Another Story Written

I’ve been back in Arizona for about a week now and it’s never felt so good to come back to my roots after going abroad. After living in both Tokyo and India—two countries I swear must be some of the most different from Western culture as you could find—it feels right to settle into my own customs and ways. I guess, “The American Dream” has never felt so real. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I was dying to come back here and revel in all my luxuries.” I mean that in the sense that I have never realized the degree of privilege I possess as an American—and how grateful I am for clean air, water, food, driving a car, independence, and more.

I feel like there’s so much to catch up on—simply, because so much happened in India every single day. My life was so full of entertaining situations, noteworthy conversations, and learning strides, that I couldn’t even keep my personal journal in the daily loop. But, I guess I’ll explain all the endings…

The end of work was nice. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to finish my video project. The script had to go through too many re-drafts, so by the final week, there wasn’t enough time to create an actual video. One of the problems with the script was that Paromita found the conversational tone unnatural. So, she suggested I record and direct a conversation between Umang and Kanksha to make sure my story-line and major points were included, but that they brought these points up in their own manner. It was an interesting exercise that helped me understand a way to blend documentary with a pre-determined plan. Looking back on the internship, my confidence with Adobe Premiere (editing software) has definitely increased, and Umang taught me that we can’t let technology be smarter than us. Often times, if something went wrong on an edit, I would ask Umang or someone else. I’d quickly s see how easy the fix was (after watching), and realize I wasn’t exactly trying my hardest. By the end of the internship, I was starting to catch on to this, and nowadays, I push myself to fix and find solutions to everyday happenings.

I have to say, it felt so freeing to travel after the internship. As hard as it was to say goodbye to everyone at the internship, I knew I wasn’t going to miss my 8-hour-day desk job, plus commute. This style of working is not for me, and I’m so glad I learned this now. I want to have an active job, where I’m interacting with other people and moving about. So, as it was time to go, I packed my bags, and started to feel a little uneasy. Everything came to a close at once, right as a I was about to begin a whole new journey by myself. It was the first time I was going to embark on a semi-unplanned journey. I had my initial and final flight booked, and knew which cities I wanted to go to, though I didn’t have all transportation and housing booked. But, Swapnil (one of my housemates) sat me down the night before leaving. He wrapped a red string around my wrist several times and tied it tightly. He said The Goddess, Bhairavi, would protect me while I was away. She’s the female form of Shiva and he’s had some powerful interactions with her. I’ve always liked this the most about India—the meaning that can be found in almost anything and everything. I felt way more at ease and ready to start my new adventure.

I traveled to Dharamashala for the longest period, then continued on to Delhi, Agra, Jodhpur, Osian, and then Udaipur. Again, no matter where I went, what mattered most was the people I was with. It’s as if it didn’t really matter what we were doing… with the exception of a monumental point in Dharamashala. I was only supposed to be there for 5 days, which turned into 6. It had been raining every single day, so I had already kissed goodbye my dream of hiking to the Himalayas. Even though Mumbaikers have assured me that monsoon season is the best season for hikes, everyone at my hostel told me there was no point—that it would be too cloudy at the top of Triund Trek to see anything. Once I accepted I would have to pass up the primary reason I flew all the way to the north, I booked my bus ticket for Delhi to leave at 5 pm. But the night before my bus, a worker at my hostel, Kabir, told me he would be getting up the next morning at 5 AM to go… and that I was welcome to join. He said there was a chance that tomorrow would clear up. I debated for the longest time, because I’ll tell you what, I was NOT ready to wake up at 5 AM, hike the whole day, then make sure I was back in time for a restless night on a sleeper bus. So, I went to bed, still unsure, and as 5 AM struck, my alarm blared. I looked around. Rainy and pitch-black outside. I turned off my alarm and went back to sleep.

And so I awoke around 8 to see from my hostel balcony… what do ya know? A clear, sunny, beautiful skyline of the lush foothills. “Welcome to the REAL Dharamashala!!”, my roommate exclaimed. My heart absolutely sank. I couldn’t believe it. What’s worse, Kabir came back around noon, sharing how amazing the hike was. How clear it was… and he even met a dog at the top. The entire day, I had a pit in my stomach. I just couldn’t imagine leaving Dharamashala without seeing the Himalayas now… but, I already booked my bus ticket and was mentally prepared to leave that night. It was weird. As the time ticked on, I went back and forth on my decision. What am I losing by staying? Money? Time? My pre-determined plan? I actually felt physically ill. Like this decision meant everything. It felt like I was forcing my hands to stuff my belongings into my backpack. I was upset with myself that I couldn’t understand what I wanted to do. That I was 22, on the road in India, and couldn’t simply pick if I was going to stay an extra night in Dharamshala or not.  I’ve always been a bit of an indecisive person, but I’ve never waited until the very last minute, bags packed, to decide that no… I just couldn’t leave. I came all the way to see the Himalayas, so the rest of my plans could wait. Sure, there was no guarantee that the good weather would persist through the next day, but I had a chance to make-up my mistake of skipping out the first time.

And guess what? As I walked up to the check-out desk, bags in hand, I looked at one of the hostel workers, and said, “Do you want to you come with me on Triund tomorrow morning at 5 AM?”.  “Sure, my new friend, Sunil, immediately replied.

The hike to the Himalayas is a story in itself, but what I can tell you is that it was my favorite day of this whole summer. I enjoyed the company of a new friend, let my mind spread free of worries, physically drained my body to a state of natural meditation, and was overwhelmed by the pure beauty of this world. There’s no way I was able to know what kind of day it would turn out to be… but, I’m glad I finally reached an understanding with my gut.

I think traveling takes practice to get right, and this is just one idea I’ve learned along the way. For instance, Udaipur was memorable all thanks to a travel and food blogger I befriended–Nishi from Delhi. We both happened to come to Udaipur during a heavy monsoon wave. On top of that, most places I intended to see were closed (including a traditional Rajasthani dance show I was excited to see) due to a recent political event. But, Nishi and I met in our hostel, sharing our disappointment in what we thought was about to be a stormy-day in. It was the first time I’ve had a day of travel where I actually didn’t have plans and didn’t know what to do with myself! But, as we ate our breakfast on our hostel’s rooftop, overlooking Udaipur’s main lake, we made a pact that we were going to get going and do SOMETHING with our day. And, that something turned into the most spontaneous, joyous ending to my India travel that I could’ve hoped for.

We started off with our first destination—a temple ground where a famous Bollywood film was shot. Though I had no idea what the film was, I didn’t care. Nishi seemed fun, so the destination didn’t matter. Moments after stepping outside, the downpour began. We hurried down and the rickshaws were charging a bit much, so we decided to go with a cheaper option—squeezing onto the back of a motorcycle of some random teenager. So, we were off! Umbrella above our heads, we flew down the rainy highway. When we got to the grounds, we explored and started to hear… music. I had mentioned earlier that it would be cool to see some live music that day since the dance show was canceled. We just started to follow the noise, and ended up coming to a celebration being thrown for a god’s birthday. There was an entire band, an abundant spread of food and desserts, and gorgeous flower strands running across bright yellow curtains. It was almost what I’d imagine a wedding to look like. As soon as got there, the storm blew out of control. Water even broke through the rooftop, and completely drenched a couple of men in their nice slacks and button-ups, alongside all the food. But still, everyone had a smile on their face.

Nishi looks slightly scared of me, but I can assure you, we had a great day

Just when I thought Nishi and I would be spending our day inside, we ended up taking our day from one place to the next, smiling the whole way. For both of us, it was really one of the “so happy to be alive” moments. After the temple, we went to a cable car attraction, as the rains let up. Here, we saw some of the best views of the city. We split a dosa at the top of the mountain, then came back down. Walking home, we met the lining of the lake and decided to take a boat ride—something else I didn’t think I was going to end up doing. On our way home, we ran into  another birthday celebration for the same God that was being celebrated earlier in the temple. The lights, music, celebration… it was such a pleasant experience to run into again. Later, after hitting the local craft market and an art café she wanted to review for her blog, we ended our night chatting on the rooftop again. Just like the guys I meet in Varanasi, I didn’t really need to know Nishi to completely enjoy my time with her. I just had a good feeling about her, and we ended up talking about the challenges of solo traveling. About why it’s good to be alone, but why this irrationally makes us feel selfish at times. We talked about budgeting and unnecessary worries about money. She told me “We will never feel like we have enough money. Even when we do have more than enough. There’s just no point.” And, of course, I had to ask about relationships (conversations are the best form of research, right?) Nishi had just got engaged a few months back, and finds her finance understanding and good to her. As I was giving her my best wishes, I started to talk about my own experience finding a guy who treats me with respect, and considers my emotions, etc. Nishi and I started to wonder, “wait why do we act like men who act like this are extra-special? Shouldn’t all of those things be a given? That’s the baseline for how men should treat women, and vice versa!” We laughed.

I’m going to miss it all, really. I’ve noticed since I’ve been back, I don’t feel as driven to dive right back into my hobbies like guitar, poetry/songwriting, and running. I’ve gotten so used to waking up and seeing where the day takes me, revolved around people and exploring a city. I think I’m starting to learn how to relax a bit. To watch some TV and just let my mind sit. Maybe those few meditation sessions got to me? I think I’m going to have to keep up my practices from India and see where life takes me now.

“The Last Hurrah” with Swapnil and Sarah, my good ol’ roomies










I want to thank Janelle Fosler, Morgan Fitzgerald, and Ariana Paredes-Vincent for your enthusiastic encouragement through the SISA process. I wasn’t sure if I was initially going to apply, but now, there’s nowhere I would have rather spent my summer. Most importantly, thank you to the anonymous donor who gave me the most transformative experience filled with extremities of every emotion.

Work Update

Time has really gotten away from me lately as my internship comes to a close, so I will have to make this one short! For my video project, I’ve come to understand my place as a foreigner a little more. Paromita told me that by virtue of my identity, a video composed of me narrating Indian history and throwing in some pop-culture references can come off as dominating, even if I don’t mean it. In order to fix this, I re-scripted the video so that a conversation between Umang (boss) and Kanksha (co-worker) takes place.

By writing this script, I’ve learned how to be a clearer storyteller by using visuals to explain without words. To minimize an explanation according to what’s already implied. The original script was a complex idea, so it was crucial to break it down very simply, so the audience could understand and relate without getting bored and shutting the video off. To understand my audience’s perspective the best, Paromita taught me an exercise in which I go through the script and breakdown the major points of what’s being said (every ½ page or so), then put it into a flow chart. That way, I could see what was missing for the storyline to make sense. Because of the all the work from the music video, our projects were pushed back a bit, so I’m not sure this video will be done by the time I leave.

I had a really awesome chance to go interview local students on the streets around their colleges. For the video, I wanted to get unbiased, diverse views of the topic to see what virginity means to today’s generation in India. We asked 3 questions: 1) What’s the first word/idea that pops into your head when you hear the word, ‘virgin’?, 2) Are you losing something when you ‘lose your virginity’?, 3) What has sexual exploration done for you? To see how interested and open people were in talking about these subjects was really inspiring. It really seemed like our interviewees were having a fun time! My favorite answer came from a male answering question 2. He said “No, if anything we are gaining something. We are gaining our innocence.”

On Hold

Regular guitar practice, writing poetry/songs, and an exercise routine. For me, lax summers have always revolved around a list of personal goals. Since freshman year, this list hasn’t really changed. So, when I came to Mumbai, I naturally tried to sculpt time for these hobbies. But, after work and commute take up about 11 hours of my day, I’m living in the most social culture I’ve ever been in, and I have the “never say no” mentality ingrained from my first study abroad in Australia… there’s not much room to make substantial progress on my hobbies. It wasn’t til a few weeks ago that I finally accepted this… and understood why letting myself flow in the current’s direction is better.

The train station in Colaba, Mumba (downtown). I never tire of exploring these streets.

For one, exploring new cities is restlessly fun. I had the chance to solo-travel to Varanasi recently—the holiest city in India and one of the most ancient cities in the world. The owners of my hostel were around my age, and they genuinely wanted to show their guests around. It was easy to become instant friends with them, and that’s a trend I’ve found at all the hostels I’ve stayed at so far. Hostel owners often seem to be young, extremely hardworking entrepreneurs. Sidd (owner) shared “when you’re my age in India, you have two options: you go to college or you start a business.” While the options don’t necessarily end there, I found his comment interesting. Sidd owns several different hostels around India, invented an airplane sleep-pillow, and I think he runs a clothing shop. Pretty inspiring when I’m feeling weak about my few (7 hours) of sleep each night.

Varanasi, hostel roof-top!

The hostel itself used to be a temple, and it overlooks the Ganges River from   its rooftop hangout. Most of the main sites here are situated along the water, with several main “Ghats” or staircases descending straight down into the holy water. It’s believed that taking a dip in the Ganges will purify you of your sins. That’s why ceremonies take place here every day, with bodies being dipped before they are cremated on beds of logs next to the river. Death is more of a celebration here. I’ve realized I’ve never witnessed followers of a religion that ingrains so much of their beliefs and practices into everyday life. How much time is taken out of one’s day, not to continue with work, activities, and hobbies, but to recognize the very root of your existence on that day. For some, that may include being grateful for life before anything else. I saw this especially in a sunrise yoga practice on the Ghats. The community gathers every morning for this, and at one point everyone lifted their hands up to the sky in laughter. It was adorable and heart-warming. I couldn’t stop laughing myself, it was so contagious! A dog was roo-ing along with them.

Laughing with the crowd during morning yoga
Even the dogs are flexible!

A lot of my friends have warned me about traveling alone in India, but I couldn’t have been happier to go to Varanasi. Two years after my solo-trip through Vietnam, I was reminded that women absolutely have the power to travel independently, and for me, it comes down to how I carry myself. Change your posture, be direct and clear with your words, and be extra cautious of others’ intentions. Badda bing, you’re

The best company + BUDDHA!

free and good to go. However, in the past, I’ve been conflicted about solo traveling. I love the freedom, but when you move around every few days, you make a lot of new friends for very short periods of time. Many whom you might befriend on Facebook afterwards, but will never truly stay in touch with. I always thought this was kind of sad—to create all these memories abroad, but not truly get to know someone better in the process. But, that didn’t even cross my mind in Varanasi. Within minutes upon meeting somer other travelers, Keenan (Seattle) made me laugh like an old friend, as we retold our history of travel struggles. And, Enrique (Madrid) was just the sweetest! Super easy-going and selfless. I may have just hung out with these guys for 2 days, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I never once wished I was spending my day with a friend who would “last”. I think that’s one of the best parts about solo-traveling. You see how lovely people can be without needing to know you. Together, the three of us got scammed by a driver and cornered in an alleyway by a rambunctious, knife-clad 5 year-old.  Alone, I was peed-on by a line of monkeys on a rooftop and crapped-on by a bird.  Sidd was right—I will never forget Varanasi.

Boat Ride on the Ganges to watch a fire ceremony dedicated to the elements of earth
Akshay kept us entertained backstage!

Back to my original point—putting my hobbies and introversion on hold. The internship hours have been amped up lately because of the music video. It was shot last week, and we were on set for 17 hours the first day, and 20 hours the second day. Unfortunately, I did not quite get a hands-on experience, because we found out I needed a film-set permit to work on the actual set. So, I stayed in the dressing room, signing out props and posting social media teasers of the shoot. We even thought I would be able to be in the actual video for the “party scene” in which cast and crew literally got to dance and shoot-off confetti canons. Again, the plug was pulled on that one. But MAN, that would’ve made one heck of a souvenir. Still, I did get to hang out with some of the actors and other directors in the industry. Funny, remember that “80s Bollywood Dance Party” I mentioned in my second post? The actor who was explaining discrimination in the industry to me at the party was cast as one of the male partners in the music video! While these interactions were memorable, I learned I do not want to work in the film industry in this kind of style. The tediousness, high-stress environment, and wild amount of time that goes into making one film is unappealing to me. I was mostly just motivated by the message that this video aims to send to promote the idea that romance starts with consent.  I would give more details what the video is about… but it doesn’t release ‘til mid-August! I’ll post it in my last blog.

Only one piece of the beautiful, handmade sets!

Aside from travel, and work, there’s one other thing that’s been keeping me from my ol’ introverted self: socialization. The other night, Soonil (one of my roommates) and I hopped on his motorcycle for the classic MARINE DRIVE. This is a beach promenade that stretches along the heart of the city. He said we had to go late, and he was right—Mumbai after hours has its charm when you get to hog the roads. Overlooking Mumbai’s skyline, highlighted by the darkness of the Arabian Sea, we were a little wet from an overpass of rain. Soonil asked “So, what have you thought about your whole experience? Marine Drive is the place for big questions.” I brought up the work culture, and how the hours have been difficult for me to adjust to. How you are expected to work overtime often, on weekends, and more. After studying abroad in Australia (2 years ago), I changed my mindset and let myself balance work with personal life more fairly. I thought it was a simple life lesson to learn—don’t stress, have fun, and don’t take work too seriously. But, little did I realize that having time and hobbies is a privilege. Having time away from work is a privilege. Soonil started to then explain why Bollywood is so loved by himself and many—escapism. At the end of the long work day, you might not have the creative energy to do much else other than sink into someone else’s world for a few hours. “I don’t want to see anything in a movie that reminds me of the office”, he said.

Marine Drive is also referred to as “Queen’s Necklace”, because of the lights that curve up the coastline

After Marine Drive, I realized there’s a reason I’m not locking myself up in my room—I prefer the socialization to hobbies I can be doing at home in Arizona. When am I ever going to live in Bombay again? When I am ever going to have constant access to these conversations, never a bore? Now, I have a week left in Mumbai, followed by my 2 weeks of travel. The hobbies—the introversion—that can all wait. I think I’m finally starting to understand what everyone told me 2 months ago. The city that never sleeps—it keeps you alive and hustling.

Enjoying the last few weeks with the Agents of Ishq! Marlene is a Masters student from Florida and she recently joined the team. We’ve loved having her around!


“‘The Real India’ doesn’t exist. There is no ‘One India’.”

I can’t believe all that’s happened in just a little over a month. I’ve loved my experience living with Swapnil, Sarah, and Sunil in central Bombay. I live in a more green and quiet area, which is the mental cleanse I need after a long journey through the city. Just down the street is“Jogger’s Park”, a seaside track that gives me a little peace of mind before I start the day. I’ve always wanted to try meditating, so I try to do that for 5 minutes whenever I come +here. Swapnil meditates, chants and hums every morning, so I can’t say I haven’t been inspired! This tranquil home space has truly been what I’ve needed. I really just enjoy coming home after work to some kind of surprise. Sometimes, it might just be a nice conversation, a jam session, or we’ll watch a movie. I even have home-cooked meals and a GUITAR to play! Whenever I want to play, I ask beforehand if it’ll be a bother, but I always get ”Music is not noise! It’s music!” in reply. Swapnil even took me to see a cult rock-band called Thaikkudam Bridge. My favorite part was when the “Godfather of Rock” walked out on stage for a couple numbers–imagine an Alice Cooper number with a twist, and you’re there.

Jogger’s Park









Now that I’ve settled, I’ve taken a couple of weekend trips to explore the gorgeous lands surrounding Mumbai. My first stop was an overnight trek to a place called Rajmachi Fort, and I had no idea I was about to step into Middle-Earth from Lord of the Rings (yep, I had to google that name). The hike may have shattered my thighs, but the charcoal black architecture of the fort radiated a zen bliss. I’ve never seen such landscape on a trek–dark green

The “Stairway to Heaven” that I was referring to. It was an endless drop beyond the edge!

layers of bush with such vibrant, lime-green grass. We were settled in misty clouds since it’s monsoon season, and Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Stairway to Heaven” were characteristic of this experience. I find it funny how hiking during the rain is usually a no-no in America. Rocks are slippery and you might get stranded in a flood. Here, the advertised “Monsoon Treks” are anxiously anticipated and embraced. Even when I had my raincoat hood on, the trekkers exclaimed “Let it down! Don’t you like the rain?” The next time I took a rickshaw home in Mumbai and my seat began to trickle with rainwater, I re-evaluated my discomfort more of a mental obstacle, able to be subdued with a clear mindset. The rain’s not that bad, actually.

Rajmachi Fort on the right side, overlooking the lush valley

The weekend after, my co-worker, Shwetha, and I decided to take a very last-minute weekend trip. Shwetha has been very keen to share her love and knowledge of India with me. One time after work, we stopped to get “pani puri” (a thin, fried ball filled with a soupy dish). She asked if I wanted medium spicy or spicy, and I thought I’d revert from my usual daredevil trends. The medium might as well had been called The Devil’s Potion. Imagine drinking the spiciest spice of all them spices… And though I was choking, smoke seeping from my ears, I did get some laughs from Shwetha and the locals. All in all, I’d say this “I’m a foreigner” moment was worth it.  Anyway, so we took our trip down south to magical Hampi! Yes, I felt nauseous even 2 days post the delayed, 17 hour bus journey. Yeah, we slightly crashed our motorbike and had to pay x10 for damages. And oh, I could actually feel my skin cooking as a side effect of my malaria pills. But, of course it was all worth it! I was reminded that traveling is not quite a vacation, and discomfort is the norm.










Hampi felt like a reverted through time to a tropical, prehistoric land. How I never spotted a T-Rex, I still don’t know. It’s a serene, hippy town canvassed with lines of UNESCO temples and shrines. Here, I realized why India fascinates me the most out of any country I’ve been to–there’s so much meaning ingrained in daily life. When someone asks me my name, it’s often followed by “what does that mean?” From the colored prayer flags canvassing trees branches, to the orange and red forehead Bindis. From Lord Shiva’s love story that sparked Hampi’s creation, to throwing back a handful of sweet-milk and sugar cubes in the Elephant God’s shrine… a question and answer is suitable for most observations. I wish I could explain what I learned in Hampi, but to be honest, it’s hard to remember the details of these mythological stories. India isn’t a place to absorb in just a day. Maybe in 3 months if I’m lucky.

A delicious spread call “Thali”. Served on a banana leaf, Thalis offer a little bit of everything. No utensils, and eat with your right hand!

Back in Mumbai, work has been a bit of a pressure-cooker, lately. I’ve had the chance to develop my video script a bit more. Paromita advised me that with such an interpretive concept, it’s important not to single out any culture, religion or country for its perceptions on virginity. Instead, she asked me to look into specific customs of virginity practiced around the world that collectively demonstrate how the idea has been socially constructed. For instance, with virgin brides being highly sought after in India, I learned that many people use matrimonial columns in newspapers to advertise for a virgin bride with specific physical traits. Through ways such as this, customs have dubbed virgins with “good character” and have pegged non-virgins with “bad character”. I aim for this video to reconstruct what virginity means, ridden from the baggage its collected across generations around the world.

Inside the office…

Aside from this, there’s a lot to do to prepare for Paromita’s new music video that I get to help out with! It’s all about consent in relationships, which will be represented by 3 women–”Maza” (Choice), “Majboori” (Force), and “Maza” (Pleasure). We’ve been drafting costume/make-up/hairstyle references based on the treatments, and now I’ll be handling the props and social media coverage. Getting ready for two 12-hour production days…

Adjusting to “Mumbaiker” Life

My good friend, Allie, once wrote a lovely poem about the people you meet on airplanes. You may walk off and never see these people again, yet there’s some mystique behind those unforgettable conversations you create, sky high. So, as I was flying into Mumbai, it was nearly 1 am, and I had been traveling for about 24 hours since Tokyo. I wanted to curl up and put my head down, but my neighbor was feeling chatty. He seemed genuine and not some stranger to just wave off. “You’re going to find a lot of good people and a lot of bad people in Mumbai”, he said. “I just want you to be aware of that. Don’t go out late by yourself after 10, and get ready for the mad traffic and honking that swarms Mumbai.” But, most importantly, he explained this: ”The most surprising thing you’re gonna see is the class difference. You’ll see a wealthy, tall skyscraper where even the middle class live with their own maids, cooks, and drivers. Next to that, you’ll see a run-down shack or heap of garbage, and it just keeps alternating by building.” Not only did he prep me, but he even made sure I had a way of getting home safely. He gave me his number if I ever needed anything. And, although I knew I would probably never reach out, I felt I could trust him. I’ll remember him as my first, welcoming introduction to the city that never sleeps. Trust and intuition is a challenging, yet crucial tool to navigating everyday life and the streets here.

A view of Andheri
The Gateway of India

Living around Bollywood influence has been a trip! No, it’s not an entirely “traditional” aesthetic like The Cheetah Girls Bollywood Movie might have you believe. “Andheri” is a suburb much like LA—joggers, traffic, high fashion, and health food cafes. I was even walking down the street one day, and I saw an actor being chased out of a cafe by Paparazzi. But, as you travel south, the neighborhoods change drastically from artsy, Portuguese-style “Bandra” to the home of the Gateway of India (where the last British boats sailed through) and colonial architecture in “Colaba”. This area resembles New York, more or less. No matter where you are though, the pace of life is nearly the same. Many “Mumbaikers” have told me that you learn to love the hectic vibes of this city and you might not understand why. That the organized chaos keeps you alive and hustling.

Some pointers so far…

  • If your Uber driver asks you if you “like speedy?”, say no. (Just kidding, do it. Necessary to beat this traffic).
  • Be late wherever you’re going. I don’t know if I’ll actually get used to this, considering even when I try to be late, I still somehow show-up on time, and therefore 30 min. early.
  • If you’re waiter asks “are you sure? It’s spicy”, say YES, LET ME CRY HAPPY TEARS OF SPICY GOODNESS.
  • Wear earplugs in your rickshaw if you’re jumpy like me. The constant honking is wild. Horn not OK, please?
Some of the oldest colonial architecture in Mumbai at Mama Deli Road. This was the ultimate way of shifting my dinner schedule to a later time. After eating from midnight onward, 10 pm doesn’t seem so bad anymore (JK, I am still struggling).

My first few weeks were incredibly warm, thanks to the amazing workers at the hostel I was staying at. It truly felt like more of a cozy homestay, and Bhushan (owner) made me feel comfortable from the start. He even drove me on his motorcycle to work the first day. He welcomed me into his friend group, whether we went to karaoke, to “Mama Deli Road” from 12-4 AM for street-food during Ramadan, or to a party filled with 80s Bollywood dance moves. At this party specifically, there were many actors sharing common concerns about the ins/outs of the Bollywood industry. Don’t get me wrong, I would never doubt that fiery love behind those smooth moves—hip swaying, shoulder popping, and hand jiving. Still, I was surprised when one actor explained to me that he has trouble landing gigs because they tell him they want someone with lighter skin. Another actress explained how so many musical numbers in films sexualize women, who are rarely cast as leads. I think as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed traveler, it was easy for me to assume Bollywood is entirely magical. Little did I consider how similar the politics of the industry might be to that of Hollywood.

Train ride with the Hostel Mantra bunch

And now, for my main purpose here—my internship at Agents of Ishq (“Agents of Love”)! I’ve got to say, I do ISHQ it. When I applied, I was the only intern expected for summer. Now, 4 more (very sweet and funny) interns have joined! We range in age from 19-28, so the diverse perspectives are helpful. Throughout the week, we’re given independent and team projects, which have allowed me to research cross-cultural topics in love, relationships, sexuality, and gender. For instance, I’ve been taking preexisting interview footage and scripting a story-line for a podcast series on body hair acceptance. For body positivity week, we also held a public “Conversation Hour” event. I got to manage the videography as Umang (my other boss) interviewed a social media star and comic, “Supaarwoman”—a huge advocate against fat-shaming. The agency allotted has allowed me to exercise my creativity and pull from my own experiences, too. Recently, I suggested we ask Twitter followers to describe how they feel when they’re naked in 3 words (#NakedFeelings). We took the responses, and now I’m creating a short video out of them. It was uplifting to hear the feedback, and this helped me understand the company’s goal to make taboo topics more open/comfortable. I’ve also started scripting my own video project, for which my coworker has helped me sculpt in an Indian-specific context. I’ll be writing about the discourse on using the word “virgin”, diving into its linguistic history, and examining the idea of sexual conquest, along with how young people can avoid such anxieties regarding this.

“Supaarwoman” in the rainbow shirt, Paromita wearing the yellow sari, Umang on the right, and the interns
Prepping before the conversation starts

To think my original worry was that I would regret going abroad for so long (~3 months) is laughable now. I plan to travel for 2 weeks in the north after I finish my internship in August, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the incredible past SISA fellows who told me to go as long as I possibly can. Now, the latest update in my India adventure is that I finally found permanent housing! Just a week ago, I was trying to imagine life in a hostel for the next few months. But, I recently found a homestay that’s even a bit closer to my work. I’m baffled by how it worked out so. I just moved in, and I’m living with a brother, sister, and their cousin! Details to come…

A Sunday walk by the beach, near my newest home! The best way to embrace the monsoon season.