No regrets

I cannot believe how much fits into one month in my life in India… it seems like I’m always busy in the States as well, but never quite have this much happening. From workshops, to weddings, to traveling and practicing, life here rarely takes a break. As of late I’ve done a lot of soul searching but before we get to that, let’s cover the past month (and a half).

Towards the end of December my favorite event of the year happened… my music workshop! Basically, this workshop was a love project of mine that I wasn’t sure would actually materialize, but it did. Essentially it was a 2 ½ day workshop on music, but taken with the Pravah connect from self to society approach. I’ve given short talks, sessions or seminars on music before but had never actually planned (and facilitated all by myself) a multi-day workshop before. Designing the workshop was really fun and gave me the space to share the particular areas of music that I’m passionate about; the sessions included an introduction to world music, a “what is music/how do you define music?” session, and an advocacy/empowerment session, interspersed with self-discovery and lyric writing sessions. Initially I wasn’t sure where to start in the design, but once I finally got going, the ideas just kept flowing. Of course, it wasn’t only me, my team at Pravah and some outside of Pravah (from a partner organization, Manzil) helped refine and shape my designs. Then… it was time for the workshop to begin. Everyone who registered for the workshop came with the understanding that I spoke English and very little Hindi, so they would need to at least be comfortable understanding English, if not also responding in English. There ended up being two groups that quickly formed during the first day, the Hindi speakers and the English speakers. Now anyone who has ever given a workshop knows that this is not an ideal situation, so a new rule was put into place. I was the only one allowed to speak in English anymore. Fortunately my understanding of Hindi is quite high compared to my fluency, so I was able to get at least 80% of everything that was said, and the rest…well, I like to do this thing where I guess what people are saying and make something up that sounds good, haha. So, that’s what I did (until I later asked someone else what was said). After this new rule was in place the workshop flowed smoothly and the group became lots more comfortable with one another. And I must say, this group of individuals that did not all call themselves musicians wrote the most beautiful, meaningful, heartfelt songs (in both Hindi and English). I was truly impressed by this group and am fairly sure I couldn’t even compare myself to them.

The music workshop was a really incredible thing to see and be a part of and really got me thinking about music and honestly the lack of music that has been in my life lately. Before I came to India I had just graduated from UNC with my BM in music (and a degree in mathematics), so I was used to having music in the majority of my day every single day, but since moving to India and working, I have not had that at all. I do enjoy my work at Pravah and I love my co-workers, but it’s almost as if a part of me was missing in not having music in my life like I needed. Last year while in Kolkata I was studying tabla with a guru and had fully intended to buy some when I reached Delhi this year and resume my lessons, but somewhere along the way I got busy with work and forgot about the things that make me happy. However, after my workshop within the next few weeks I found some tabla that I liked (of course, testing many before finding some that suited my ears) and bought them 🙂 Since then I’ve had the chance to practice more regularly, and even jam out with some of the other fellows on a few occasions, and I’m also now getting other random opportunities to play and perform and entertain. Although it has taken some time and a hard realization process I have come to terms with the fact that quite frankly I need music in my life, and realistically not just as a hobby.

That being said, of course I am going to continue enjoying my time here but being realistic about what I need in terms of music to make me happy and what that means for my life for the coming years. Of course, I could always stay around here and just play in the many wedding bands that exist for the many many weddings that happen regularly. I have had my debut after all at Archana’s brother’s wedding in Gujarat…while wearing a sari. Yes, I’m sure it was quite a sight for all to see, but I’ve got to say it was probably the most fun I’ve had during my 5 months in India yet!

Aside from weddings and music and saris, traveling has also taken up a bit of my time lately. My mom’s visit, the wedding in Gujarat, and Ooty, Mysore, and Bangalore during midpoint have been huge sources of joy. While I live here now let’s not forget I’m still quite a foreigner and do love traveling and getting to see as much of the country as possible before I have to leave. Around midpoint was the first time I’ve really been in the south before and it was so wonderful to finally get to experience it! Ooty was absolutely beautiful. Rolling lush greenery everywhere and constant sunshine was an incredible change from the city of Delhi. While I do enjoy Delhi for what it is, I can’t say I was sad to be warm and surrounded by green for a few days. Mysore was also nice, though with midpoint happening I didn’t really see much of the area, but then we moved to Bangalore and I got a completely different taste in my mouth. All big cities in India are different (all places in general to be more accurate), and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Bangalore. Firstly, there were so many foreigners. I see some in Delhi from time to time, but not nearly as much as I saw in Bangalore. And perhaps it has something to do with the number of foreigners or the constant stream of new people there, but something has definitely caused the auto drivers there to be absolutely terrible to deal with. I admit, I hate dealing with auto drivers in Delhi on a regular basis and the constant fight against trying to get ripped off, but Bangalore was a completely new level of this.. It was so bad and honestly made me more frustrated than I’ve been in a very long time. But aside from that, I did enjoy my time there and enjoyed hanging out with old friends and new friends and other fellows alike. Conclusion about the south: it’s warm and oh so very different from the North. Other than that, there is no generalizations I can make without being incorrect in some capacity, so I just won’t make them. I love the south for what it is, and I love the north for what it is. Neither is better or worse necessarily, just extremely different. I thoroughly enjoyed my time and my travels and midpoint, but I am quite happy to be back home, where people understand me when I attempt Hindi, where I know how much it costs from home to work (पचास) and where I have friends of all kinds.

My soul searching involves my search for music, both physically and mentally, and on a larger scale the importance of my time and the things I fill my time with. While I’m enjoying work, midpoint has made me realize that my time is important and the personal goals while being here should not fall by the wayside just because I am not being careful about my time. So, in coming back post-midpoint I have a new drive for me-time, music, language, and just a love for life that has been quite honestly a little buried over the past few months. With five months left I’ve got a lot left to do, both at work and in my personal time here. So here’s to moving forward with no regrets!

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