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2 posts categorized "Film"

09/20/2011

I'm In India

So it occasionally hits me suddenly that I'm in India, and I am overwhelmed with either surprise, or giddiness, or a mix of both. This has happened several times this weekend. Dr. Ambedkar and others have commented that India is a place of contrasts and ironies. The longer I am here, the more I see this, but the more I become accustomed to it as well. I don't look with wonder at the differences in wealth between a mansion and a tent made out of a tarp - right next to each other - like I did when I first arrived. I don't think twice anymore about many of the small differences (and sometimes inconveniences). That's just the way it is here.

I'm getting more and more sure that going home will be a large adjustment, probably bigger than the one I made in coming. And I know this is a common comment that I make, but I think it sort of stands for a lot of the changes we've made here, but I'm sure when I go home, the first couple times I go out to eat, I will ask for my drink with no ice (because we can't have ice here) and I'm sure I'll bring a waterbottle into the bathroom to brush my teeth, because that's what I'll have been doing every day for five months. I will expect the power to go out as many as fifteen times a day, sometimes in the middle of class, and I will expect the internet to only work sometimes. I will have to get used to having a phone again. And I will have to get used to being so busy I barely have time to think.

That might be the biggest thing. My entire lifestyle has changed here, and I will need to re-learn how to keep deadlines, how to be on time for things, and how to fit yoga into my day every day, which I do easily here.

In fact, today, I was doing my thirty or forty minutes of yoga outside right before sunset, and I had to get my camera to take a picture. I am going to miss the sky here a lot. It's like how Colorado sky still is on some places. Huge, and blue, and sort of endless. And actually this color:

Enough with the philosophy though. Let's get to the events of yesterday for a second.

Jess and I decided we'd go to the tailor together, and I called ahead of time, because we've had some trouble with this guy, and he said to come at 1pm. We were running on IST, which basically means we showed up around 2pm. And the shop was closed. So much for picking up my stuff! As per usual, Jess and I decided that an adventure would be a good way to solve our problems. So with my sari in my backpack, and Jess's bag full of clothes she needed fixed in some way, we decided to go to a movie. We love the movies, and decided we wanted to see one in English for a nice change (we've been crazily working our way through about two dozen Bollywood movies). We stopped at Jess's homestay so she could change, and this was the first time I'd visited. This is the view from Jess, Jordan, and Gwen's second story apartment.

It was beautiful and down the street, a car had the bumper sticker that said "Don't drive faster than your guardian angel can fly." For some reason, I thought that was pretty funny. Maybe because as dangerous as the driving is in India, it's not really the speed that makes it that way. No one really breaks 40mph. Especially in a downtown area. It's more that there is no concept of personal space on the roads. Or traffic laws.

In any case, we hopped in a shared auto, and then ended up taking the MMTS commuter train for the first time from Lingampally to Necklace Road. What is about 150 Rs. in an autorickshaw was 3 Rs. per person on the train. Jess and I made a friend who helped us figure out which train to take, and where to get off (all the signs and most of the announcements are in Telugu). And the train was fun. We got off, and made our way to the theater. Where we did our two favorite things that Jess and I do to treat ourselves - eat McDonald's, and see a movie. We saw Friends With Benefits. It's rated "A" (basically "R" at home) and there was, as usual, a couple of 3 or 4 year old kids in front of us. Which was pretty awkward during certain scenes. Those parents are going to have fun explaining to their kids later :) But it was really good. And it was the first movie I've seen in English since the new Harry Potter came out. So I understood all the jokes! How cool is that?

Getting a rickshaw back was hilarious. Drivers want your business, and so one who wouldn't go lower than 200 Rs ("It's a holiday madam! You have to understand that we have to drive all the way back with no customers!") ran after us to try and sell us on his offer. After he had disturbed our bargaining with three other drivers, Jess turned to him, and said "Sir. We gave you our price. No need to follow us around if you won't meet it." That sort of ended that, but I still think it's hilarious how drivers will follow you, telling you that you are asking too much, and they won't take you, but they just want you to know, with the possible result of you agreeing to their egregious prices.

On the ride back, it started monsooning outside, and my right side got soaked, and Jess's left, because the side of rickshaws are open. Some camels with people riding on them ambled casually across the road in the driving rain. And our rickshaw driver politely paused to let them pass. I love these parts of India. Something else I love is that at two different times yesterday when Jess and I were figuring out transportation, a man walked up to us, and told us the cheapest way to get where we were going, and then helped us get there. The friendliness of strangers still astounds me.

Also, this is my new favorite song. Underneath it is another of my favorites :)

 

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Also, the main guy in the "I Hate Luv Storys" video above is also the main actor in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, which I saw last week. Go check it out!

08/21/2011

Shadi

This word means “marriage” in Hindi, and it is coming up everywhere. I should’ve known I’d run into it a lot when it was one of the first words we learned in Hindi class right after arriving in Hyderabad. There are ads for wedding saris and wedding jewelry everywhere, and we’ve seen several marriage processions since we've been here. I’ve talked about it with the guys in my Dalit Politics class, who have been trying to explain the delicate business of getting “shadi-shuda” (married) in India, especially among caste groups, and I’ve talked about it with CIEE staff and other foreign students.

When I met with my Hindi peer tutor yesterday, the topic came up again. She asked me if I was getting married soon (that’s actually a pretty normal question here) and I must have looked scared because she laughed. She got serious when I returned the question. She’s from a different part of India, and from a pretty small village. Culture, caste, and status still play a large role in marriage, as does religion. Apparently, she had a boyfriend for a long time whom she loved, but he wasn’t in her caste, and her parents insisted that they break up.

She is getting married in about five months, and she still doesn’t know who the groom will be. Her parents are working on finding her a husband, and she wants to know as little as possible about the whole thing until she has to. She says she hopes that her husband will allow her to work outside the home, because she is well-educated, and hopes to use her life for “more than just housework.” She hopes that he will let her leave the house unaccompanied, spend time with friends, and go about her life as she has become accustomed over the last three years of school in Hyderabad.

She said, right before she changed the topic, “Life is a long time.” I knew in her head, she was finishing that sentence with “to be with someone I don’t love.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of an arranged marriage. A friend explained to me, “In the US, your friends introduce you to your potential husband. In India, your parents do.” The issue, regrettably is far more complex than that. When friends introduce you to someone, you are not obliged to marry them. Your friends do not limit potential spouses by what caste they belong to, and in many cases, even the sub-caste.

There are so many things to consider when thinking about arranged marriages. One is that many years ago, I could see them being more practical. Today, however, especially among the people I am meeting at school, the youth are used to a degree of liberalness, of freedom, if you will, and arranged marriages seem out of place for people who are so independent.

It’s not that everyone is getting an arranged marriage. It’s far more prevalent than I would have guessed, but it’s not the only way. Many people, especially in the generations that came before us, had arranged marriages, and they worked out great. But I’m starting to wonder about our generation. About how youth who are exposed to different ideas and people as they travel and learn will respond to that particular remnant of tradition.

Many of my friends whose parents moved to the United States from India had arranged marriages, and they are all happily married and in love still today. Working to understand arranged marriages has shown me that for all the stories like my peer tutor's, there are many stories with happy endings. But is it fair to leave that to chance?

I have posted a link to the wedding scene in one of my favorite Bollywood movies Hum Tum ("You and I"). This will give you a peek at a ceremony, and also the attire. The marriage between these two characters in the movie was, according to the woman, a mix between an arranged marriage and a  love match.