This post was supposed to go up about a month ago, when I was really just beginning ISP. Lack of real Internet stopped me from doing so. Here are my thoughts from late November:
The last month of my study abroad program is spent on ISP – Independent Study Project. It’s supposed to be a test of our skills at navigating India – we are sent off all across the country to study our chosen topic. I’m doing a practical study of dhrupad classical Indian music. It’s hard to describe, but it’s pretty cool stuff – it’s all about pitch and resonance and focus. I’ve found a place at a gurukul on the outskirts of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, where I’m living, eating and singing with my fellow students, and learning in class each day from dhrupad professionals, actual masters! It’s a pretty incredible opportunity. Here’s a little about the beginning of my ISP:
I took a train from Delhi to get to Bhopal, and while I had previously been told a taxi could pick me up and drive me to the gurukul, I didn’t see it. I discovered later that when I’d tried to confirm the taxi, I’d missed an email saying to call the driver and arrange with him. So I spent a while at the train station in Bhopal, the only white person and the only woman alone, calling 4 different numbers I had and only getting a response from one. That one was a woman who had no idea who I was, couldn’t understand my accent, and after my 3rd call to her, sent me off with one of the phone numbers I already had. She was the only one picking up though, so I called a 4th time and just said “I’m at the train station what do I do?” and she gave me the directions to tell a rickshaw. I’ve been here a week and have not met her/am still not sure who is this mysterious woman whose Thursday afternoon I wasted. Of course there’s more: the rickshaw had trouble finding the place. It’s on the very edge of the city, essentially in the countryside, surrounded by farm land. I was able to get to the village nearby, but had to ask around a lot and drive through some random country back roads before arriving – to a place I wasn’t even sure was expecting me. It was quite a relief when I walked in to see a foreign man painting, who said the guy who’d been emailing me and dealing with all that wasn’t there, but someone would know where to put me. The cook settled me in with a temporary roommate until a room vacated the next day.
That first afternoon was strange. Because the guru jis weren’t around, not many people were here. So I wandered around this idyllic empty countryside building, went to the roof and watched the sunset, and listened to the soothing flute being practiced by my roommate, who informed me that everyone here wakes up at 5 am to practice, then does sunrise yoga. Quite the place.
Despite a few valiant efforts, I have never woken up at 5 am while here, and I’ve discovered that luckily not everyone does. I’ve still been getting up around 7 regularly, going to bed around 9:30. A strange life.
Apart from sleep, my life here consists of music practice in my room, writing my ISP, procrastinating my ISP, class, group practice sessions, playing the Whale Trail app game on my phone, practicing in the gurukul building next door, eating 3 Indian meals a day, and the occasional walk to the village about 10 minutes away to buy fruit and other snacks. Today is the first day I’ve ventured into town, to the New Market to find internet.
The first few days here were pretty isolating, with no internet and very few people around, but since then I’ve come to terms with not checking Facebook every few minutes (when I just logged on I had over 90 notifications), and have some growing friendships with my fellow students, including my Indian roommate, Nirupama! I’ve also had a lot of time to think, and it’s been pretty refreshing/detoxing to just focus on what’s going on here, work on my project, and have time away from the chaos of a city.
I am here until December 10th, when I’ll have wifi again, so I’ll probably have more to say then!
I do indeed have more to say but it’s almost too much! I was actually at the music school until December 13th, then headed back to Delhi for a final week of nostalgia and academic frenzy. Difficult to put things into words but I’m working on writing up one or two final blog posts.