Two weeks ago, I went to Buzzfeed India and had the coolest day yet in my time abroad. I didn't want to say anything online until the videos were public, but now it's official! Here's a bit of the story behind how it happened.
Early on in the semester, one of my classmates met and hung out with Sumedh Natu, the director of video for Buzzfeed India. They started to talk about doing "Americans react" videos, and a series of events led to the five of us going out to Mumbai to film.
We woke up and got in a private car at 7am and drove the 3 hours to India's film capital (and my new favorite city here). Their intern, Shambhavi, welcomed us and took us in to show us around the studio. Over chai, Sumedh gave us the run down on the videos we were going to shoot. Each person would shoot for an hour and a half, and we'd film three videos. He warned us about how many people would see the video and the hate comments we would inevitably receive. "They may call you out individually. The first several comments you feel like a horrible person, but after the 8th or so you just shrug it off." We kept looking at each other and nervously laughing, still in denial about how crazy the day was.
While the first person filmed, we watched for a bit to get the feel of it, then Shambhavi took us around the city. We drove by the home of Shahrukh Khan, India's most popular and successful actor- and, as I learned, the second richest entertainer in the world! We walked around the beach a bit and headed back to a cool cafe where I ate an amazing bagel. Yes, Bombay has bagels, Krispy Kreme, and wifi everywhere :O The city made me feel right at home all day. It reminds me so much of LA- hot and happening, home to the nation's film industry, diverse and welcoming, right on the beautiful coast. There were non-Indians everywhere and it was honestly so nice. I wasn't stared at or singled out the way I am daily here in Pune- I got to blend in and enjoy being present there. It was the first time in India I really felt like I could make my home here.
When I went back to film, I powdered my face, got mic'd up, and sat in front of two big lights. I answered questions about my host family, expectations vs experience, rickshaws, dating, sexism, festivals, toilets, food, censorship, and other things that have been new for me here. I reacted to videos. I was really worried about saying anything offensive, so I think I may have just been boring, but it was so fun to do.
After we all finished the shoot, we went out for dinner and drinks, and then got back in the van and headed back to Pune, arriving just after midnight. It was such a wonderful, surreal day and I was honestly so happy the whole day. A much-needed break from school and normal life here and an abroad experience unlike anything I could have expected. I'm super grateful I had the chance to do it.
The first video is live and was obviously way cut down from everything I shared, and I've definitely seen a fair amount of negative comments. I've had to remind myself more than I thought this semester that those people don't know the full story, they just get the edited, jump-cut 3 minute version and for whatever people say about my time not being long enough to know "real India," I know my experiences here are totally real. Anyway, I've received way more love than hate from all my friends (who DO know me) and I'm super grateful. Stay tuned for more videos!
Christian, feminist, idealist, wife, poet, abolitionist, dreamer, adventurer.