“There is no ‘Real India’. There is no ‘One India'”.

I can’t believe all that’s happened in just a little over a month. I’ve loved my experience living with Swapnil, Sarah, and Sunil in central Bombay. I live in a more green and quiet area, which is the mental cleanse I need after a long journey through the city. Just down the street is“Jogger’s Park”, a seaside track that gives me a little peace of mind before I start the day. I’ve always wanted to try meditating, so I try to do that for 5 minutes whenever I come +here. Swapnil meditates, chants and hums every morning, so I can’t say I haven’t been inspired! This tranquil home space has truly been what I’ve needed. I really just enjoy coming home after work to some kind of surprise. Sometimes, it might just be a nice conversation, a jam session, or we’ll watch a movie. I even have home-cooked meals and a GUITAR to play! Whenever I want to play, I ask beforehand if it’ll be a bother, but I always get ”Music is not noise! It’s music!” in reply. Swapnil even took me to see a cult rock-band called Thaikkudam Bridge. My favorite part was when the “Godfather of Rock” walked out on stage for a couple numbers–imagine an Alice Cooper number with a twist, and you’re there.

Jogger’s Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that I’ve settled, I’ve taken a couple of weekend trips to explore the gorgeous lands surrounding Mumbai. My first stop was an overnight

The “Stairway to Heaven” that I was referring to. It was an endless drop beyond that edge!

to a place called Rajmachi Fort, and I had no idea I was about to step into Middle-Earth from Lord of the Rings (yep, I had to google that name). The hike may have shattered my thighs, but the charcoal black architecture of the fort radiated a zen bliss. I’ve never seen such landscape on a trek–dark green layers of bush with such vibrant, lime-green grass. We were settled in misty clouds since it’s monsoon season, and Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Stairway to Heaven” were characteristic of this experience. I find it funny how hiking during the rain is usually a no-no in America. Rocks are slippery and you might get stranded in a flood. Here, the advertised “Monsoon Treks” are anxiously anticipated and embraced. Even when I had my raincoat hood on, the trekkers exclaimed “Let it down! Don’t you like the rain?” The next time I took a rickshaw home in Mumbai and my seat began to trickle with rainwater, I re-evaluated my discomfort more of a mental obstacle, able to be subdued with a clear mindset. The rain’s not that bad, actually.

Rajmachi Fort on the right side, overlooking the lush valley

The weekend after, my co-worker, Shwetha, and I decided to take a very last-minute weekend trip. Shwetha has been very keen to share her love and knowledge of India with me. One time after work, we stopped to get “pani puri” (a thin, fried ball filled with a soupy dish). She asked if I wanted medium spicy or spicy, and I thought I’d revert from my usual daredevil trends. The medium might as well had been called The Devil’s Potion. Imagine drinking the spiciest spice of all them spices… And though I was choking, smoke seeping from my ears, I did get some laughs from Shwetha and the locals. All in all, I’d say this “I’m a foreigner” moment was worth it.  Anyway, so we took our trip down south to magical Hampi! Yes, I felt nauseous even 2 days post the delayed, 17 hour bus journey. Yeah, we slightly crashed our motorbike and had to pay x10 for damages. And oh, I could actually feel my skin cooking as a side effect of my malaria pills. But, of course it was all worth it! I was reminded that traveling is not quite a vacation, and discomfort is the norm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hampi felt like a reverted through time to a tropical, prehistoric land. How I never spotted a T-Rex, I still don’t know. It’s a serene, hippy town canvassed with lines of UNESCO temples and shrines. Here, I realized why India fascinates me the most out of any country I’ve been to–there’s so much meaning ingrained in daily life. When someone asks me my name, it’s often followed by “what does that mean?” From the colored prayer flags canvassing trees branches, to the orange and red forehead Bindis. From Lord Shiva’s love story that sparked Hampi’s creation, to throwing back a handful of sweet-milk

A delicious spread call “Thali”. Served on a banana leaf, Thalis offer a little bit of everything. No utensils, and eat with your right hand!

and sugar cubes in the Elephant God’s shrine… a question and answer is suitable for most observations. I wish I could explain what I learned in Hampi, but to be honest, it’s hard to remember the details of these mythological stories. India isn’t a place to absorb in just a day. Maybe in 3 months if I’m lucky.

Back in Mumbai, work has been a bit of a pressure-cooker, lately. I’ve had the chance to develop my video script a bit more. Paromita advised me that with such an interpretive concept, it’s important not to single out any culture, religion or country for its perceptions on virginity. Instead, she asked me to look into specific customs of virginity practiced around the world that collectively demonstrate how the idea has been socially constructed. For instance, with virgin brides being highly sought after in India, I learned that many people use matrimonial columns in newspapers to advertise for a virgin bride with specific physical traits. Through ways such as this, customs have dubbed virgins with “good character” and have pegged non-virgins with “bad character”. I aim for this video to reconstruct what virginity means, ridden from the baggage its collected across generations around the world.

Inside the office…

Aside from this, there’s a lot to do to prepare for Paromita’s new music video that I get to help out with! It’s all about consent in relationships, which will be represented by 3 women–”Maza” (Choice), “Majboori” (Force), and “Maza” (Pleasure). We’ve been drafting costume/make-up/hairstyle references based on the treatments, and now I’ll be handling the props and social media coverage. Getting ready for two 12-hour production days…

Gretchen A

Hey! My name’s Gretchen, and I’m studying Screen Arts & Cultures and Psychology at UMich! Thanks to the LSA Internship committee, I’m able to intern for "Agents of Ishq" in Mumbai, India. Here, I have the opportunity to create multimedia (videos, podcasts, and article), surrounding topics like love, gender, relationships, and sexuality. The goal is to make these conversations less taboo, and more comfortable!

2 thoughts on ““There is no ‘Real India’. There is no ‘One India'”.

  • July 24, 2018 at 3:28 pm
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    Gorgeous pictures and wonderful insight, Gretchen! Have you submitted any of these photos to our Photo Contest? I think you should… they are awesome! It seems that your weekend trips are equally impactful to the work you do in your internship. Living and working abroad offers so much and I’m happy that you are enjoying and documenting it. I am especially impressed by the way you embrace challenges. This is not only a wonderful skill to have while traveling, but a very transferable skill that employers seek! I highly recommend finding a way to talk about that in future job applications and interviews! Of course, coaches at the Hub can help you articulate those types of things. The music video you are working on sounds SO COOL! Will you send us a link when you can (if it is available)? Thanks for this post!

    Reply
    • July 29, 2018 at 11:57 am
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      Thanks for the feedback, Caroline!! I will look into the photo contest, yeah! And, I will definitely post a link for the music vid when it comes out mid-August!

      Reply

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