We were woken up by the phone ringing much to early. It was 8am but our bodies were still dealing with the effects of sleepless nights and jet lag. After eating breakfast in the hotel we got a group of us together and went out into the streets near our hotel to find the nearby market. We didn’t have to walk far before we were introduced to the sensory experience of India.
Walking around in India is definitely an experience for the senses. The streets are full of people, cars, uneven sidewalks, and even an occasional cow or other stray animal. Not to mention the juxtaposition of the beautiful architecture and saddening slums. You are constantly keeping an indirect focus, scanning the area to be able to navigate around everything. As we searched for the market we had to wind through this maze. Tiresome, but more than anything it was exhilarating.
And then there are the smells. As we were walking we could smell a plethora of different scents, both good and bad, in just a few minutes of time. Incense burning in shops, body odor, sewage, spices, curry cooking, sulfur, car exhaust, or even fresh vegetables being sold on the streets. You just never know when to take a deep breath, and when to not.
We found the market after having to ask a few locals for its location. I found some trinkets for my sisters and enjoyed looking at the beautiful items for sale, including stunningly beautiful clothing. The textures on the fabrics are ornate, soft, light and flows easily with movement. I quickly found a pair of “Aladdin” pants I loved and purchased them.
As we started to walk back to the hotel, the rain began to fall. It is monsoon season there, meaning storms are quite frequent. However, we really didn’t mind this shower, it merely served as a tool for cooling us off. It felt so nice to feel the cool rain rather than the pressure and wetness from humidity and the sun. There was not a day where we didn’t come back to the hotel soaked in sweat. The heat was always present.
We got back, ate lunch, loaded the show supplies, and then all hopped on the bus to go to the performance hall for that night’s concert. With millions of people living in one city, there is no lack of sounds. Dogs barking, people in a market selling their wares, and the honking of horns. In America, we honk when someone cuts us off or something of the like. In India, they honk to tell people they are coming or to tell other cars to pull over and let them through. The beep, beep of horns never ceases.
Driving through the streets is an experience in itself. Drivers do not stay in their lanes, meaning 3 lanes become 6, motorcyclists zoom through gaps, and cars go to the path of least resistance. It is a ride that is full of bumps, stops, and sudden jolts, and it takes much longer to get anywhere than it should because of this system. Opposite of what it may seem, those who are driving are actually excellent at what they do. I have yet to see and accident, though many times I thought we were going to be in one. Their reaction time is impeccable.
Upon arrival at the theater, we unloaded our mass of luggage. It must have looked like we were moving in for the next three months. We proceeded to set up the stage by putting together props, unloading costumes, assembling the light stands, putting up the backdrop screen, and wiring up all equipment.
Then we rehearsed. The stage was much smaller than we were used to and much more slick. We almost had a couple of incidents because of this. At one point, as we were rehearsing our piece with the trampoline, Logan was practically dropped, because of the unusual setting of the stage. After recovering from the shock of Logan almost plummeting to his death, we took the time to warm up and prepare for the show in an upstairs room usually used for meetings. Not the most suitable for dancing, but it worked.
Much sooner than we had anticipated, we were backstage, in costume, and ready to go. The performance went pretty well considering how much time we had to prepare in the theater. The floor was slippery but we learned to deal with it. Unfortunately, during the first piece he was in, Cayel’s head collided with a nasty kick from Sharlee. He looked dazed through the rest of the piece. He stayed strong through Chakra but was hurt enough it was not safe for him to do the rest of the show. A concussion was diagnosed. We cut his duet, and made alterations mid-show for him to not be in the rest of the pieces. The show must go on.
During intermission we exchanged gifts with the presenters of the concert. The girls were presented with pearl necklaces and earrings and the men received a small figurine of a mosque. We were so touched by their generosity.
After all of our usual pieces, we finished with the Bollywood piece we learned the night before. Despite our nervousness, it went pretty well and the audience went crazy. When we finished, we went out to meet the our audience. They were so gracious and kind in their compliments. I even had one woman personally come up to me and thank me for the pioneer solo. I was so touched.
After taking the time to clean up the stage, and thank the choreographers of the Bollywood piece, we finally had time to eat dinner. This is where the final sense comes into play. Indian food is know for its spiciness but there is such a variety of choices. There is very bland and very spicy and then everything in between. It is always a guessing game as to what you are going to get but once it is in you mouth, you are committed.
At this dinner in particular, they had a wide assortment of options, all of which were delicious. Some examples being: cottage cheese with pineapple and cucumber (bland but so tasty), chickpeas in a brown and red sauce (mild and excellent with rice), balls of beans and rice rolled in cornflakes and deep fried (medium heat but probably the tastiest bite of dinner), and potatoes with a green spice (so hot it had members of the company in tears). Dessert was probably the most bizarre. It included a dough ball that was deep fried and them soaked in a lemony syrup (way to sweet for my taste), and a concoction of chocolate ice cream with yellow noodles, cream, and a strawberry sauce on top. I liked it all except the noodles which I thought tasted like perfume.
In addition to all of the options, there were a variety of vegetarian (aka veg) and non-veg options, all of which were clearly marked. A good portion of the Indian population is vegetarian based on various religious beliefs, and thus need the food to be clearly distinguished. At first we thought the markings of green and red meant how hot the foods were but upon tasting I discovered otherwise.
After eating, we were rushed out to the bus and truck to load our gear and head back to the hotel. I don’t think there was one person on the bus who’s head wasn’t nodding during that drive. Through the day our senses had been overwhelmed with everything we had seen and through that, our energy had been drained.
*Photos taken by our tour photographer, Mark Philbrick. Thank you for sharing!