Sunday, June 17, 2012

Cities Through The Eyes of Another

The Monsoons are pouring down on us over here, folks. I think people were amused by me today. I was walking around in completely soaked through and trashed canvas slip on shoes that made squish squish noises when I carefully avoided puddles and avoided slipping down the street and a huge black rain jacket that was my Dad's but I took because I like it better than the women's ones that really dont keep you very dry at all. This giant black plastic bag basically ate me. I looked like an oversized version of one of the ravens that sit outside of my bathroom window and periodically startle us when they start calling. Oh, and also it's raaaaattthhherrr humid. So my glasses tend to fog up whenever I walk outside. It's a good look all around.

We woke up late (truly enjoying this Sunday experience) and went to a series of film screenings in the Mumbai Museum of Modern Art. One of the film makers was there to answer our questions after the screenings, which was super cool. She talked about her experience as a film maker and how she picked her subjects -- ultimately deciding to include herself as one of the people she asked about their experience with film and cinema in the city. My favorite part of her response was about one of her subjects. There was a woman who was very clearly (despite my language barrier) charming and mischievous and wonderful. She just glowed with life and good humor. You wanted to be around her. And the director said that she picked this woman, despite her limited exposure to film, because she was so charismatic. It was clearly a good choice -- it made the film overall more engrossing.

It was fun to see the city in several different neighborhoods, through the eyes of different people who live here. There was the man washing old film to be recycled into collared shirts rather than the bangles they used to make with it. There were the men from distant villages living and working in the city as migrants -- finding work some days and not others, subjected to changes that come from strikes, and creating spaces of refuge within the city. There were stories and families and the reality of what life looks like outside of the glamourous spotlight of major film studios. What's not to like?

We all left feeling thoughtful and wandered through the rest of the exhibition before I left with two other students to find the only open bookstore in the area. We have official things to do tomorrow and I needed a notebook!

We dipped and ducked under plastic tarps meant to keep the rain off the vendor's roadside stands. Every few minutes one of them would tip and dump buckets of water onto the unfortunate soul standing under the tarp. The city was a lot darker without the sun. Men crowded into the corners of stores, avoiding the alleyways with streams of brown water and garbage flowing out of them. Sometimes all that you would see were the figures of children huddled together watching the rain from beneath their blankets. The same ones many of them will sleep on this evening on the same side walks.

In my determined march to the bookstore for a notebook, I found the same child that I ran into a few days ago. He cannot speak and instead mimes at you. I think he remembered me, despite the large ridiculous bird figure I'd become with the changing weather. I am determined to find him before I leave (perhaps on my last day?) and finally give him the rice he asks me for every time I see him.

The treck back was interesting. We fell into silence and just managed to get through the growing puddles and dodge the few cars that we saw on the streets to make it home before we were completely soaked through. It helps that I spent so much time making myself rain appropriate for this trip, no? (This was from yesterday, so I wasnt wearing the rainboots, but you get the idea. This group of women wearing beautiful saris and trying to cross the street with us yesterday kept smiling at me and pointing at my boots. It was fun!)

For now, the rain is welcome. There were still children playing in soccer tournaments this morning. I woke up to the persistant whistles of time-outs etc. ...Makes you feel a little lazy, not gonna lie.

It was also a day full of smiles. I have to admit, there are a number of things that I missed about home. Since being back and connected to the internet/able to communicate, it has been much better. This is really a very different world from anything I've ever experienced before (which was kinda the point of me coming here...) and I know I felt really lucky to have the friends/family I do have to keep me sane through some of these episodes. So thank you :) I love you all.

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