the wonderful world of veena.

27 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 favourite memories of 2012.

2012 certainly had its ups and downs, but as I think back on the year as a whole, I am reminded once again of how blessed I am and of what a great year I had overall. You'll find the highlights from my year below.

30 favourite memories of 2012 [in no particular order]:
  1. Catherine and Drew's wedding weekend extravaganza.
  2. Walker and Joe's wedding weekend extravaganza.
  3. best friend Mindy's visit to the Rock.
  4. seeing Arkansas win the Cotton Bowl [the lone positive highlight of Arkansas football in 2012].
  5. getting to see Chipper Jones play one last time.
  6. seeing the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  7. Catherine's bachelorette weekend in Miami.
  8. running my first 10k and surviving.
  9. spending Spring Break with the Mann siblings in London and Paris.
  10. exploring Kathmandu with the Jackalope.
  11. enjoying the wonders of ferris wheels, Stuck on a Truck, and deep fried Snickers bars at Toad Suck Daze with Dylan and Katie.
  12. bungee jumping in Nepal.
  13. Tom Petty and Regina Spektor concert.
  14. seeing Manganiyar Seduction, Big Scary, Jinja Safari, Bombay Bicycle Club and Delhi Sultanate [among others] at NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  15. introducing my brother to Bangalore.
  16. San Francisco weekend with Miriam and Dave and Chris and Christina.
  17. hanging out with the Peanut.
  18. meeting President Clinton.
  19. working on a project with Room to Read.
  20. exploring Bombay as an adult.
  21. being welcomed into the Rajbhandari family in Pokhara for 5 days.
  22. a new kind of family Christmas.
  23. my night as an extra on an ad shoot in Bombay.
  24. Goa weekend with the full jing-bang.
  25. seeing the lights of the Kathmandu Valley.
  26. the Veena and Sastri Biere Club Extravaganza of 2012.
  27. Coorg road trip with Shonali and Sanjeev.
  28. Friday adventures with the Erbach girls.
  29. lazy Sundays with Ang and Banj.
  30. half the year in the States, half the year on the subcontinent, with visits to London, Paris, and Nepal thrown in for good measure. I'd say that's a pretty good year.
I am trying to choose my 30 favourite pictures from the year for next week's final 2012 wrap-up, but it's proving to be a difficult task. We'll see how well I can pull it off between now and then.

Until then, hope everyone has a wonderful end to 2012 and a great start to 2013!

20 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 christmas wishes.

It's hard to believe that Christmas is right around the corner, not just because this year has flown by, but also because it's still 30C / 85F degrees outside, and I am walking around in shorts. I'm trying to get myself into the Christmas spirit by watching my movies and listening to my music, but it's not going to be quite the same as it was last year.

For this week's installment, I would like to share with you my 30 Christmas wishes. Some are real things that I want, and some are idealistic things that I hope will happen one day during my lifetime. I'll allow you to figure out for yourself which is which.

30 Christmas wishes:
  1. the ability to beam myself places.
  2. equal education for all.
  3. a bottle of Gentleman Jack.
  4. a date with Ryan Gosling. or Clay Matthews. I'm not picky.
  5. a weekend getaway to the hills.
  6. to finally be able to unpack my suitcases.
  7. movie marathon day.
  8. 8 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep.
  9. 2 cans of Dr Pepper.
  10. a Senor Huey from Huey's; a Fireball of Freedom from Kwik Chek; fried chicken from Gus'; a #2 on wheat from Lenny's; any sub from Fino's; a pulled pork sandwich on Texas Toast with beans and fries from BBQ Shop; ribs from Rendezvous; bbq nachos and home chips with extra jalapenos from Central BBQ; and a cupcake from Muddy's to top it all off.
  11. a Clay Matthews jersey.
  12. one month of no responsibilities so I can travel without having to worry about assignments and emails and submissions and deadlines.
  13. to start running again. [yes, I realize this is more on me than anything else. I'm working on it. reuniting with my running shoes next week!]
  14. to have all of my friends in one place to celebrate together.
  15. a gift card to Barnes & Noble so I can download all the books on my to-read list.
  16. to go to a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
  17. Old Navy to open in India.
  18. a proper massage and facial.
  19. one day of "cold" weather in Bombay. one day. I don't think it's too much to ask.
  20. the Packers to win the Super Bowl and / or the Grizzlies to win the NBA Championship.
  21. to get IRB approval for my Capstone.
  22. to be able to convince one person in Bombay to partake in "24 hours of A Christmas Story" with me on Christmas Eve.
  23. to go two full days without having to even look at a spreadsheet.
  24. a gift voucher for a photography class in Bombay.
  25. to find my favourite lost earring.
  26. a good cutting of the hairs that doesn't cost a bomb. know of a good barber in Bombay? send him my way.
  27. my mother's spaghetti and homemade meatballs.
  28. to wake up and suddenly have a clean and furnished house.
  29. to play in the rain. [it's never going to snow here, so I'm hoping for rain instead]
  30. a hippopotamus.
I realize my list is completely scattered and random and rambling, but that's a bit like how my life has been for the last month or so, so it kind of fits. I don't really need anything for Christmas, but it wouldn't be Christmas without a little list for Santa to peruse.

Merry Christmas [5 days early] to all, and to all a good day / night!

18 December 2012

"is your heart really in it?"

The other night a good friend and I were generally chatting about a multitude of things, and eventually our conversation turned to work and the work-life balance. After a few minutes, he finally asked me about the work I am doing here in Bombay and said, "Honestly, is your heart really in it?" We had been discussing the craziness of the previous few weeks, and his question stumped me.

Is my heart really in it?

My gut reaction is to say, "Yes, obviously my heart is in the work that I'm doing." But then I sat for a minute and processed the question and had to admit, both to him and to myself, that it really hasn't been. That's not to say that I've not been doing my work, because I have. I believe very deeply in following through on work once I've given my word. But have I maybe slacked a bit here and there and not been as productive as I could have been? And to that I have to answer a resounding yes. Part of it is that I don't have regular work hours at the moment; part of it is that I didn't have my own place until last night [couch-surfing for 4 weeks, while enjoyable, is extremely exhausting]; and part of it is that I got swept up by the city and all it has to offer, by the multitude of friends to meet and catch up with, and by the number of people who have been in and out of town since I arrived 4 weeks ago.

So I decided to re-evaluate a few things and to re-prioritize my time. I came to Bombay to work on a project and to gain experience with an organization here, and while having friends in town and having so many things to do has been great, it's also been a distraction from why I'm really here. Now that I finally have a house and my work is picking up, hopefully all the rest will fall into place. Even though I can generally set my own working hours, I want to complete my work before 6pm whenever possible so that I don't end up working until 11pm like I did one night last week. Essentially, the slacking stops now.

And yes, I realize this is easier said than done. But I have to start somewhere.
Wish me luck.

14 December 2012

30 thursdays: 30 reasons I love living in Bombay.

I know I've been in Bombay just under 4 weeks, but I am once again infatuated with the city. As a child I loved flying into and out of Bombay when we visited India in the summers, and I will forever associate that initial smell of Bombay with my childhood. I am now getting to explore the city as an adult and am falling in love with it all over again. I'm sure the luster will wear off in a few weeks, so I shall share the reasons for my infatuation while they are still fresh in my mind.

And just in case you need to get in the Bombay mood to read this, my favourite passage from Shantaram that so perfectly sums up the city for me:

The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport. ... I know now that it's the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it's the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It's the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. It's the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. ... But whenever I return to Bombay, now, it's my first sense of the city - that smell, above all things - that welcomes me and tells me I've come home.
[thank you, Gregory David Roberts, for putting my memories into words]

and now, 30 reasons I love living in Bombay:
  1. being able to dress how I want to dress. it's such a freedom to be able to walk around in shorts or short skirts without getting stared at or told that you're dressed indecently. I for one cannot wear jeans when it's 30 / 85 degrees outside.
  2. being near the sea. it's so nice to live close to the water again. I grew up on the banks of the Mississippi, went to boarding school overlooking the Tennessee, and did my undergrad near the Mississippi again. last year I saw the Arkansas River on a daily basis and never before realized how much I crave living near water of some kind.
  3. re-connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. in the last few years a number of my friends have shifted to Bombay for one reason or another, which means that there is an awesome group of people to hang out with and to introduce me to other fun people. being such a big city, it's really nice to have a solid group of people who are looking out for me and who are always up for a drink or who offer a couch or bed while Saranya and I sort out a place to stay. in addition, I keep finding out that various friends-of-friends are here, and they are all also always up for wandering the city together.
  4. restaurants and pubs that stay open until 1am. no more last orders at 10.20pm for this girl.
  5. the auto drivers. they don't try to rip me off [even with the accent and horrible attempts at speaking Hindi], they will almost always agree to take me where I need to go [main exceptions are when traveling from west-to-east or vice versa], they're honest with the meter, and they never crib about giving change.
  6. the availability of autos at any time of day or night. 11.45pm and you need to get from Bandra to Andheri? no problem. and if they drop you by 11.59, they won't ask for extra fare.
  7. navigating the local trains. it can become a bit crazy if you're not careful, but generally it's a fun adventure and is super cheap. those 30km from Andheri to Churchgate? it'll cost you about rs.30. you can't beat that.
  8. being able to walk home from a club by myself at 1am [to be fair, it was about 500m from door-to-door, but it was such a feeling of freedom].
  9. the never-ending variety of restaurants and pubs to visit. I have to admit, going to the same 4 places over and over in Bangalore can be a bit mind-frying, and although I've already been to both Toto's and Woodside numerous times in the short time that I've been here, I've also been to a number of other places. there is no shortage of places to eat or drink in this city.
  10. the possibility of random celebrity sightings. I've not seen any major ones as yet, but last week we ran into a guy Kirti had worked with on Talaash. that was pretty cool.
  11. the variety of restaurants that will deliver any kind of cuisine right to your doorstep at any time of day or night. craving butter chicken at midnight? I know a guy who will get it to you in about half an hour, and you don't even have to set foot outside. it's amazing.
  12. in the same vein, the shops that will deliver everything from vegetables to bread and eggs to alcohol to cigarettes to whatever-your-heart-desires whenever you want it. while it encourages a bit of laziness, it's also nice to not have to go to eight different places to pick up all the things you need.
  13. board game night. I've not been able to go as yet, but it sounds super fun. and I generally just love that there are events like this constantly happening.
  14. learning my way around a new city. it's always a bit intimidating at first, especially with a city as spread out and as complicated as Bombay, but I'm slowly getting there. I have pretty much memorized the route from Andheri to Bandra, and my navigational skills will only improve once Saranya and I shift to our place in Lower Parel [this weekend, fingers crossed!].
  15. the influx of visitors. one of Norten's friends was here a few weeks ago, Sastri came to town last weekend, Manas was here over the week, Nithya is heading here this weekend, and Shonali is coming for an extended stay in Jan. on top of that, there's always the possibility Rob will head down here for a weekend at some point, my mum is coming in mid-Jan, and hopefully Alex will show his pretty face around the end of Jan. with all of these fun happenings, it's a wonder I get any work done. it seems like there's always someone in Bombay for something or the other, and thus far it's been super fun.
  16. movies, movies, everywhere. there's something about living in India's Film City - and hanging out with people who work for production companies, probably - that really makes you want to go to the cinema, and in Bombay, there's always one right around the corner. this is an awesome time of the year as well, as there are a ton of English and Hindi releases coming out in the next few weeks, so let's see how many I can fit in while I'm in the city.
  17. men who respect the ladies' cars on the local trains. it's so nice to not have to kick men out of designated ladies' seats. while I might feel nostalgic for it from time-to-time, I would much rather have it this way.
  18. becoming a regular in less than a month. the shopkeepers in Andheri recognize me, the watchmen at Kishor Darshan salute me and have full conversations with me [that I don't understand] whenever I'm coming and going, and the guys at Toto's already know my order. that kind of recognition always makes a new place feel that much more like home.
  19. double-decker bus sightings. when my brother and I were kids, we used to have competitions to see who could spot the most number of double-decker buses whenever we were traveling around the city [as you can imagine, there aren't a whole lot of double-deckers in Helena, AR]. the city has been phasing them out a bit over the years, so it's much more rare to see one today than it was 20 years ago, and I always get a little thrill whenever I manage to spot one on the road.
  20. vada pav. it's unlike anything you've ever tried before.
  21. being able to walk places. for being such a large, spread-out city, Bombay is surprisingly walkable. I know I've been lucky in that many of the places I've gone have been in close proximity to railway stations or to friends' houses, but it's still really nice to be able to walk from time-to-time and not being wholly reliant on autos to get me places. thank you, Google Maps, for helping me find my way around [no, I've not updated my OS on my phone. just heard Apple has gone back to Google Maps, so maybe I'll get around to doing that one of these days]
  22. getting to do things I'd never be able to do anywhere else. a few weeks ago, I was an extra at an ad shoot in town. it was kind of a pipe dream, and it definitely would not have happened anywhere else. and I'm sure there will be a few more random opportunities that crop up between now and February.
  23. finding affordable housing. everyone will tell you that Bombay is an expensive city to live in, and it's true. through sheer good luck, Saranya managed to find a place to stay in a nice area for a very reasonable price, and I am so thankful. housing was very likely going to be my greatest expense during my stay here, but I think I might be able to use that money for other ventures instead, which is awesome.
  24. getting to work with a new organization. so far I have helped Sujaya develop an evaluation test for their centers and have administered said test in one of the centers. we are also working on computerizing the test and will be administering it in another center next week. it's been really interesting getting to see how another organization is run, meeting all the people who work and volunteer with them, and working on a new project.
  25. playing tourist. Bombay's got a ton of interesting sights to visit, and I am looking forward to exploring as many of them as possible between now and mid-Feb.
  26. the overall safety of the city. after my two weeks in Delhi in October, I was feeling a bit hesitant about coming to Bombay, but the cities are worlds apart. I feel safer here than even in Bangalore at times, which is a really nice feeling.
  27. street food at 1 in the morning. it really is awesome.
  28. neighbours who don't complain - overly much - about noise. yes, we've gotten a few complaints about loud music, but it was warranted on those nights [and those neighbours are a bit obnoxious anyway]. for the most part we've had music on nearly every night without hearing a peep from the neighbours. when you're living practically on top of each other, it's nice to give each other a little space like that.
  29. the general atmosphere. I felt myself becoming very lazy in Bangalore; it's very easy to do so when you've lived in a place for a certain amount of time and start to feel like you've seen and done nearly everything. but in Bombay, there's always something happening, and knowing that I'm only here for a few months encourages me to get out and see and do as much as I can in the time that I have allotted. it's led to a number of sleepless nights, sure, but it's worth it to know that I'm living these months to the max.
  30. finally fulfilling a childhood dream. from the time I was a child, I have wanted to spend an extended amount of time in Bombay. that desire has only grown as I've gotten older, and for the past few years I've really been wanting to spend some time here as an adult, and finally I have made it happen and am literally living my dream.
It's a fantastic city, to be sure, and I hope everyone gets a chance to experience it at some point in their lives.

05 December 2012

veena's 20 greatest sports movies of all time.

Well I was obviously not going to pass this one up. I can never get enough of sports movies, so whenever someone posts their opinion on the greatest sports movies of all time, I am always ready with a list of my own. While I concur with a number of the movies on this particular list, I will admit that I've not seen all of them. Also, it's not that I don't necessarily agree with some of the choices, it's more that there are others I have on my personal list that do not appear on this one. So, without further ado, here are what I think are the 20 greatest sports movies ever. Agree with me, judge me, do what you want. This is strictly my opinion.

In no particular order other than these are the order in which they popped into my head:
  1. The Natural
  2. Field of Dreams
  3. Miracle
  4. Rudy
  5. Friday Night Lights
  6. Rocky
  7. Raging Bull
  8. Hoosiers
  9. Coach Carter
  10. Remember the Titans
  11. Moneyball
  12. The Mighty Ducks
  13. A League of Their Own
  14. The Sandlot
  15. Hoop Dreams
  16. Glory Road
  17. Bull Durham
  18. The Bad News Bears [the original. obviously]
  19. Major League
  20. Brian's Song
And now I'm in the mood for a sports movie marathon. Who's in?

04 December 2012

the best big brother in the world.

It's that time of year again, the day where I get to brag about how I have the best big brother in the history of big brothers.

That's right, folks: today is brother bear's birthday, so please join me in wishing him the happiest of days.

For those of you who don't know, my brother is my hero, my idol, my partner-in-crime, the one who taught me to play sports, the one who taught me to climb stairs, the one who looks after my fantasy basketball team when I don't have regular access to the interwebs, the one who knows all of my dirty secrets and for some reason loves me anyway. He has always been and continues to be my rock, my biggest supporter and my greatest critic, my strength, and the person I turn to whenever I need a comforting word or a kick in the ass. He doesn't give himself enough credit, but he is smarter and works harder than most people I know. From the cute little boy in the pictures below, he has grown into a handsome, smart, generous, loving, funny, kind man, and I am so incredibly lucky to be able to call him my big brother.

He can drive me crazy sometimes, but in all the years I've known him, he's never let me down.
So Happy Birthday, brother bear! I hope this next year is the best one yet.
[for anyone in the Bombay area, we'll be celebrating with scotch in his honour tonight. come join]

01 December 2012

december already?

I suddenly looked up this morning [ok, afternoon, by the time I rolled out of bed] and realized that it's the 1st of December. My brother's birthday month, the final buildup to Christmas, the last month of the year. And I thought back to the beginning of the year, when I said I don't make yearly resolutions but would set myself monthly goals over the course of the year. And lo and behold, my attention got diverted from even that, and I lost track of that once I was back on the subcontinent.

So here I am, attempting to wrap up the year in style by setting myself a few goals to close out 2012. It's been a crazy roller coaster of a year, and I think having a few goals for the final month will put me in a good frame of mind to enter 2013. They are as follows:

get into a proper routine. my first few weeks in Bombay have been a mish-mash of going out, meeting friends, meetings with my Capstone supervisor, traversing the city, moving from couch to couch, and generally having a good time and sleeping very little. while it's been a blast, I have not had a proper routine in nearly 2 months, and it's taking its toll. I need to get myself back into a routine of working during normal hours and not going out every night and - most importantly - sleeping an adequate number of hours each night, especially during the week. my project should be solidifying soon, which will help, and I think the novelty of being in a new city and meeting friends every day will wear off soon, so that will get my mind straightened out again. we shall see.

begin exercising in some capacity. my running shoes are currently stranded in Bangalore, and I won't be able to get them until either the end of this month or the beginning of January, so I won't be able to run again for a while, but I do want to at least start walking or something a few times a week. no exercise has also been a big contributor to my all-over-the-place lifestyle, and I hope picking that up again will help settle my mind.

read for 20 minutes every day. I was in such a good reading routine while I was in Nepal and Delhi, but I got out of it the last few weeks in Bangalore because I was in and out of town so much. I've not really gotten back into the habit since being in Bombay [read the above regarding going out every night], and I really miss it. I don't care if it's in the morning, on the train to work, or before I sleep; all I know is I want and need to get back into the habit of reading every day.

So those are my goals for December. My thinking is that ending the year by focusing on myself will start the new year off on a good foot and make 2013 a kickass year.

Wish me luck.

29 November 2012

30 thursdays: 30 thankfuls.

Well this should have been perfect timing. November has 30 days, I have a list of 30 things for which I am thankful, and Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday. That's one of those win-win-win situations I'm always going on about. [except that I didn't have Internet access on Thanksgiving, so it's being posted the following Thursday instead. please accept my apologies and bear with me, I'm working on Indian Stretchable Time these days]

Sometimes it's very easy to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of every day problems and hiccups and to forget to be thankful for all I've been blessed with. One of my favourite memories of my Jamaica trips is going around the table and talking about all the things we are thankful for. Our initial group took to it so much that we continued to meet once a week for lunch through the spring, partly for the companionship and also partly so we remembered to pause and reflect during such a hectic time. Since then, whenever I feel myself getting stressed out or irritable or annoyed, I try to remember all the good things I have in my life to keep things in perspective. The below list is definitely not complete, but it's a start.

30 thankfuls:
[I am thankful for...]
  1. a family that always supports and encourages me in everything I do.
  2. a great network of friends around the world who are always there for me, no matter what [especially these past 2 weeks while I've been homeless in Bombay. for real, I'm not sure what I would have done without them].
  3. all of my adopted families who have fed me, housed me, clothed me, and generally taken care of me over the years.
  4. the best group of big brothers a girl could ever hope for.
  5. the opportunity to travel and see the world.
  6. having the freedom to complete my degree from anywhere I choose.
  7. the tranquility of the sea.
  8. the peace of the hills.
  9. the healing power of laughter.
  10. impulsive road trips.
  11. random emails or text messages that brighten your day.
  12. the beauty of sleep.
  13. non-sketchy auto drivers [trust me, when you live in India, these are the things you come to appreciate. Bangalore, you guys could learn a thing or two from these Bombay drivers].
  14. the energy created by live music.
  15. random acts of kindness.
  16. getting lost in a book.
  17. my childhood.
  18. all of my physical abilities.
  19. my education.
  20. the feeling of a child falling asleep in your arms.
  21. Saturdays spent watching college football.
  22. playing in the rain.
  23. technology. I sometimes hate how reliant I am on it, but I still appreciate it.
  24. crisp fall weather and watching the leaves change colour.
  25. long runs that clear the mind.
  26. bunking school or work to spend the day watching March Madness.
  27. sports movies.
  28. opportunities and adventures of all kinds.
  29. aimless wanderings with good friends.
  30. food, water, shelter, and clothing.
What are you thankful for?

27 November 2012

30 before 30: my night as a pseudo-celebrity.

  1. Go bungee jumping.
  2. Go sky-diving.
  3. Spend one week on my own in solitude [preferably in Honey Valley], cut off from the world and from all of my electronic gadgets.
  4. Do a wine tour [preferably in California, but due to logistical constraints, improvisations may have to be made].
  5. Complete my Master of Public Service degree.
  6. Run a half marathon.
  7. Explore a new part of India.
  8. Be vegetarian for one month.
  9. Go skinny-dipping.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.
  11. Learn one Indian language properly [it's about time, wouldn't you think?].
  12. See the Grand Canyon [I smell a US road trip in my future].
  13. Get a professional massage.
  14. Try 2 foods I've never tried before.
  15. Take a photography class.
  16. See the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  17. Attend NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  18. Take an online class because it interests me.
  19. Be an extra on a set in Bombay.
When I began concocting this list back in July and thought about all the things I wanted to and could feasibly do before my 30th birthday next July, one of the things that stuck in my head was to be an extra for some kind of shoot in Bombay. I knew I would most likely be here for my Capstone, and I figured it was worth a try. I didn't put it on the list back then, as I wasn't sure if it would pan out, but as luck would have it, it happened, and I spent last night hanging out in the background of an ad shoot for Sunsilk shampoo.

But before I get to the description of the actual shoot, here's how it came to pass:

My dear friend Norten works for a film company here in Bombay and has been generous enough to host me during my initial time here until my cousin and I find a place to stay. On the first night I was in town, I asked him - only half joking - if it would be possible for me to be an extra for a shoot while I was in town, as it was one of my goals for my "30 before 30" list. Well, it turns out that one of his good friends, Malcolm, is a casting director here in Bombay. So last Friday night, I asked Malcolm what he thought, and he immediately called someone and found out there was an ad shoot for last night [Monday], and they needed more girls for it.

And so I was on my way.

Yesterday afternoon I received a call from Malcolm telling me I needed to report at 6pm for the shoot and to carry a "party dress" with me. For those of you who know me well, you can stop laughing right now. Lucky for me, I had carried one such dress with me to Bombay, so I packed it and some heels and took off for Churchgate.

I was the first one to arrive, so I just hung out in the trailer until more people slowly began showing up. Most of the other "models" [yes, that's what I was called last night. again, enough with the laughter and snorts (I'm looking at you, Bee)] have been doing these for a while and know each other from other shoots; they were all nice enough, but they were also happy to leave me alone to sit and observe everything. I managed to make it a while before having to explain to anyone that I was just there to see what shoots are like and for the experience rather than because I want to get into the business of being an extra.

The early part of the evening was spent mostly sitting around until 8pm when suddenly they wanted all 15 girls dressed and ready to go ASAP. Now, I don't know how much you know about girls, but they have one speed when it comes to getting ready, and it's not ASAP. There were outfits to be discussed and changed and approved, hair to be done, makeup to be applied, and all the rest. Even having lived with the Devaraj family for the better part of the last half-decade, I was amazed at how long it takes girls to get ready. I got myself ready and amused myself by watching the rest of the preparations.

They slowly began sending girls up for the shoot around 9.30pm, and by 10.15pm all of us were up on the set. [this may seem silly, but I'm not sure if I can describe the set and all before the ad airs. I didn't sign anything, but that seems like common sense, right?] As they prepared each shot, there was one guy who would organize the extras into where we needed to be and what we needed to be doing for a particular scene. Because moving the equipment and the lighting around took some time, there was a lot of downtime on the set. Also, because it's an ad for shampoo, obviously the main actresses' hair has to be perfect, so there were also a lot of moments when we had to stop for them to re-straighten and re-position their hair.

I spent most of the downtime watching all the people running in every direction and trying to figure out what each person's role was. I was fascinated because it was my first time there, but I can see how it can be really tedious to do over and over. Also, by this point, a lot of the people had learned that I am from the States and that I was just there for the experience, so people were starting to ask me more about what I do and what life is like in the States and things like that. But beyond all that, the thing that fascinated the most number of people was the fact that I am single. Over the course of the night, I had 6 different people ask me if I was in a relationship / engaged / married, and every single one of them was shocked when I said I was not. Two people actually told me that it is unusual to meet a single girl in India, which kind of made me laugh.

But anyway. After a midnight dinner break, it was back to work as usual. In total I think I was in the background of 4, maybe 5, shots over the course of the night, either talking or dancing with the other girls. We were just filler for the background [it was a party scene. I think I can at least tell you that much], so most of us won't be in focus or anything, but it was still pretty entertaining to have to pretend to talk and dance while they were shooting the main part of the scenes. Most of the others started fading around 2.30am, so we had to reshoot a lot of scenes. I had nicely taken a nap in the afternoon so was feeling pretty fresh until about 4.30am, but my feet were killing me. I've not worn heels in about 7 months, and certainly not for such a long time, and I was hurting.

We finally wrapped up around 5.10am, I quickly changed and headed to the station, and I caught a train back to Andheri at 5.40am. As it's a pretty long journey, I had myself a few nice naps along the way before catching an auto and landing up back at Norten's around 7am. Luckily for me I am "working from home" today, so I could get some sleep once I got back; if I had had to go in to the office today, it would not have been pretty.

Unfortunately I couldn't take any pictures of the set and stuff, so you'll just have to use your imagination. If and when the ad runs, I will try my best to post a link to it on here. The first person to recognize me will get a prize!

Overall it was an interesting experience, but I know that was partly also because it was a new thing for me, and I was intrigued and fascinated by all the various things that go into creating a 2-minute ad spot. I can definitely see how it would be super tedious to have to spend 11 hours at a shoot and only have 3 hours of actual work. It was a lot of sitting around for the extras, but it was also a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, so I didn't mind so much.

I also have a newfound respect for everyone in the television and film industry. I knew a bit about it from having been friends with Norten all these years, but man, seeing firsthand all the lights and equipment and moving around and staging and styling and on and on and on, I really respect the people who do this for a living. Because their work is still not done. Yeah, I had to sit around a set for about 11 hours doing not a whole lot, but these guys still have to go through all the footage and edit it into what will eventually be aired. I'm sure they love it, but you couldn't pay me enough.

Most of the other extras were pretty nice, especially once they learned I was new and from abroad and whatnot. I think they were as fascinated by me as I was by the rest of it. I caught the train back with a few of them who were heading farther north, and it was nice to have some company for the ride home.

I could never do something like this full-time, but if another opportunity arises while I'm in Bombay and it doesn't conflict with my work, I'd certainly consider it. Oh, and the best part? Free snacks and dinner, and I got paid for it! Not too shabby, I say. But I'm not sure how many more all-nighters I have left in this body of mine. This last week of lack of sleep is definitely taking its toll.

I have to send a huge thank you to Norten and especially to Malcolm for organizing this for me. I'm pretty sure Malcolm called in a favour to get me on the set, and I will be forever grateful to the both of them for encouraging me to do this and for helping make it happen. Thank you boys, you're beautiful people, and I'm grateful for you both.

And so concludes another 30before30 installment. Wonder what I'll be able to cross off next!

[Arkansas' football season has ended (let's not discuss it), so sadly the "woo pigs" have come to an end. Shon, I know you're crying on the inside]

16 November 2012

time for the next adventure.

It appears it is time to move on the next adventure. Tomorrow I set out for Bombay to settle in for a few months and work on my Capstone project with Sujaya Foundation. I'm excited about spending some time with my friends there, working on a different project, and exploring a new city.

When I was young, my most distinct memory of coming to India was landing in the Bombay airport, and I have always been fascinated by the city and all it has to offer. I've not gotten to spend much time there as an adult, just a few hours here and there transiting between Surat and Bangalore, so I am really looking forward to a fun few months. I've got a few friends who are staying there, my cousin has just taken a job and shifted there, and a friend from the States and her boyfriend will be moving there in January, so there are going to be lots of opportunities for fun adventures and interesting stories.

As much as I love Bangalore, and although a part of my heart will always be here, I think it will be good for me to spend some time in a new place to get my bearings and sort out a few things. The past month has been a bit up-and-down, and I think a change of place and a change of pace is just what I need. And what better place than one of the most fascinating cities in the world?

To top it off, I'm really excited about beginning my project. I'll be doing an evaluation for Sujaya as well as creating a database to map the progress of the students enrolled in their programs. It's much more complicated and convoluted than that, but that's the main gist of it. I really enjoyed my work with Room to Read, and I'm looking forward to sinking my teeth into a new project and getting to work with a new organization in India.

I think these next few months are going to be exciting and adventurous and intriguing, and I can't wait to document the trials and triumphs that lay ahead.

See you in Bombay...
woo pig.

15 November 2012

30 thursdays: 30 favourite movies.

I normally hate being asked what is my "favourite" of anything, because I am extremely indecisive and usually cannot pick one of anything. So these lists of 30 are good for me because I can pick 30 favourites of something as opposed to only one and no one can get upset.

I've always loved watching movies, although I admit I've become more picky as I've gotten older about which movies I will voluntarily sit through, but that's mostly because they keep getting longer and more convoluted, in my opinion. That being said, however, there are some that I can always sit down and watch, no matter how long they are and no matter how many times I've already seen them. Especially sports movies. It doesn't matter that I've seen them and already know the outcome, I'll still watch them and will cheer loudly while doing so.

So here you have 30 of my all-time favourite movies, the ones that can always cheer me up [even if they're sad], the ones I've seen dozens of times, the ones I know all the words to...

30 favourite movies:

  1. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
  2. A Christmas Story
  3. Field of Dreams
  4. The Natural
  5. Beauty and the Beast
  6. The Little Mermaid
  7. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
  8. Gone With the Wind
  9. Rang de Basanti
  10. Silsila
  11. Old School
  12. Charlie Brown Christmas
  13. Anastasia
  14. Top Gun
  15. The Cutting Edge
  16. Dr No
  17. Goldfinger
  18. Peter Pan
  19. Harry Potter
  20. Ghostbusters
  21. Batman
  22. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  23. A Time to Kill
  24. Finding Neverland
  25. Chocolat
  26. Benny & Joon
  27. Ocean's Eleven
  28. Good Will Hunting
  29. Sleepers
  30. Sleepless in Seattle
As you can see, I clearly have Christmas, Johnny Depp, Disney, and sports movies on the brain today. If I were to post this tomorrow, approximately 7 of the movies could change; it just kind of depends on what mood I'm in. But if any of these movies are on television, I'm pretty likely to drop whatever I'm doing and settle in to watch them.

And now I'm in the mood to stay in and have a movie marathon. Anyone care to join?
woo pig.

08 November 2012

30 thursdays: 30 dream jobs.

As I [very] slowly begin my job search for my post-graduate school career, I've been thinking a lot about the various answers I've had throughout my life whenever I've been asked what do you want to do / be when you grow up? My initial, smart-ass response is generally "I'm never going to grow up", but I've also gone through a myriad of other responses in my 29 years on this earth. My interests have been ever-changing, and my attention span is pretty short, so it's a pretty random, eclectic collection [as are most things in my life, really]. So below you will find the 30 jobs I would love to do if time, money, qualifications, location, etc. were not factors. Hey, a girl can dream.

30 dream jobs:
  1. teacher
  2. first female Monday Night Football sideline reporter [this was when I was a wee tot and there were no MNF women]
  3. SportsCenter anchor
  4. travel writer
  5. travel photographer
  6. sports photographer
  7. journalist
  8. artist [this got shot down when it became apparent that I have zero artistic abilities]
  9. own an independent bookstore
  10. sports agent
  11. lawyer
  12. social worker
  13. pretty much any position with a foundation [fundraising / event management / monitoring and evaluation / etc.]
  14. superintendent of the Boys' Home
  15. director of community service / servant leadership at a middle / high school
  16. dorm parent at Baylor
  17. book editor / publisher
  18. sports broadcaster
  19. owner of the Atlanta Braves
  20. pediatric oncologist [too bad I don't really like science]
  21. pilot
  22. novelist
  23. professor
  24. drummer [unfortunately, my musical talent might actually be worse than my artistic ability]
  25. chef
  26. forensic pathologist
  27. crime scene investigator [I've watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds and Bones]
  28. FBI agent
  29. director of an NGO
  30. something that allows me to travel extensively while still being paid [this is really what I'm gunning for, so let me know if you have any suggestions!]
And there you have it. Wish me luck as I try to figure out the next phase of my life!
woo pig.

07 November 2012

30 before 30: NH7 Weekender.

  1. Go bungee jumping.
  2. Go sky-diving.
  3. Spend one week on my own in solitude [preferably in Honey Valley], cut off from the world and from all of my electronic gadgets.
  4. Do a wine tour [preferably in California, but due to logistical constraints, improvisations may have to be made].
  5. Complete my Master of Public Service degree.
  6. Run a half marathon.
  7. Explore a new part of India.
  8. Be vegetarian for one month.
  9. Go skinny-dipping.
  10. Learn to scuba dive.
  11. Learn one Indian language properly [it's about time, wouldn't you think?].
  12. See the Grand Canyon [I smell a US road trip in my future].
  13. Get a professional massage.
  14. Try 2 foods I've never tried before.
  15. Take a photography class.
  16. See the sun rise over the Himalayas.
  17. Attend NH7 Weekender in Pune.
  18. Take an online class because it interests me.
Bacardi NH7 Weekender Pune has built itself a reputation of being the best music festival in India, so when Shonali and I found out the dates for this year's festival, we were determined to attend. We sorted tickets and a place to stay, convinced Nithya to join us [a piece of cake once Bombay Bicycle Club was added to the lineup], booked our tickets, and set out Friday afternoon for Pune.

I had a great time, but I have slightly mixed feelings about the festival itself. The venue was really cool, and I saw some awesome musical acts - Big Scary, Slow Down Clown, The Koniac Net, Buraka, Manganiyar Seduction led by Roysten Abel, Delhi Sultanate, Jinja Safari, and the aforementioned BBC - but the vibe from the crowd was a bit of a letdown. Because the ticket prices increased this year, it automatically filtered out the crowd, and I got the feeling that most of the people weren't there for the music but rather to see and be seen. Because of the reputation that NH7 has now, it seemed like a lot of people were there to be able to say they were there. Now, that is entirely my opinion, and I could be completely off base, but that's the feeling that I got.

One of the things that I really liked, though, was how they cordoned off the bar area. The drinking age in Maharashtra is 25 and is pretty strictly enforced, so this year the organizers had two bars where people over 25 could drink, but they had to stay within the barricade while they were consuming their drinks. While this meant that if you wanted a drink you would miss out on being near a stage, it kept the venue really clean and calm. There were no bottles or cans or glasses thrown all over the place, and over the two days that I attended, I only saw one super drunk person stumbling around. It made the focus the music rather than getting drunk, which I thought was a good move. Even though I am over 25 and had the much-desired white bracelet that allowed me access to the bars, I didn't once set foot in there, choosing instead to roam the stages.

Being proper Bangaloreans, we also found our own shady bar just near the venue and made friends with the servers there. After the festival finished on Saturday night, we hung out there and let the crowds disperse before leaving ourselves and hanging out in Aswin and Mahendra's room. On Sunday, after sending Nit back to Bangalore, Shon and I explored the mall nearby and found a brewery, and we planted ourselves there and let the boys find us as they left the festival. We were exhausted when we reached there, but then the dj started playing a ton of old-school songs that got us super pumped up, and we were entertaining the entire place with our antics. At one point, when Cocaine came on, Shon, Mahendra, and Rajat were dancing out on the terrace while Aswin, Manish, and I had our own air band going on inside. It's pretty safe to say that we're the most entertainment that place has ever seen, and we will also probably never be allowed in there again. But it was definitely a fun way to wrap up the experience.

Overall I had a great time with my Bangalore peeps who were in attendance, and if I am in India when the time for NH7 rolls around next year, I will definitely be back.

[excited about being at the festival]

[the lake and bridges in the middle of the venue]

[watching Big Scary perform]

[Shon made friends and stole an Afro]

[waiting patiently for Manganiyar Seduction]

[we met Guy Fawkes]

[opening of Manganiyar]

[the big finale. believe me when I say it was awesome]

[enjoying some time at Shisha Cafe before the last day of the festival]

[it is indeed]

[with Rajat, Aswin, and Shonali]

[just look at those people breaking the rules]

[Delhi Sultanate. fantastic]

[this guy was just walking around the festival with a film crew following him around]

[because it's not really an event until we have an awkward photo shoot]

[Sunday sunset]

[deep in conversation]

[sunset over the Dewarists and Jack Jones stages]

[the crowd for Vir Das' Alien Chutney]

[we even had street artists]

[one project was meeting random people and taking pictures with them]

[more street art]

[Jinja Safari performing. great act]

[another project was this. you had to be there]

[Mahendra and Shon]

[Bombay Bicycle Club]

[Ed kept cracking himself up while they were performing]

[Jack. the quintessential Britisher]

[on our way out on Sunday night]

[freshly landed in Pune and this is what we saw when we reached Audrey and Peter's house]

[The Koniac Net performing on Saturday night]
[enjoying a relaxed lunch on Monday before heading back to Bangalore]

And there you have our NH7 adventure.
woo pig.