30 June 2010

Melanie Closs, a theatre artist by profession, is an American who is globetrotting & exploring the themes of cultural understanding & displaying them through creative media. She spent a full month of June developing and honing the theatrical skills of the girls at Pardada Pardadi. On her first ever visit to India, she has so much to share:

“Rural India is the twilight of a sunset, a lavendar and periwinkle blanket that covers the world in a hum and a smell of an open fire and the taste of the spiced chai, the peacocks meowing and the ticking of generators, motorbikes, and crickets, a distant wedding blasting Indian Bollywood love songs and fireworks.

Day one of my drama class begun with meeting the teachers, understanding the way of the village life, getting my stomach used to the food, drenching myself in bug repellent every night with no apparent effect, visiting homes of teachers & students in the villages, feeling lost and frustrated with my drama class, but finally finding a way to have the kids think of their own stories around one simple “other” tableaux that finally brought a possible show into light, and attending a village wedding.

We bonded with classes on yoga, Bob Dylan, and American culture. I learned more about arranged marriages and love marriages from open English conversations with the teachers.

My drama team, all rehearsed by now, put up their two performances- one in the school and one in the street of a village.

Exploring the country and having explored a part of the village life by now, the city life and the urban modern culture of the capital city Delhi came as a shock. Wow.. what a huge difference!

One of the interesting getaways of my one month was the Pardada Pardadi teachers’ vacation trip to the hills of Dehradun, Mussouri,and Rishikesh. During this trip, I developed more of an obsession with the blaring gender inequalities of the culture. The men on the bus could blast music, dance around, make loud noises and take up all the seats, while the women were squished together trying to sleep, making no efforts to quiet the men.

China, Thailand, Japan- yes, these places were entirely different culturally than what I’m used to. It was fun and interesting to explore competency in these cultures. Rural India- I had the hardest time. My morals, my iceberg (the part of one's culture that each person has deep beneath the surface that defines who we are)- for the first time- did not allow for me to want to gain competency with their iceberg morals: The gender inequality, the accepted idea that 'girls do not ever think for themselves & men get away with anything.'

There is no freedom of love or opinions. Here, I am at a school that is trying to change that.

The goodbyes were teary and full of many jeweled and Indian gifts. I think I now own 10 rings, 2 bracelets, and 3 necklaces from PPES girls.