the wonderful world of veena.

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.

05 November 2012

there's something about mothers.

In honour of my mum's birthday, today we are taking a stroll down memory lane...

There are not enough words to gush about the wondrousness that is my mother, but I'm pretty sure these pictures speak for themselves. She's the coolest mother ever, and if I ever have children of my own, I can only hope I'm half the mother she is.

Happy Birthday, Ma!
woo pig.