Wednesday, August 30, 2006

India Days Four and Five

That last couple of days have been incredibly hectic, so I haven't had a chance to write until now, on the morning of our sixth day.

Day Four had us starting the day by visiting the school our young filmmakers attend - a private school with a student body of about 2,000 kids from pre-school to 12th grade. It's a huge, modern looking school, though with little air conditioning save for the computer labsand some offices. We were treated to a tour of the campus, where we were at times mobbed by crowds of excited kids. We felt like rock stars. The school, by the way, is not religious, so the kids represented a cross section of India's (more weathy) population.

From the school, we returned to the community center, where our kids joined us. We began shooting their film in the blazing hot India sun. Sun block, at least for us, is critical here - as it bug-spray. The kids are working on a short film about a girl who returns to India after having been gone for eight years, and finds that much has changed. The first scene had her walking along a road with her bag, having just gotten off a plane. At first, she's disgusted when a small group of beggar children (whom they recruited from a poor family living in a shack nearby) surround her, asking for money. She then finds another kid and aks for help finding a pedicab - He tells her that she doesn't need a cab - there's a metro (train) now. She's shocked. It took a couple of hours to shoot the scene, including extensive debates, usually in Hindi, among the young filmmakers. I often had to interrupt and ask for clarification on what precisely they were debating...bottom line - they got the job done. We're hoping they're finish shooting today. After a full day with the kids, we returned to the hotel (early, for a change) for a nice, leisurely dinner.

On Day Five, we met the kids again, and hopped on a bus for a three-hour ride to a rural school located just by a beautiful ancient temple, set on a great pool of water. We were treated like honored guests, and presented with traditional costumed dance and music performed by the children. The kids at this school were even more excited, and eager to shake our hands and wave excitedly at the camera. After about an hour at that location, we seperated from our film kids, hopped in a care, and took a three-four hour drive to Agra, to visit the Taj Mahal. We've discovered that there are no highways in India, at least not in the way we understand them. Most are two-lane highways, some badly maintained, and none set apart from people and less advanced transportation. It's a rough, sometimes frightening journey.

When we reached the outer reaches of the Taj Mahal grounds (it's about a mile or so from the parking lot to the Taj Mahal itself), we were immediately accosted by an army of kids sellling postcards, t-shirts, and the like - they were constantly begging us to buy from them, no matter how many times we told them we weren't interested. Finally inside, we passed through a gateway building - and there it was - the famous gleaming monument to love, featuring incredible detail and handicraft at the closest inspection. The Taj is simple a tomb - it never was anything but a tribute to a lost love.

The trip back from Agra to our hotel in Delhi took 5-6 hours - including about 30-45 minutes wasted when our driver headed in the wrong direction. As frightening as the roads are, they are positively terrifying at night. We wondered whether we would make it back in one piece. As I've written before, we are constantly bombarded with images as we drive though Delhi and the surrounding area. I remain amazed.

Today, we work with the kids in the morning and travel to visit another (closer) school, and meet the mayor of Delhi in the afternoon. We'll then be treated to dinner at our host's home. All in all, it will be a less grueling experience then yesterday. It's good to be "home."

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