Reflections

Only a few days left in Mumbai! This trip has been a great start to my summer and I’m both really excited to get back home and so happy to have had the opportunity to be here.

 

What I Love About India

People
Everyone that I’ve interacted with at both the Whistling Woods International School and the SP Jain/Bhavan School mentoring program (Abhudaya), as well as the people at the Sai Palace Hotel, have all been so kind, welcoming and accommodating to our needs. They’ve also helped us to learn about Indian culture from varying perspectives and to speak a little bit of Hindi.

While working on the documentary film, my team and I visited the homes of some of the children in Abhudaya mentoring program. Even though their homes were small and their families didn’t have much, they let in three American girls with a camera and microphone to speak with them, not letting us go without offering some kind of drink or food. It has been overwhelming to see such genuine hospitality! I’ve met beautiful people while here in Mumbai.

Spirituality
I am not a religious person but I’ve been reflecting on my spirituality for the past year. I love how connected most people here seem to be to what’s important in life. Since I’ve been in high school, I’ve spent so much time focusing on the future instead of the present and now it’s all about getting an internship, a job, money, security and prestige as opposed to peace and internal happiness. I have so much more of the world to see and to understand, but thank you India for this introduction. It has been fascinating to see what different people value across the world.

Also, yoga has nothing to do spirituality. Me during out mandatory (ugh) yoga class = sleeping on the mat

What I Miss About Home
Cold water
Wearing shorts when its hot
Beef
Non-paneer cheese!
Clean feet
Clean air
Washers and dryers
Air conditioning
Autonomy

 

What I’ll Take Back Home
As I’ve been in India I’ve seen and have learned a bit about humanity. I had initially thought that the poorest of the poor live in slums in India but the truly poor live on the streets, on the highway, and wherever they can settle. Something I’ve always thought about how we have no say in how we come into this world. We don’t choose anything about the type of life we’re born into but we all have to make do. I’m going to strive to just make the best of any situation I’m put into, because there’s no room and no time for missed opportunities or wasted moments.

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This Feels Right

Children surrounded us, wide-eyed as if we were from another planet. “Namaste” I bowed and greeted them with a smile. “Namaste!” they cheered, happy to see our foreign faces. Their day began, but they were wildly distracted, stealing glances at the group of American students observing their summer camp activities.

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My second week in India is off to a truly inspirational and exciting start! A group of us visited the S.P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (in Andheri West, Mumbai) to get aquatinted with their Abhyudaya mentoring program, about which we will soon be producing a documentary short.

I didn’t expect to be able to combine my two interests and fields of study (film and education policy) while in India for these three weeks this summer, but I’m so happy that I am able to work with this non-profit org, that is actively helping underprivileged students go to school and achieve fulfilling lives. Some of these students have lost their parents and others often carry the weight of supporting them. This isn’t shocking to me, but it’s so much different when you hear about the conditions and problems that go on versus when you have no choice but to see them in front of you.

I had the chance to meet a few of the student mentees (know as sitaras, the Hindi word for “star”), who were incredibly tiny for being 15 and 16. We talked about their favorite Bollywood actors, where they’re from, what they like to do… it’s so funny how nervous each of us were! The two girls I spoke to, Dipali and Bhagyashree, were a little shy but completely sweet and adorable. Being in an Indian school has planted the seed of possibly returning to India to teach English when I graduate. This is a little premature, but I can completely see myself in this environment. The students in the mentoring program take classes in addition to their regular school on weekends and holidays, including origami for two hours, yoga for an hour, English, computer classes, something they call a “scholarship” class, and an option of dance, football (soccer), or drawing.

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Craziness, but I also met one of the coolest people I’ve ever encountered! Manavji Sahaj led the children that morning in a fun exercise and a song. He’s also a nomad, planning to go where the wind takes him once the camp ends this Saturday by simply walking there. He’s previously walked hundreds of miles from major city to major city. I totally dig his peace of mind. Just look at him!

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Overall, Tuesday was great! Tomorrow, we’re going back to meet more sitaras and film part of our documentary. I am looking forward to sharing our film (out of the 12 of us, we’ve split up to make three separate films for two different non profit organizations)!

On a side note…

All of us here are thoroughly obsessed with the Indian head shake. You really just won’t get it unless you’re Indian, have Indian friends or have been to India. Please watch the video below for a delightful explanation. I’m personally trying to master it before my time here is up. 😛

STYLE BLOG: SU Bollywood Beginnings

Hi everyone!

I’m obsessed with the fashion and style that ebbs and flows in the city of Mumbai! I will try to get more and more pictures of people that I see in beautiful saris, kultas, cholis and other Indian clothing, but I also really want to show off our SU Bollywood style. This is a little late but here are photos from our first full day in Mumbai!

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Losa Amara Meru
Killing it with a mint green button up shirt, army green cargo pants, black sandals, and of course, sporting our #Newhouse hat!

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Verónica Ortiz-Calderón
I’ll call this #BollywoodChic. Simple white blouse, black loose fit pants and dull olive green strappy sandals.

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Aaron Goldsmith
Classic “boy does Bollywood.” Greyish-blue short sleeved button up shirt, plaid shorts, rustic sandals.

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Iara Rogers Benchoam
Classic Iara! This flower child is wearing a bright yellow tee, funky green harem pants (that she got the last time she was in India), black sandals and signature SU Orange shades.

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Kadisha Phillips
Wearing a long grey maxi dress, black flip flop sandals, and sterling silver hoops.

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Nate Carlson
Another #BoyDoesBollywood! Nate rocks a classic purple tee, navy blue cargo shorts, and Mumbai-friendly all-terrain brown sandals.

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Sarah Grabman
This girl is always in motion. She also keeps it simple in a white blouse and black skirt, black flip flop sandals and tortoiseshell sunglasses.

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Karoline Han
Nice! Graphic tank, white capris, black flip flop sandals.

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Wayne Smith
#BoyDoesBollywood 3.0. Navy polo, white roll-up shorts and blue and yellow water sandals.

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Erika Douglass
All smiles in a bright blue sundress and strappy brown sandals.

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Whitney Marin
Meeeeee! 🙂 Cream half sleeve tee, khaki loose fit pants, and black sandals.

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Tyler Limpert
American tourist meets Bollywood! Blue tie-dye graphic tee, khaki cargo shorts and tan Birkenstock sandals. Killin’ it!

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Mark Bennington
#candid! Our photog professor in the classic maroon button up, navy shorts and black Birkenstocks.

& there you have it, #SUBollywood style!

Bollywood Dance Number, Chalo!

I guess this is Day 6, but I’m starting not to keep track. Here are a few things on my mind:

  • How is India a socialist country with strong influences of a caste system? WILD
  • Why and how to some people pray to celebrities and Bollywood actors/actresses (false idols) in such a dominating religious setting?
  • Why is everything vegetarian… Actually, I know the answer but I still can’t get over it. Craving beef beyond my wildest dreams!
  • I MUST take an International Cinema class when I get back to SU! This is too fascinating.
  • I’ve never had to think so hard about what to wear because of how men might look at me and/or decide to act upon what they see.
  • Damn, it’s hot.
  • So Bombay… Mumbai?
  • SO HAPPY to see “desi girls” with real bodies in films. I can’t explain my appreciation for India’s appreciation of beautiful natural women (except for their oversexualization in pretty much every Bollywood film).
  • Homelessness knows no bounds in India and it literally breaks my heart.
  • Colonization really just ruins everything.
  • How does everyone speak 3+ languages?
  • I’m so American!
  • Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance, Lungi Dance…

Other than these obviously vital life questions and realizations, a lot has happened this week! We’re all finally starting to get the hang of the conversion rate when shopping (60 rupee to 1 dollar) but we’re still struggling to order food. Here’s to learning on the go!

I am also deeply rattled by the idea that I need a boy/man to accompany me wherever I go because as a woman (and foreigner), I’m much more vulnerable to whatever dangers lurk in Mumbai. This means no real freedom to explore the city! 😦 Although it’s completely for our safety, the wanderer in me has been utterly squelched. We’ll be going on a weekend trip soon so hopefully I can be more adventurous without a manly companion (thanks Tyler, Wayne, Nate and Aaron for your chivalry!!!).

Since Tuesday we’ve been going to the Whistling Woods International film school and have had the chance to learn from amazingly cool people in the bizz. So far we’ve met Anjum Rajabali (screenwriter) and Sabyasachi Bose (production designer) they’re all just so profound and funny, I can’t take it! I am so in love with the way each of them gracefully articulates their role in the production of a film and the essence of a Bollywood film. It’s all about pure entertainment and an interactive and playful experience.

Also since Tuesday, we have all been working on our Bollywood dancing skills (yes, not what I expected either from a film program). I sincerely believe that Sanjeev Mehta (our PHENOMENAL choreographer and director who is legitimately my favorite person in all of India) thinks that we’re awful Bollywood dancers but we’re having a lot of fun! Tonight we’ll be shooting (as in dancing in) the final music video from 6pm to 6am (a night shoot, yessss!). Although I think I would have preferred to be behind the camera on this one and I’m actually terrified of anyone from the US actually watching it (I suppose you’ll find out why soon), it’s definitely going to be an amazing experience and real slice of Hindu cinema (aka Bollywood)! So, chalo (Hindi for “let’s go”)!

Since I’ve been in India I have been reflecting on my spirituality (as opposed to religiosity). We start each school day off with an hour of yoga. In the states, I had only tried it a few times and had never really had a positive experience. My yoga instructor in India has completely changed my world view on what yoga even is. It’s a spiritual quest to connect with the universe, it’s sweaty and relaxing and a pretty decent workout.

Note: So India’s not a socialist country anymore… awkward. But still, amazed by how the caste system remains prevalent even with it being outlawed. I definitely see parallels to the U.S. and race, especially in regard to affirmative action. A different place is usually more like your place than you’d think.

India, here I come!

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller

Hello world!

My name is Whitney Marin and I’m a rising senior studying film and education policy at Syracuse University. Since the day I found out about this summer program to Bollywood my freshman year, I’ve been plotting and planning to make sure that I would get to be a part of it. It’s crazy, but today’s the day! In about eight hours I’ll be boarding a plane for a 15 hour ride to Mumbai, India, the location of Film City and Bollywood magic.

I’m all packed and buzzed with nervous energy, but mostly I’m looking forward to learning how to exist on the other side of the world and to take part in creating some kind of amazing video content! I chose to attend this program because I’m obsessed with culture, language and travel and I know that India will be my most adventurous travel experience yet. I’m a planner by nature, but I’ve blissfully decided to start this journey without a bucket list or to do list and to live day by day.

SO READY to immerse myself in a world of something new and different and I’m as prepared as one could be to “simply adjust,” as my professor has encouraged.

I cannot even fathom all that I’m going to learn but I’ll keep you updated!