As we settle into our new semester, I find myself feeling more and more hyper – to get things moving, start traveling again and get reunited with those crazy Indian weekends and short school weeks (taking full advantage of the sleeper buses by leaving Thursday night and coming back before class on Monday morning). To catch up – our orientation was largely uneventful, filled as it was by things I had already done, just with new characters in my life. Still worthwhile, definitely, but largely just a repeat of past experiences. Thankfully, in the last two weeks, we’ve started travelling once again as well as adding some very unique, new experiences to my India resume.
Firstly, over the last 6 months, almost since I arrived here, I’ve been helping collaborate and participate in a global economic forum. S, my Indian friend, and I, have conducted more meetings than I could possibly count, collecting people from around the world to speak on their countries’ behalf and offer us insight into their culture, their economy, business prospects, etc. However, as someone who only has a background in social sciences, it was a constant challenge to stay on my toes, informing myself about current business issues, etc. – something I would have never imagined needing to know. Most of the conference was based on the global economic recession and how it affected each country in different ways. Because we were conducting this conference through a new organization at Christ, called CUGNA (Christ University Global Network Association), we were subject to constant oversight by advisors, professors, and the Christ College Fathers (the priests who oversee everything here – sort of like college presidents or deans). Additionally, like most organizations in India (and all over the world, really), Christ is subject to layers and layers of bureaucracy, and we had the conference cancelled on us twice last semester by the forces that be.
Therefore, we were thrilled to be able to put it together this semester – though we had to train an entirely new group of people into it, a much harder task than it sounds. By the end, we had India, Canada, Mexico, The Philippines, Cote d’Ivoire, Afghanistan and the U.S. (me) represented, with 3 well-known guest speakers in the field of business and economy from the U.S. and from India. We spent more time working on the conference than on any other class I’ve ever had. To add to the chaos, we had to call it off one more time, due to a national bandh (strike) that happened to be scheduled for the same day. One week later though, on Feb 28th, we finally conducted it – it went so well, but more than anything it was a relief to have it over and done with. It was outrageously hard to try and represent my country here, especially knowing that the conference was big enough that there were other Americans, WITH backgrounds in business and economy, coming to see it.
During all of this madness, we were also dealing with our Bollywood Dance performances for the Christ University NRITTA Dance Day – a massive ordeal consisting of 800 PEOPLE this year. There were two main parts – EMOTIONS, the main theme of the Day, had 10 emotions each represented by a contemporary Indian dance involving at least 12 people each, dozens of costume changes, outrageous props, etc. The second part was the Bollywood part – a blend of 5 or 6 famous Bollywood songs, most of which had at least 100 people performing in each section – we were in the middle and were the only exception, the 10 of us weirdo Americans who had chosen to do it taking the stage and performing a separate piece. The weeks leading up to it (we only had 3 weeks to learn and perfect the dance) had us in practice 3-6 mornings a week, practicing in our apts at night, freaking out over a relatively (compared to most Bollywood dances) short dance, at only (ha!) 2m30s. However, the whole dance was at a faster pace than I ever thought I could move my body – without being chased by a tiger or something.
During our rehearsal days, we met the most wonderful Indian students – it finally exposed us to something beyond our program, people outside our normal existence here in Bangalore. They kept laughing about all the batches that have come before and partially because we USAC students are given the same costumes every time we do a Bollywood performance, the audience FREAKS OUT when they see us – it’s so India, to have a ton of people cheering for what you are obviously doing at a much more elementary level than EVERYONE ELSE in the program – but because we’re American, we get so much more acclaim. So unfair, but at least it gave us a much needed confidence boost to do it in the first place. They weren’t kidding – our first time performing for a real audience, they screamed so loudly we couldn’t hear our own music and missed our cue!
The weekend of the performances was insane – all day Friday was spent waiting on buses and getting taken to the other Christ campus about an hour and a half away (they literally transported all 800 of us on them), spending the day in rehearsals, performing, arriving at our apts at 11pm, rehearsal the next morning at 7, rehearsal all day, another performance that afternoon, by the time we got to Saturday evening we were exhausted…but it was my birthday and somehow everyone found the motivation to go out. They all surprised me throughout the next day (our 3rd and final performance, [for 3000 people!] was at 7pm) with beautiful flowers, chocolates, champagne, cards, letters and it ended up being one of my most meaningful, beautiful birthdays I’ve had.