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Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’

Over the course of my time in India, I’ve had so many unique experiences that I will remember for months and years to come. One such experience occurred yesterday on a rickshaw ride back to our apartment. Initially, rickshaw rides were novel forms of transportation; before this trip, I had only seen them in the movies, and grew excited by the possibility of riding around in them. As the days passed, rickshaw rides became a routine exercise, like a catching a cab in New York City.

Yesterday, however, presented a deviation in the typical ride in the rickshaw that I had grown accustomed to.

At this point in the year in India, the monsoon season is just about starting. Monsoons are long bursts of torrential rains that last for long amounts of time. Fortunately, we have not been caught in rainstorms that have lasted for really long amounts of time, but we have been out and about in rains that fairly powerful.

One such hard rainfall happened yesterday. On our way back from the Infiniti Mall, Danielle and I rode back in a rickshaw to our apartment, and, of course, it started to rain extremely hard for almost the entire ride back. Riding back, we saw how the rains flooded the once dry streets, and also seeing cars and other vehicles rendered useless by large lakes of water filling the streets.

It seemed as if the entire character of the city changed because of the rains. Things slowed down tremendously; the rains made everything move at a snail’s pace, grinding the hustle and bustle of Mumbai to a halt.

Seeing how the monsoons are yearly occurrence, I observed how much needs to be done in regards to proper flood control in the streets. It would alleviate many of the problems that ensue because of the rains. I’m not sure how much progress has been made, but much more needs to be done.

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After allotting a couple days for us to get adjusted to Mumbai, our professor (TG) called us together to go over our internships. She had matched up a few people already, but for the most part, we were all able to look over a list of possibilities and select which one we wanted most or felt suit us best.

Shauna and I were both really interested in this internship that involved working with former Whistling Woods alumni on a film they were in the production stages for. Unfortunately, once TG expressed our interest, they told us they no longer wanted to take interns. I was quite upset because I was really looking forward to working alongside young filmmakers and being on set.

However, thanks to TG’s personal connections, she found us another internship position with her close friend Dinaz Stafford – in a previous post I mention our first meeting with her and how that led to meeting Mira Nair, another close friend of TG’s. Little did I know how much I would learn through this internship, not just about the film industry, but about myself as well.

Working with Dinaz was fun and always an adventure. Instead of going to the same place at the same time everyday, we travelled throughout Mumbai at many different hours. This allowed me to discover new things and step out of my comfort zone – and it was an extremely large step.

We travelled with 50 kids to Matheran, we took the train to South Bombay and elsewhere, we met her mother (who is ridiculously precious) and worked from her apartment, we even got to observe a sound recording/dubbing session. These are only a handful of things Shauna and I did through our internship with Dinaz. Everyday was a new experience and it was great spending time with her because of all the knowledge and insight she was willing to share.

Dinaz (she’s in the middle next to the two older men) with kids from Salaam Baalak Trust. This was while the kids were planting trees at Matheran.

Just the other day we spent the whole day working out a budget for a short film. When I first heard our plans for the day, I thought to myself, this is going to be a long day, but I was wrong. Dinaz provided valuable information about budgeting. Additionally, she provided snacks and even took us to the roof of her apartment building for an “air break” to keep us sane. It was tedious work but in the end Dinaz was so pleased about how the budget ended up that all our time spent looking at numbers was worth it.

While taking the train was stressful and not having a set schedule threw me for a loop, this internship worked out very nicely. It exposed me to so many different aspects that I may possibly encounter in my future. Working with Dinaz has given me the confidence to take on any task. Whether it be a long, crowded train ride or just doing research from home, I know I can handle it thanks to this internship.  I learned how to adapt to different circumstances and met some great people along the way!

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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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Mumbai is a city replete with treasures wherever you may look. One such treasure is Linking Road, a road that is well renowned because of the plethora of shops that dot the entirety of the road. I had a chance to go to Linking Road earlier this week, which reminded me greatly of the little hole in the wall shops that I had encountered when I went to China four years ago.

In fact, some of the best things that I was able to pick up from China came from those little shops. Mumbai has not been exception to that rule. On a deeper level, I think I really got more a glimpse of the real shopping culture that constitutes Mumbai, rather than the ersatz edifices that are the malls in this city. In a lot of ways, those malls remind me of home, rather than representing something that is truly Indian in nature.

On my excursion to the shops on Linking Road, I was able to obtain a nice shirt and really comfortable shoes for myself, and nice shoes for my mom. All in all, I really enjoyed my time perusing the various vendors up and down Linking Road. I think I gained a greater sense of what really makes up Mumbai.

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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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Tuesday, June 5th. Woke up at 4:30am, gone at 5:30am, home at 11pm. What a day, what an experience.

Dinaz, our internship coordinator, invited Shauna and I on a trip to Matheran for the day. We knew little about what the trip would entail, but we knew it involved spending time in the mountains with kids, which won us over immediately. The boys and girls that Dinaz organized this trip for are a part of an organization called Salaam Balaak Trust (SBT), which opened its first center in 1989 as a result of the film, Salaam Bombay!. The film was directed by Mira Nair and most of the young actors who appeared in it were actual street children. SBT aims to restore street kids’ lives through bonding activities and education.

Matheran is like a completely different world and is nothing like the city of Mumbai. It’s a common vacation spot for Indians, especially those with an extra buck or two to spare. Before I get into why former hit series, The Simple Life, is all I could think about throughout the day, I want to talk a bit about what we did and the day itself.

Shauna and I met up with Dinaz and girls from Salaam Balaak Trust at the Mumbai CST, which was used in the film Slumdog Millionaire for the song Jai Ho. Around 6:30 am our train left for a town just at the bottom of the mountain, where we then took vans to the top. The train ride there and back are worthy of a post on their own, but I will say this, stepping foot onto a train in India means you’re willing to eliminate your personal space for the entire ride. The cars are separated by gender, and it’s a foot race to see who can snatch a seat. If there seems to be room to fit another person, they will make you push over every inch possible. The doors and windows are kept open, giving you the opportunity to hop on or off at any moment.

A view of a couple platforms at the Mumbai train station

Once we made it to Matheran, the kids got to grab a tree to plant before we began our trek around the mountain. I followed closely by as the kids chanted “Be Happy”, “Plant a Tree” and we made it from one part of the mountain to the next. I quickly noticed how much this popular vacation spot resembled the former reality TV series, The Simple Life, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The show broadcasted these two young, wealthy women working manual, low-paying, and unglamorous jobs. Wealthy people and unglamorous jobs is exactly what you’ll find at Matheran.

Even though Matheran is a serene place with remarkable views, I found myself distracted by the vacationers that were there. The vacationers were dressed in much nicer clothing compared to the dirty and worn outfits the workers had on. Practically all of the men there had on jeans and a brand-named polo, while their wives and children had on heels, dresses, and fancy saris.

To get from the entry of Matheran to wherever the guests were staying (there were numerous rooms and hotels to choose from), they were either brought by human-drawn carriages or by horse, their luggage being carried on the heads of both women and men. I saw vacationers just sit back and relax with their designer sunglasses on as the workers strained themselves just so the guests wouldn’t have to pull their own weight. I understand that this type of labor exists in many countries, but it’s just not a sight I felt comfortable seeing.

There was one sight in particular that I will never forget. I saw a woman on her iPad while riding horse-back, workers walking alongside her to make sure the ride went smoothly. All I could think about is why in the world would you bring your iPad to a getaway in the mountains that’s meant to be peaceful, relaxing and an escape from the hectic Indian city life. The iPad is probably worth more than a worker’s monthly salary. With all my comparisons to The Simple Life put aside, Matheran is truly a place worth visiting. The scenery and wildlife will take your breath away.

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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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