Nrtya means dance and gana means sing in Hindi.
As our time in Bangalore is winding down, I have been trying to soak up as much as possible my experiences here. Though maybe not a cultural experience, last Wednesday we had our second round of kareoke. This time we sarinaded the room with some Elton John, a tribute to Amy Winehouse, and Piano Man. Needless to say, we butchered every song.
All week we woke up early and had two-a-days to prepare for our dance performance. I didn’t realize how big of an event it was going be to. There were probably thirty dance teams competing and our dance was a short intermission from the competing groups. It wasn’t like a lame half time show, though, I swear! We performed to some hit Bollywood songs and the crowd was going wild. It was so much fun and I can’t wait for the video to come out.
On Saturday we took a group fieldtrip to one of the villages an hour from Bangalore. The community service program on the Christ College campus works with different villages in the state to promote programs for women and children mostly. We got off the bus and were flooded by elementary school children. We played games with them and they taught us a game that was a mix between Red Rover, Tag, and Capture the Flag. It was awesome how hard these kids played, girls and boy alike. Some of us definitely walked away from the game bruised and bloodied. They also loved cameras, which made me grateful that I bought the most durable one before coming to India. It got passed around and taking into their houses, so I ended the day with a lot of really cool pictures from their perspective, even though half of them have fingers covering the lens. We saw some of the steps for making silk, which was really interesting, but too difficult to describe. The village has a women’s group that has been meeting for the past seven years and we were able to sit in on one of their meetings and ask questions. They talk about ways to improve their community, like after school programs, getting funding to send kids to college, health care, etc.
The most important idea I took away from the group was that in India you have to work together as a group if you want to be heard. Although I think that one individual can make a really big difference no matter what the situation, a group of like-minded individuals working for something is much more likely to be recognized. My concept of a village was somewhat altered after this experience also. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I think many people assume the villagers would be poor, uneducated, sickly, and unhappy. Although there was a combination of these attributes in some way for some people, it is mostly just a different way of life. It seemed 100 times better to be a child in this village where there is community and even if you are poor, you probably won’t go hungry than to be one of the children begging in Bangalore or any other big city. The city definitely increases the expectations gap, which makes people that don’t have as much really unhappy. People in the village are still aware of the income inequality since tv’s are becoming more common, but there still seems to be more contentedness with their lifestyle.
On Sunday six of us went to Shravanabelagola (try telling the bus driver that name), which is a four hour bus ride from Bangalore. It is known for a temple that is on top of a rocky outlook, which is a destination for many Jains. It takes over 600 steps carved out of the stone to get to and at the top there is a 57 foot statue of Bhagavan Gomanteshwara Bahubali. It was great to get out of Bangalore, even though we spent over eight hours in the bus total to be there for three hours. It’s so refreshing to see people’s commitment to religion and their beliefs, especially when it is mixed with such beautiful stonework, architecture, and other culture.
The general consensus is that we are all ready to leave Bangalore, but not India. I am so happy I planned my flight to stay an extra month. Bangalore is a really cool city, but there doesn’t seem to be that much to do unless you have a full day to make a trip. I finished classes today and am planning outings for the next few days in the area. The rest of the group leaves early Saturday morning, Mollie gets here Saturday night, and we leave Bangalore Sunday to travel north. I am really looking forward to those two week with Mollie and am still looking for somewhere to volunteer our to be stationed at my final two weeks here so if anyone knows about a volunteer organization or something, please let me know!