Madame Currey

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Upon returning to the U.S. there was an immediate desire to resume life as usual. I wanted to beat jet lag head on get back to my everyday social scene. India went from being an exhilarating experience to being something tainted by the tragic events that resulted in our early return. I found myself having to explain more about what happen with the bombings than my awesome cultural experience.

I quickly got back into the swing of things and forgot about anything India related, except these blogs of course :), until we had the pleasure of meeting Marjorie and Fred Currey. By far the most interesting people I have ever met.  The dedication to collecting such beautiful and meaningful art was inspiring. You can tell that it has taken a lifetime to acquire the collection they proudly own.  Through their travels and education they have brought back pieces of the world to their home which is the most culturally rich environment I can imagine. What it must be like to wake up everyday and be reminded of all the differences in the world and how they should be appreciated. This is the feeling I left with from India. I appreciate my time there and what it has taught me about acceptance and diversity in culture at every level. Though the Currey’s clearly have a religious philosophy theme, there were many contradictory pieces that made me think about what it is to be a good ethnographer and observer. Hy Mariampolski says that “observation is the ultimate subjective experience: It is shaped by the observer’s own cognitive limitations, unacknowledged prejudices and preconceived categorization of reality.” Despite all of this we have to set aside our biases in order to fully receive the experiences that will ultimately broaden our perspectives. This entire experience has been amazing and I would not trade it for any more or any less. There is always something to be learned in any situation.

Tea Party

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Day 13 would result in the weirdest day of my life thus far. Our day started at the Wagh Bakri Tea house in Ahmadabad. We got an educational lesson in the tea industry followed by an overview of the marketing and advertising the company is currently doing. It was interesting to see from an in-house perspective how this extremely successful tea company is positioning itself and what their future objectives are. They then allowed us the opportunity to contribute what we as graduate advertising students think would be useful to their business strategy. It was a very interesting exchange of information and opinion. This was followed by a tour of the tasting rooms and then the best boxed lunch I’ve ever had. No matter how confusing, to eat the silver or not to eat the silver that is the question, it was a nice gesture and another opportunity to experience what India had to offer in the boxed lunch market.

Tea was followed by shopping, which was followed by dinner. After dinner we boarded the bus to head back to the hotel only to find out we had decisions to make, big decisions.  Mumbai, our destination in the morning, had been bombed and posed a threat to our safety and our trip itinerary.

The following is more a personal look into what I was thinking and feeling.

I was angry, angry that terrorism had indeed been apart of my trip, that terrorism exists and that it threatened my safety and safety of the Indian people. I spent so much wasted breath before our trip telling people that everything was going to work out and that there was no way anything like terrorism was coming my way. I never once felt scared which I have yet to figure out. I am a strong believer that if something is going to happen to  it doesn’t matter where in the world you  are its still going to happen so I wasn’t afraid of our location.  Shortly after anger came optimism, we could look past this and continue on our trip. That was short lived. I completely understand the obligation the university has to its students and the public. It was in our best interest to come home, that being said I wish we hadn’t. Though this thought process seems brief that is really what it was for me. I didn’t get to put much thought into being scared or mad or happy or upset. Things happen, you choose a solution and then resolve the situation. In a blink of an eye we were home.

Sick Leave

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Had I known what was to unfold in the coming week I would have said this was the worst day of the trip. I spent day 11 sick in bed with what I can only guess was a stomach bug more causally known as Delhi Belly. I wish I could say it was as comical as all the movie promotional posters and commercials we saw for the newly released film of the same name, but it wasn’t.

I had come prepared: three different antibiotics for stomach trouble, gallons of Pepto and enough sanitizer for all of India.  My mother doesn’t use ice so I’ve grown accustom to ice-less drinks and am a fan (I know, I know environmentally irresponsible) of bottled water. I thought I was covered. If I had to guess I’d blame careless hand sanitation after touching market fruit.  At least that’s what I keep telling myself.  I spent the majority of the day curled up in bed, wishing I had my mommy there to take care of me. Yes I’m aware that a 24 year old woman should no longer need mom but come on foreign country + sick=need to be coddled.

The most disappointing of the situation was not my excoriating pain and lack of energy/appetite but that I missed what most of my classmates decided was their favorite experience, Gandhi’s Ashram.  But I have wonderful friends in my classmates and they all came back to brief me on the days events and provided the literature and my own piece of spun cotton. This is my shout out to my awesome travel companions and friends who I couldn’t have asked for a better group for this trip.

Though it is hard to get a cultural experience while secluded to a room somehow I managed.  Situated on the 5th floor of my hotel I stared out the window down at the chaotic mess of a living space, home to a number of people.  The physical proximity of our hotel to the small shack located next door was a perfect snap shot representation of India as a whole. India is coming up fast but in very different ways. There is no segregation in this country and there would be no way to segregate if so desired.  The richest of the rich are coexisting with the poorest of the poor and yet they are like a ying and yang. As we have learned through studies and this cultural emersion the two need each other to survive.

Elephants, Jewels and Textiles OH MY!!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Hands down best experience on the trip was the elephant ride to The Red Forte. Never have I been so mystified by such an animal. I, in true Trudy dramatic fashion, requested to ride alone without a partner up to the top. I wanted a chance to reflect to myself and really take in the scenery and what I was really experiencing without the distraction of conversation (even though I love all of my travel companions this was one of the only times I was truly alone, besides my elephant tamer). Let me tell you this is how you ride in style. I was the queen of the world; just ask the locals who prompted my Miss America wave. But in all seriousness this experience will forever be remembered as an enlightening moment when I finally realized I was in India and this would be one of the greatest adventures of my life. …I know it took me a while.

I cannot go without mentioning my purchases. I tried to buy things I could see produced on site or knew their origin. The block textiles we witnessed being made were beautiful and I could not leave without a new set of hand-blocked textile sheets.  I bought handmade trinkets here and there that I thought were beautifully flawed therefore proving their authenticity and scarves of course scarves! The big purchase of the trip was made at raw stone shop. We had the pleasure of touring this business and then causally were lead to the show room of finished jewelry. BLING BLING! I was overwhelmed by the shinny stones that I knew had been finished and placed on location and my heart just sunk when I thought of how pricey they must be. Remember what I said about assuming? Well lucky for me, and the merchant of course, these stones were very affordable. I wont divulge how much was spent but let’s just say I am the proud new owner of the most beautiful dime sized black onyx earrings.

Needless to say this day was the last day I shopped…that previous request for more spending money was denied.

Flying High

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

As most trips do, our adventure begins and ends with an extraordinarily long travel leg, and is sprinkled with mini location changes in between. Travel, in this sense the physical relocation of one’s self not the grand experience, can be a logistical nightmare. Thankfully most of our travel as a group was smooth sailing in spite of the long hours and bumpy bus rides.

My first cultural observation was on the flight from the states to Delhi. Never before have I been so aware of being the minority in a environment which I had assumed would be more diverse. That’s what I get for assuming. If anything I have learned in advertising and in life in general is to never EVER assume anything. Not only was I a minority by race but also by attire. The plane was checkered with various headwear that signified cultural difference. Through out our India travels I took note of how important and telling an individual’s headwear can be.  It can mean anything to religious affiliation to simply environmental precautions from the extreme climate.  The dotted heads along the aisle was beautiful in its own way. It symbolized to me that my journey to a new and different world had begun.

Most of the flights were long and filled with sleeping, movies and anxious foot tapping with one exception, our flight on IndiGo airlines. IndiGo resembles an Indian version of Southwest, low-cost and appearances more about experience than profitability. Don’t get me wrong both are interested in profit and are doing very well at it but they have a different angle from which they launch.  The air transport industry is a “driver of economic development” for India. According to Amitabh Kant, in “Branding India”, 97.2% of transport in India is by plane. IndiGo air does a fabulous job of creating an experience while catering to most levels of the Indian market.  It provides a cool fun atmosphere without the extreme cost. This industry is and continues to be a growing economic opportunity for such a culture and country.

IndiGo is by far my favorite flight experience to date and I’ve had my fair share.

Gastro-centric View

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Lets talk food. I’ve never been one to be a picky eater, that being said I had never tried traditional Indian food and am still trying to figure it all out. What kind of meat is this?? Is this a fruit or a vegetable? Will there be mac n’ cheese on the buffet? The answers to all of these questions obviously varies meal to meal but honestly my hopes of coming back rail thin are dashed. Desai says “the stomach without a doubt is the organ around which our world revolves…and needs a high degree of tending on a daily basis.”  And my stomach definitely is being tended too on a regular basis. Every hotel we have stayed in serves the entire spectrum, fried chicken to dal makhani (basically lentil soup spiced up). I have been adventurous and tried many Indian dishes but I am ashamed to report I had pizza for lunch yesterday. So much for my India starvation diet plan. I digress from this rant only to say that the breakfast buffet at the Hyatt is to die for and is a great way to kick off the day.  While staying in the Hyatt if you never left the walls of the resort you would have no idea you were in Asia.  Their bacon was crisp, milk was cold and Jack Daniels completely over priced. The Hyatt being our first home away from home really didn’t help the digestive transition process but it sure was nice!

I may not being particularly adventurous on my own but as a group we are trying everything. Group dinners outside the hotel have ranged from traditional south asian, Afghan cuisine, to Chinese, most of which I cannot decipher between food categories on my plate. Its more of a modge podge  of different sauces, vegetables, and meats. The spice is not as extreme as I had imagined but more of a subtle prolonged spice.  All in all I would say that India food is very interesting and gave my stomach a run for its money but ill just have to stick with my pizzas. Sorry mom. 

The Taj

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 by trudooles

Day six was a travel day. We left our beloved Hyatt and Delhi and set off for Agra. The drive was a few hours and I spent most of that time reading. Note to self: While yes the back of the bus was cool when we were kids…now it is not. I feel like a rag doll. We arrived in Agra, checked in and then spent the rest of the evening having good conversation with each other and relaxing to prepare for the 4am wake up call to go to the Taj Mahal.

The Taj at dawn was magnificent, breathtaking, overwhelming, need I say more????

Ok I will. The Taj Mahal is the epitome of love and expression. Completed in 1648 by Emperor Shah Jajan in memory of his wife after her death, The Taj Mahal is the most glorious thing I have every seen or experienced. And yes it is both a site and a feeling.

“Culture operates on both the material and nonmaterial levels of human experience.” Hy Mariampolski discusses this phenomenon in “Ethnography for Marketers”. Materially or physically the Taj as a structure is remarkable. Handmade completely out of marble and constructed in a way to defeat all environmentally destructive odds; to think that these ancient Mughals essentially were architects of their time. Nonmaterial or emotionally the Taj Mahal is a symbol of the desire and persistence of an individual to express his love. It is such a grand gesture and is such recognized as the eight wonder of the world. The maintenance and care that I witnessed is an expression by the community and culture of the importance of such a historical structure. Too often do we see cultural landmarks destroyed because of poor consideration given to its importance? Enough about public service, the Taj was amazing. We got to spend a lovely amount of time exploring and reflecting, a great place to reflect on life I might add, and even got a little hang time with some new monkey friends. The Taj was definitely a highlight of our trip.

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