There has been so much to adjust to in India that I really haven’t been able to put it into words…until today. I woke up this morning still not fully over the culture shock of coming to India from a life in America. As I sat in lecture I felt lost – I wanted to learn about this new and beautiful culture, but I hated feeling so out of my element.
In my last post I talked about the heat and the smell here – both are so bad and thick it’s almost like you can touch them, and what makes the heat even worse is how humid it is. On top of the humidity and smell, there is so much poverty and dirt every where. After walking around for a day my ankles were a different color from my feet because of all the dirt. Seeing people upon people upon people living on the street right next to a fancy hotel or an unbelievable mansion is so sad, and so unlike anything I have ever experienced before. It has been an extremely sobering experience for me, and when I get back to the states I will appreciate things in a way I haven’t before.
We have been taking a bus everywhere so far, but tomorrow we start taking what they call rickshaws or “autos” here, and it’s basically a motorcycle with a roof and a seat in the back that fits three people (the taxis of Mumbai). I only pray I am ready for that experience. There are no street signs, street lights, road names, or lanes here! It’s a literal free for all. And people are crazy!! They drive 5 people to one motorcycle with no helmets, and children hanging off the front and back!! People are walking on the roads next to the cars basically almost getting hit with every step, and if you do get hit or hit someone else you just keep going!! Our bus bumped a motorcycle because it didn’t stop in time, and life just went on…this is such a foreign concept in the states.
But today I feel like things have began to change for me.
We started rehearsals this afternoon for the Bollywood item number we are going to be starring in, and I had the most fun dancing I have ever had. The way the heat used to effect me seemed to melt away with each new dance move, and when we took breaks outside I was no longer upset by the smell – just excited to keep dancing. What’s even more exciting is that we are going to wear beautiful outfits made by the fashion design students here, and the film students will be producing the number. We have a 12 hour night shoot on Friday(it’s too hot to dance outside during the day), and I cannot wait for it!!
Then as we sat in traffic on our bus ride home I made a friend in the most unexpected place – traffic. The cars here are so close to one another that you can see the color of the person’s eye in the vehicle next to you, which makes it really easy for people to stare at us. No matter where we go we are stared at. It’s as if we aren’t human beings to the Indian people. It’s like we are aliens that landed on their planet, and they don’t know how to react, so they just stare. For the first couple of days this really bothered me. When we were on the bus I would close the shade so that the unwanted paparazzi wouldn’t be able to stare at me, and on the street I wore oversized sunglasses (it’s actually not that sunny here – I wear my sunglasses mostly to block dirt from getting into my eyes, and to avoid making eye contact with my fellow onlookers). Then today as I looked out the window I made eye contact with a boy on the bus next to ours. As he waved and smiled at me to get my attention I couldn’t help but to wave and smile back at him. From that point on every time our buses crossed paths we would give each a thumbs up, or a wave. Even though I’ll never see him again, I will always remember the boy on the bus. By being so happy and excited just to wave at me, and have me smile back at him he brightened my entire night. I felt like we had both given each other an experience we would never forget, and I knew that something so simple yet so powerful, like the exchange I just described, could only happen here in India. That’s why I labeled this post I’m not a celebrity, but you can have my autograph. In India just being from a different country makes you a celebrity to the people you come in contact with day to day, and now thanks to my interaction with the boy on the bus the stares have some other meaning for me. And who knows maybe one of these days someone will even ask me for my autograph!
Now, as I sit here in Mark’s hotel room watching Dev. D (an Indian drama film released in 2006) surrounded by peers who have become my friends, and my Mumbai family I feel as if I am finally starting to feel at home in this city of dreams.