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Posts Tagged ‘India’

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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It has almost been a week since my flight landed at Newark International Airport and I was back on U.S. soil after a month spent in India. It’s been great to be back home with my friends and family. I must also admit that I really missed being surrounded by the familiar and the comforts of the things, people and places I know best.

Even though I am finally getting over jetlag and getting into a typical summer routine, it still feels like one morning I am going to wake up and be in India again. I keep forgetting that Iris is no longer my roommate and the guys no longer live a few steps away. I won’t even get to see Kelvin, Gautam or Lexa until 2013 because they’re going abroad this fall. It has yet to hit me that I most likely will not be back to Mumbai, or India for that matter, anytime soon.

Roommate picture! Iris and I posing with our bindis.

The first thing I ate once I made it home was a bagel and cream cheese and it was the best bagel I’ve ever had! I had to laugh at myself after I ate it because towards the end of the trip when all of us would discuss what foods we missed most, I continually emphasized how much I missed the traditional bagel with cream cheese.

With every friend or relative I visit and encounter, I get that much more excited to tell them about my trip and share my memories. I want as many people as possible to know how different India is and how I truly was on a trip of a lifetime.

Everyday I encounter something or go somewhere that reminds me of my time spent in India. Even now as I write this, it’s pouring out and I cannot help but think about how we got to experience the beginnings of monsoon season our last weekend in Mumbai. Whenever I drive from one place to another, I think about how great it is to be driving with no horns blaring, no exhaust fumes in your face and no bumper to bumper traffic. Additionally, I no longer complain about 90+ degree weather because I endured worse, and had sweat much more, in India (Dehli especially).

The whole gang during our farewell dinner with Whistling Woods.

Just like leaving India, writing my final blog for SU Bollywood 2012 comes with a bittersweet feeling. Yeah I’ll admit that some days I felt lazy and could care less about keeping up with my blog entries. However, once I wrote out everything I wanted to say and posted it, I had an eagerness to share my latest entry with everyone I knew. Now my eagerness lies with seeing the eight students and one professor I spent a whole month of my summer with as soon as possible.

I have seen and done things in one month that most people will never do in their lifetime. I am now friends with some of the most unique personalities I have ever met. India taught me so much and I am forever thankful I had the opportunity to take part in this program.

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Three essential qualities to look for in a “shopping arena” are: low prices, decent quality, and nice atmosphere. Hiranandani and South Bombay encompass all of these qualities and more. I have had more fun shopping in India than I’ve ever had at any American mall, outlet, or department store. We have stopped into a few malls here and there, and trust me, India has plenty of malls, but none of them have satisfied me quite like the alleyways in Hiranandani or the vendors that line Colaba Causeway in South Bombay (SoBo).

These “shopping arenas” are nothing like what I’m used to back home. There are no elevators, escalators, long lines, or bustling parking lots. Here in India, all you have to do is take a step in the right direction and you’re in shopping paradise!

There’s a nice mall in Hiranandani with decent prices, but once we ventured across the street and into some alleys behind the larger buildings and stores, we found ourselves amongst clothing and shoes averaging only 250 rupees (that’s about 5 USD). The venders are set up along both sides of the alleyways and there are also small walk-in stores to explore. As we make our way through this miniature maze, we’re buying shoes at this stand and pants at that stand, making it out without even spending twenty US dollars.

Now if you think the alleyways in Hiranandani sound amazing, Colaba Causeway would blow you away. This street in SoBo is like one long strip mall, but with no stores to go in and out of because everything you could possibly want is right there on the sidewalk for you – and yes, the vendors line both sides of the sidewalk. It truly is as awesome as it sounds.

This “shopping arena” literally comes out of nowhere, but once you reach it and realize how much clothing, souvenirs, and jewelry there is to conquer, it feels like you have just gotten the wind knocked out of you. Before buying anything, most of us took a walk down the street to see what these vendors had to offer. Then it was time to haggle. We were ready to stand our ground and not get ripped off just because we were tourists!

Without a doubt, haggling for the best and lowest prices possible was what made this shopping experience so much fun. I was able to convince a man to sell me two scarves for 500 rupees when he originally asked for 950. Every purchase I made felt like a quality purchase and I don’t always feel that way when I go shopping back home. At both locations, someone will always be calling you ma’am and asking you to just look at the products they have to offer. They consistently make you feel good about what you are buying and usually end up giving in to whatever price you are willing to pay!  Their smiles and eagerness tempt you to buy more, making their day that much better.

It’s such a blast shopping here in India that I may buy gifts for everyone I know just so I have a reason to shop! Every purchase I make here is completely worth it to me because I would not be able to find any of these items in the US. Besides, who knows when I’ll be shopping along the streets of India again!

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After three full days and nights in Mumbai, I have come to the realization that knowing and seeing are completely different — the latter impacting me more than I had anticipated. Before we landed, I knew it would be crowded, I knew there were extremely poor areas, and I knew the lifestyle many people have here does not come close to what we have back in the U.S. What I did not know is how much all of these sights would get my mind racing.

A couple days ago, while riding in a rickshaw for the first time, my professor (TG) made a great point: India is one for the senses.

  • The continual noises, mostly consisting of horns and screeching brakes, are loud enough to make your ears ring.
  • The sights you see around you make you want to pause and take a deep breath, until you realize that all you’ll be breathing in is a mixture of fumes and garbage.
  • The food gets the taste buds dancing, especially if you don’t mind a little spice in your life. I can highly assure you that there are not many places where you can get fresh coconut water right on the street or chicken fried rice at a school cafeteria.
  • Anything that you’re tempted to touch, you most likely shouldn’t. And trust me, resisting the urge to give those stray dogs attention is a lot harder than you may think!

Getting Internet access has been a struggle and the driving style is organized chaos, to say the least. With the lack of street signs, street lights, and road lines, I wouldn’t make it one mile without getting into an accident. This chaotic driving is something these people have perfected and I’m still trying to figure out how they do it. Even though they honk their horns too much, swerve to avoid pedestrians crossing from every direction, and often come within inches of other vehicles, I feel quite safe when driving with the people here. What a wild ride it’s been so far!

Even though I’ve only been in India for a short while, I’ve already seen or experienced things that we are not used to seeing or experiencing in the United States. I truly live a gifted life and often take the simple things for granted.

I hope you’re just as excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store for us!

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John “Hannibal” Smith , the cigar chomping leader of “The A-Team,” had an oft repeated catch phrase throughout the four history of the show which provided the title of this post.

Whenever Hannibal uttered the phrase on the show, it was rooted joyous exhalation; a signal that no matter the odds, The A-Team would pull through and get the job done.

In a lot of ways, I can truly identify with Hannibal’s catchphrase because, for a brief moment in time, it appeared as if this trip was not going to be a possibility for me.

Flashback to about a month ago.

It seemed like a typical Monday. I went to class on the Syracuse campus and also ran a few errands that I had to get done. Everything appeared to be going normally, until disaster struck: my passport and my wallet had somehow fallen out of my inside pocket of my leather jacket as I was walking around getting things done.

An amalgam of thoughts raced through my brain as I attempted to process what had happened. I know realized that getting everything replaced would be a huge hassle, and, moreover, I knew that getting a new passport in time for the trip, which was a month away, was going to be quite the process.

Over the course of the month of April, I had to obtain various documentation to send off in order to obtain a new passport. This was a particular laborious process, that seemed almost endless. First, I had to get a certified copy of my birth certificate from the state of California in order to get the process going.

After waiting for its arrival, the ball could finally get rolling in terms of sending out the passport application. Once the application was sent out, weeks passed until I received any further word about its status.

After what seemed to be forever, I finally received notice via email that my new passport existed. However, I still needed to apply for the visa in order to go to India.

That process went relatively smoothly, but, I still had nagging doubts that the passport and visa would not arrive in time.

Finally, on May 9, only three days before graduation, SU Abroad notified me that my passport and visa had arrived. I was elated! The long process was over, and now, India seemed even more tangible.

Things came together, thankfully.

We all leave for India tomorrow (!). It’s amazing that we are going on this journey abroad. I can’t wait to get started and see what we are going to do while we are over there!

 

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The Beast

Dear Bollywood

Today is the day. No, not the day I take on a 15 hour flight. Not yet the day I say goodbye. Today is the day I tackle the beast. This so-called beast is blue, large enough to fit me inside and ready to take on India! This beast is otherwise known as my suitcase.

For a few weeks now I have been setting aside what I might want to bring and what I will be leaving behind. This has resulted in a disastrous mess in the entry room of my house and my bedroom. It seriously looks like a tornado went through my room, leaving a sock here and a dress there. So today is the day I go through the rubble.

In these past weeks, as I’ve been setting aside my possessions, it also seems as though I’ve been setting aside my feelings. Deep down I’ve had stirrings of excitement mixed with slight freak-out, but nothing has been exactly strong. I guess this has to do with the fact that until today, until I looked at this suitcase, I didn’t really believe this could be happening. Since my senior year in high school I’ve been looking forward to this trip. This trip had a great part in influencing my decision to come to ‘Cuse. But nothing really seems real until it’s right in front of you.

Now that I know this is really happening, that in only two days I’ll embark on a trip that will change me for the rest of my life, all I can feel is full. No, not full like I just ate some delicious meal, but full of happiness, expectations, fright (but only in the best of ways) and gratitude.

I am so excited to be sharing this experience with eight other students and my fabulous professor. Anthony, Danielle, Gautam, Iris, Kelvin, Luis, Mina, Shauna and Professor Goenka, get excited, and even though I already know you are, get more excited!! Get ready to have the experiences of your lives. Get ready to have a job that won’t require you to ‘work’ a day. And get ready to fill your minds and hearts with memories that you’ll share with everyone you meet in the future for the rest of your lives.

As I sit on top of the beast, zipping it tight, I know I am ready for anything Mumbai throws my way.

Sincerely

An Anxious American Girl ♥

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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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