’ll shower/eat/socialize and maybe watch a DVD or read a book. It’s a pretty routine life interning with SU Bollywood, but TG has shown us some amazing things during our free time and insists that everyone has weekends off.

More and more, I feel like people are telling and not showing the importance of things. I’m pretty sick of having simultaneous helpings of social-media-is-the-new-black and you-kids-need-to-get-off-your-computers shoved down my throat. In a country where people don’t have clean drinking water, let alone Internet access, I’ve found that neither is really as vital or pernicious as people insist.

Of course I miss home comforts but India is turning out to be paradoxical and contradictory for me. I’m really enjoying being away but I also know how good we’ve got it back home. I love having fresh mangoes and coconuts but I’d sell my soul for a homecooked meal. I worship the sun but I’m looking forward to experiencing it a lot less intensely from my deck.

I think I’ll do my next blog on all the things I miss at home and how guilty it makes me feel because I’m in India.

Iris

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I’m blogging from my desk at Disney UTV here in Mumbai, India. (JB Nagar if I’m really specific.)

My office building is shiny glass and chrome from the outside. Inside, central air-conditioning reminds me to dress conservatively for work and Indian sensibilities, and all of my coworkers speak English.

My commute can be really easy or extremely irritating, based on my auto-rickshaw driver for the trip and the traffic on his selected route. The morning commute takes less than half an hour and the evening one is always exemplary of Mumbai traffic–long, hot, and loud (no horn, ok please?).

Once I get to the office I check in with my boss and spend the rest of the day researching over 300 film festivals, potential markets to distribute to. I’m getting pretty familiar with Excel, withoutabox.com, and Google Calendar. I have a good overview of the international film festival circuit too.

Right now my colleagues are promoting Rowdy Rathore. SU Bollywood enjoys its tagline “Don’t Angry Me,” as well as its titular mustachioed hero.

I have to get back to working for the Mouse now.

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An aspect about this month-long trip to Mumbai that I am very thankful for, but rarely considered before I left, is the location of our residency. The service apartments that were willing to take us in for a month are located in Chandivali, Powai. I know that means nothing to you, but to me it is an area that truly gives us a sense of the realities in India.

Chandivali has no tourists, no luxurious hotels, and certainly no fancy restaurants with western cuisine to indulge in. This is not the experience I would have chosen on my own, but it is most certainly the one I needed to have. Every day I become more and more grateful for the life I have at home. The phrase Home Sweet Home has never been more accurate.

While travelling to other towns and areas throughout Mumbai, I discovered a common thread that has persistently struck me. Outside of our neighborhood there are countless areas where you will find a high-rise luxury apartment or corporate building, but take nearly ten steps on either side and you will run into slums, people sleeping on the street, and stray animals.

These sights have been extremely hard to grasp because I am being exposed to opposite extremes in a matter of seconds. While in a cab or rickshaw on the highway, I have often passed an upscale mall or a company’s headquarters surrounded by men sleeping on all sorts of uncomfortable surfaces. These malls have security guards and metal detectors at each entry, whereas the men on the street spend the night on a single blanket, in the same outfit they wore in the sweltering heat that day.

Furthermore, I have passed apartment buildings surrounded by towering gates, while men are sleeping in their rickshaws right out front. I have even seen a BMW stuck in traffic alongside a dirty motorcycle carrying three passengers, none of which were wearing helmets. At Film City, where Whistling Woods International is located, you will come across stray dogs in the school’s cafeteria as well as children playing cricket in the sand. These sightings and encounters cease to amaze me with each day that passes.

My current location here in Mumbai has opened my eyes to the good and the bad. It has made me the minority and put me in a position where I am forced to take in the cruel lifestyles that many Indians must go through to survive. Never before has my home felt so sweet.

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So today the bharat bandh is going on. It’s this massive protest/strike/riot that was organized by the main political opposition party in India against rising gas prices. The hotel staff didn’t want us vulnerable Americans walking beyond the DMart at the end of the road, which isn’t even open because no one can get to work.

Incarceration begets incapacitation. Feeling hemmed in, I had breakfast (a puri, some chickpea curry, and lots of mango juice) with my roommate Mina and TG while watching news reports on the bharat bandh. The on-scene reporters on Indian CNN speak way too quickly, which was funny because people trying to sound like journalists in the U.S. always do the slow and deep Walter Cronkite thing (which is equally funny–NPR is notorious for this, really).

I had a shower and did a bunch of hand laundry. I’ve spent most of my day reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which I borrowed from Mina. I thought it would make me sad, but I was most touched by the author’s descriptions of Amsterdam. I like places more than I like people (really like) in general.

I know that people are expecting lots of introspection and American-girl-in-India and whatnot from this blog but that kind of stuff is pretty trite to me.

I wish the fruit-wallas were around. I’ve been told to have pink guava by my friend Betsy and I could really go for some fresh coconut water.

That’s it.

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Let me start this post by saying how a casual day in India turned into a phenomenal one just by arriving to one scheduled meeting. Entering one building and taking a few steps was all it took to be in awe.

To clarify our internship and speak with Dinaz, the woman taking us under her wing, my professor (TG) took Shauna and I to Amitabh Bachchan’s office. It makes me giddy just thinking about it. Unfortunately, you probably don’t feel the same way, so I’ll give you a little taste of who this man is.

Amitabh Bachchan

  • Amitabh Bachchan jump started his acting career in the 70’s and since then has become extremely popular. He’s won numerous awards and is seen on billboards and in commercials all over India.

I’ve tried to think of an American actor equivalent to Amitabh Bachchan but no one can compare to this man. Denzel and Tom Hanks come close, but even my peers here agree that no one can match Amitabh’s accomplishments within the Indian film industry.

  • Here’s a clip from Slumdog Millionaire, winner of Best Picture in 2009, to reaffirm Amitabh’s fame:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWEx5gACui8]

Once we stepped foot into the building, we were immediately surrounded by Amitabh Bachchan. Not the actual man, but representations of him through a variety of artwork. At first I thought, he seems full of himself. Later I learned all of the artwork was done by fans!

After a flight of stairs, we knocked on a door and were greeted by Dinaz AND Mira Nair, both of whom are good friends with TG. Yep, my professor has some really awesome friends. However, while I’m getting all giddy again, you’re asking, who is she?

Mira Nair

Mira Nair is a well-known Indian filmmaker based in NYC. A few of her films include Salaam Bombay! (1988), Monsoon Wedding (2001), and The Namesake (2006). Her latest project, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, features Kiefer Sutherland, Kate Hudson, and Liev Schreiber. Our first task actually required us to find actors and actresses for voice-overs for the film.

The biggest smile grew across my face as I reached out my hand to introduce myself to Mira. I was truly pleased to meet her and could only hope to one day be as successful as she. I hope she remembers my name!!!

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The auto-rickshaw is definitely my new favorite mode of transportation. Traffic in Mumbai is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and doing it in an auto-rickshaw lends it a whole other dimension.

Auto-rickshaws are three-wheeled motorized vehicles with room for the driver in the front and up to three passengers in the back (some people take that only as a suggestion). They’re open on the sides so you get the full experience of what it’s like to whiz through the streets of a slum or sit in traffic as the dust swirls around you and the sun beats down.

Traffic lights and signs are a rarity and there is organized chaos instead of orderly lanes. People make u-turns how and wherever they want; basically anything goes. Despite all this, any of us have yet to see an accident. People are constantly honking and all the trucks have “HORN OK PLEASE” painted on their backs. The honking is a way of letting people know you’re there because Mumbai drivers go and do whatever they want.

Someone earlier on this trip said drivers here are simultaneously the rudest and most polite ever. I’ll agree with that. I plan on videotaping an auto ride and posting it here; this post doesn’t do it justice.

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