Saturday, February 6, 2010

You can't stop the beat

Due to my lack of activities lately, I haven't posted but things have picked up recently. My new host familyis very welcoming and eager to show me things. My host granddad (Dada) has even made a list! Although my host sister is usually doing her studies or working with the student council, my host mom is usually ready to take me out and we've gone to see some movies. Because Austin and I had switched residences, a few weeks back in January we had to go to the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office (the lovely FRRO) again, bunking school since they're only open on weekdays. Despite this perk though, the trip was exhausting because, due to it being peak time to come to India, it was positively packed inside and we had no clue what we were supposed to do. Eventually we figured it out (being persistant is one of the traits that really works in India) and were able to get it done in about an hour or so.

Afterward, Austin and I stopped to eat some yummy street sandwichs and then called my driver to take us to Inox theater to catch a movie. Theaters in India can be kind of interesting as sometimes, the ticket booths are on the ground floor and you have to take escalators to the top of the mall where the screens are. While you don't have to worry about your seat being taken, it is annoying to have to go so far, especially when you're in a hurry. But as I mentioned, Indians actually have numbered rows and give you actual places to sit so that's fine. We decided to see a hindi movie since we're both learning the language and decided to see this movie called Chance pe Dance. While buying the tickets, the ticket man had said," You want two tickets for Chance Pe Dance." And we were like," Yeah we do." So he said," Yes hindi movie, no subtitles." Again we said "Yes." I couldn't help but laugh a little.

Since there was tons of time to kill before the movie, we grabbed a bite to eat (falafels) at this food court called Spoon where you put money on cards and then go get your food. Afterward, we decided to walk around outside for a bit and found this really big square and garden which we could not find a reason why it was there. I found out later that that's where the state legistator sits which is why there are all these important looking statues around and security guards at the gates. Plus, I guess the Indian emblem was a dead give away. It was soon time to head back though, so we wound back to the theater and took our seats. Throughout the movie, we got really excited whenever we actually understood fully what the actors had said and scoffed at the use of fans but all in good fun. At the end, we took a cab back to my flat and Austin left for Bandra.

For one entire week, my host sister had to go to the Netherlands for an MUN conference, so I spent time with my host mom and Dada. One weekend, as a part of his list, my Dada took me to the dhobighatt, which means "washerman's area". An old system of hand washing laundry, it is still used by people who send their clothing weekly, and that Sunday, we saw loads of laundry set out to dry. We took a cab to the Mahalaxmi station which is literally right by dhobighatt, and stood above to take pictures of the area. Dada asked me if I wanted to go down so I said," Sure why not?" So we went down the stairs and approached the entrance but sadly couldn't why around inside. Kyun? Kyunki some guy stopped us at the gate saying we had to pay rs. 100 for each of us for a guided tour. Now we're all knowledgable about people who are trying to rip you off so my Dada said he wouldn't pay if he didn't give a receipt. So then the man went on and on about how it's written on the board, the government gave them this right as it was where they worked and so forth, but did not state whether they would give a receipt.

While we were down there, another firung had followed us and wished to walked around and they tried to play the same trick on him. But he also said he wouldn't pay and such. Finally, I told Dada that just seeing that much of the dhobighatt was enough and we should leave. He agreed and we walked back, took a few pictures from the top and then decided to go home by train. It was only 2 stops to the nearest station, Grant Road, so we quickly got on one and took a taxi the rest of the way back to the flat.

The night before, one of my school friends, Divya, had invited me to her old school's fair. It was quite the event. Since I had spent the day swimming and out with my host mom, I was only in a t-shirt and jeans ad when I arrved found myself quite a bit under-dressed. There were people everywhere dressed in nice clothing so I felt a bit too casual. Also it was pretty crowded. I'm not claustrophobic or anything but being in India has taught me to be wary of crowds and it only adds to the fact how much litter there is on the ground. But it was fun to meet her friends and talk to her.

The next weekend, after my host sister had gotten back from the Derby, my Dada took me to see the Indian Derby at Mahalaxmi race course. I've never been to one before, let alone watch one on TV but I had a good time cheering the horses on. It was one of those glamour events, where socialites and high class business people come to watch, along with regular citizens, and betting was quite common. At one point, my Dada and I were down on the lawn when some very beautiful girls and another man came to stand next to us, talking about their bets. Before we knew it, there were several photographers around them and they even ended up taking our picture! But, considering how many people were there, I shrugged it off because the chance of my picture getting in the newspaper was very little. We watched the rest of the races with anticipation and the last one was absolutely gorgeous. The horses were amazingly graceful and watching them was a treat. But the story doesn't end there. The next day after returning from school, I picked up the newspaper like normal and saw my face! It wasn't in the middle of the picture but it was very noticable (I'm putting it up here so you can see). I was so surprised and happy.

Soon it was time to go back to Matheran for our IAYP trip which was even more fun than the first time we went. IAYP is an adventure camp so we did a lot of hiking and learning "adventure" skills. I even got to face my fear of rock climbing by going up a 2-3 meter rock face! Well I just have a fear of falling from heights so it was awesome to face it and come out on top, literally. We had to rapell down which was just as scary but I got through it. We had to sleep in tents one night and every morning we had to get up early to jog and do stretches. It turned out to be a pretty okay weekend in all, we got to hang out with our friends while learning tiny bit of things.

As anyone in the IB knows, there's this amazing thing known as CAS which makes you go a little crazy at times. CAS stands for Creativity, Action, and Service and we actively participate in these things during the week. So to raise money for the charities we volunteer for, we hold a CAS Fete which is planned weeks in advance and that we have to plan ourselves since we're the first year IB students. I helped with making bookmarks and the stall for my NGO, Habitat for Humanity but during the fete I ended up passing out flyers for the village project. In order to raise awareness, Austin, me and some other students dressed up in traditional Indian clothing and preformed a skit 4 times throughout the day. It was so much fun and I loved running around in the clothes. As you already know, during Annual Day, I got a picture with Shah Rukh Khan and this time I also got a picture with another star, Farhan Akhtar. He has a new movie coming out so I told him that we were looking forward to seeing it and that we hoped to understand it despite probably not being able to understand it all.

The weekend after that, the French exchange students came to our school. I'll explain: DAIS has it's own exchange programs for its students, one to France and one to Mauritius for one week each, with students going and coming from India. So last week, the French students came to Mumbai. That Saturday we had parent teacher conferences and afterward we took the Frenchies to Pheonix Mills for lunch and to look around the mall. They were going to take them to Colaba Causeway but I decided to leave and meet up with Sanjana, Austin, and Utsav in Bandra because Sanjana was also hosting a French student. We took the girl, Rosie, street shopping and because there was a party that night, we decided to go there too. The previous weekend there had been a party at the same p-lace so we knew the way. I felt bad though because deciding to go to this party meant that I wouldn't be home for my Dada's 75th birthday but my host mom said it was fine and I wished him in the morning. The party turned out okay but ended early because the host didn't like the music the DJ was playing.

I was really excited though because that Monday was Holi, one of the coolest Hindu festivals. [EDIT] Sunday was the day to observe the religious aspect of it while Monday was for the fun. So while my host sister spent most of Sunday studying, that night my host mom, sister, and I went to a temple for the traditional prayers. There we went to pray and recieve blessings from the gods before walking around the burning pyre. Basically, everyone goes to the temple to make offering to the gods into a huge burning fire after a pooja has been preformed. The offerings include water, fire, and surprisingly coconuts. After walking around in a clockwise motion, we ate some pakoras and sandwiches at a nearby theatre then went home by taxi. We didn't have school and after dropping my host sister at her friend's house, I picked up Austin and we went to Sanjana's building. There, we went color shopping and water gun/pichkari shopping before assembling in the back of her building with the rest of our friends and Sanj's brother for an insane Holi party. Basically Holi is the celebration of the end of winter and a return to color so Sanj's parents filled up buckets of color water and trays of colored powder (organic because the type on the road can be toxic and stay in your hair for weeks afterward) (this didn't happen to me because my host mom insisted we oil EVERY pat of our bodies before leaving the house). We all had our own water guns and pichkaris to squirt water at each other and t was full out war of color. After a while we made a "hot seat" in which every person had to sit and we would all pour water on them and throw powder at their face. We were so gross and disgusting at the end that we had to eat lunch out in the hot sun.

We were still hungry after devouring a pot of lamb and egg biryani so we decided to take a trip to Carter road for food. If you happen to come to India for the first time during holi (or any holiday that involves big celebrations during the day for that matter), my advice is to make plans for your own little party and not go out walking. Austin and I are used to it by now but we kind of forgot to inform Rosie of everything. While we remained a happy party, we were weary of all large group of people, especially men, who could potentially be holding more arsenal in their pockets. We decided it was a good idea to spend time in the deserted kids' playground, which included a teeter-totter, swings, and slides. We decided eventually to go just as some group of boys started to come up behind us. Walking further down, we were semi-ambushed by them and I swiftly had to pull Rosie away, apologizing later for being really abrupt in my actions.

We bought doughnuts and went back to sanj's house, again having a run-in with a group of guys. When we got back, there was a mad-spree of showering to get rid of all the colors and oil and I had to borrow Sanj's mom's clothing since I hadn't brought any clothes to change into.

Everyone was planning to go out afterward for more food but I had to leave because my host sister was coming to pick me up. I said goodbye and hopped into the car, back to town.

This past weekend was myt Geography class trip to Rajasthan but I'll save that for another post.