Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I will eventually get around to filling in my movie reviews. Really.

Everything seems to be moving very quickly now. I barely remember India, although in a definitely strange coincidence, in looking on the web for the e-mail address of a professor whom I needed to e-mail, I discovered said professor stayed in the same house I did when she was in Jaipur. Yes, we're in generally the same field (she "does" the history of mathematics and India), but still, the odds are not good we'd end up in the same place, or even that I would need to e-mail her at some point.

Anyway. School is, of course, eating up my life. I'm not completely happy with having to go back to the life of a commuter, especially when I wasn't home at all during the summer. This is one of those things that comes under heading "the things I sacrificed for my Ph.D." when I'm writing my memoirs some day. Classes sort of even out. One seems good, one seems bad. The third one hasn't met yet, so it could be the deciding factor in how my semester is going to go. Hindi is incredibly intense, but I'm trying to just disassociate from myself when I'm in the classroom.

Fun things--over the past few weeks I managed to see all six of our friends, some of them for more than a few minutes. It will probably be Christmas before I see any of them again. I managed to pick up the phone and call one other friend I seem to fall out touch with often despite my continual pledges not to do so. Also, we made a new friend, unless she was secretly desperate to escape our company. If that's the case, it would seem she's a fairly good actress. At any rate, she has to suffer our company at least one more time, otherwise she won't get her DVDs back. And with whom else well she discuss real, live India?

In other amazing news, I have both high-speed internet access *and* cable TV at home. When has this ever happened in my life? Never. At home, yes, we have basic cable, but we use the free dial-up through the university. Last year here in Illinois, I had neither internet access nor television of any kind. However, last Friday while I was out corrupt^H^H^H^Hteaching my new crop of students, Catherine managed to get both digital cable and internet installed in the new apartment for roughly half the price it would cost had I stayed in Chambana. Rantoul is nice. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I need to start a new movie post because I'm tired of digging back to January to add to the original movie post. We had to watch a movie every week, and although some of them were repeat views for me, a few were new. Saw a few movies at Raj Mandir, EP, Golcha, Can't remember. I'll add my comments sometime when I'm trying to avoid studying.

Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Mirch Masala

Omkara--Hope your Bhojpuri is strong because you'll need it for this movie. SAK puts in a really strong performance. Actually, all performances were good (even Vivek Oberoi's, if you can believe that), and the majority were great. Kareena Kapoor once again fails to impress, but she was adequate. She got good reviews, so maybe it's just a flaw in me that I can't appreciate her dramatic work. Konkona Sensharma, on the other hand, was awesome. Great soundtrack, solid interpretation of Othello. I just read the play last March, but I read The Tempest simultaneously, so I found myself confusing them. Looking forward to seeing this with subtitles.

Mr. and Mrs. Iyer--For awhile, I thought this would be added to my "really good movie I'm never going to watch" list (right behind Hey Ram) because I can't seem to sit through movies on communal violence. Not even for Konkona Sensharma. I did miss quite a bit of the movie, moving back and forth between the living room and the office when I thought something unpleasant was about to happen. Catherine assures me the violence was all off screen, but that doesn't necessarily make it more palatable for me. Anyway, Beth was at one point wondering what she would say if someone came onto a bus and demanded her to identify her religion. I'm not sure how I'd answer that question (aside from saying what I always say, "I have no religion, and doubt I ever will,"), but I do know what I hope I would have said in the exact same situation as depicted in the movie. If someone boarded my bus and I understood that they were specifically looking for Muslims (or Hindus or whomever) to kill them, and they picked out the elderly Muslim couple in front of me to kill, hopefully I would have the courage to stand up and say, "Even I am a Muslim." Because, damn, if I had to sit in a bus and know that I did absolutely nothing to stop the execution of two innocent people, I would kill myself afterward, anyway. I could not live with that knowledge, so I might as well go down fighting.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Home again. An incredibly long flight, sandwiched between two short flights. All uneventful, I'm happy to report, and thank goodness I flew home on the 9th and not the 10th, or I'd probably still be in the airport in Chicago.

In case you're wondering how to be treated well in the airports of Jaipur and Delhi: tuck your ticket inside a copy of Prem Chand (in Hindi), and set it on the counter while the desk agent is doing the paper work. People will notice, and people will be happy. The same works at security. Have the book in your hand, and send it through the scanner separately. It may be missing at the other end because the security officers will have picked it up to look at it and show it to each other. Answer the security questions in Hindi, and you will be golden.

So, arrived home Wednesday, spent Thursday and Friday in Illinois moving to a new apartment. Everythign went remarkably smoothly, especially considering that I was all but comatose with exhaustion. And I was driving a car while sleeping, so think about that the next time you're on the road and be very frightened of the drivers around you. Anyway, new address, boxes moved to the new apartment, furniture to be delivered next week, utitilies turned on, renter's insurance purchased, mailbox re-keyed, everything seems to be working out. I'm again not looking forward to living in two cities simultaneously, but it could be worse, I could be commuting between here and India on a weekly basis.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

In just a few hours, I will start the incredibly long journey home. I'm not sure if I mean that literally, in that it will take a lot of time, or metaphorically, in that it will take a major psychological adjustment to slip back into life in the U.S. Both, I guess.

The program ended on something of a low note for me. The last week of classes and testing were depressing, demoralizing, devastating, all those de- words in English apply to the situation. What was already a bad situation was made worse on Friday when one of the teachers said something to me that just confirmed that my summer was a failure. I had to go up to the roof of the Institute and sit and cry for awhile before I could sit down with my classmates for the final lunch. Only yesterday did I realize that the whole thing was probably a misunderstanding--the teacher answered the question I asked, not the question beneath the question. Well, that makes sense to me, anyway, and I'm sorry I didn't see that last Friday.

Andyji, too, took the testing pretty hard, so we two went to Agra on Sunday to try and jolt ourselves out of our depressed states. Andyji bounces back much more quickly than I do, of course, so he was really okay before the train even left the Jaipur station, but I took awhile longer. It didn't help that two different people in Agra told me my Hindi was bad. Anyway, the Tajmahal is everything you might hope it would be. I'm not sure I even complained about the $17 admission fee once I'd parted with it. I'd even pay $20 if they'd consider lighting the Tajmahal at night. We had an awesome, unobstructed view from the rooftop of our hotel, but once darkness fell, that was kind of it. Still, sitting on the rooftop drinking Mirinda at sunset was a fantastic experience. Some neighbors were flying kites (we were so schooled, Andyji), and when it got dark, bats much bigger than breadboxes began flying overhead. The call to prayers came at sunset, and even I had to take a moment to gather my emotions.

I was kind of hoping my shoes would get stolen when we were wandering about the Tajmahal complex barefoot, because that would have been a good story: "My shoes got stolen at the Tajmahal! I had to walk back to the hotel with no shoes!" but that didn't happen. I did, however, get thoroughly and firmly groped during the security search. There's no way you need to squeeze my breasts that hard to find out if I'm carrying explosives. I'm just saying.

Andyji stayed on in Agra, planning to take a public bus to Mathura and then Delhi. I took the train back to Jaipur alone. At first I was a little nervous about it, and indeed, 15 seconds into the train station, a man made an inappropriate gesture toward me. I very nearly clocked him, but at the last second turned my fist into one of those "wtf?" twisty-hand gestures that are hard to stop once you start them, and sneered "Kya hua? Aap kaun hain?" He just stared, which made me wish even more that I'd just slugged him. Anyway, I spent some time in the ladies' waiting room, then caught my train 2 hours late. It was a little confusing because the # and name of the train changed, but luckily I am capable of asking for the Jaipur jaanewalla train. This old guy in the seat next to me basically watched out for me, and he understood everything I tried to say, which was reassuring.

Once back in Jaipur, I got the best rickshaw price I've ever gotten, I couldn't even in good conscience try to bargain it down. When I said so, the tout said, "Yes, madam, I know you are a local, that is why I said pachchis (25) and not pachas (50)." And when I got in the rickshaw and told the driver where I wanted to go, he turned around and said (in English), "Oh, you are a local." And later in the day, a rickshaw driver actually gave me a free ride for a couple of blocks. I expected him to try and get R20 out of me, but he said no, he just wanted to make sure I left Jaipur with a good experience. Coming back here from Agra felt like coming home, and that was nice.

I'm so ready to go to my real home, though. I wish I could fold a few people up and take them with me in my pocket, but otherwise, I need to go back to where I understand the rules better and am in charge of my own life. I'll be back, but not until I've had time to regather my self-esteem and energy.