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My first day in India

This was my first blog entry from the ShantiSalaam tour that I co-organized with Hawah and V:shal in 2006-2007 to promote communcal harmony in South Asia..

December 11, 2006 at 4:47 a.m. – I just reset the clock on my computer to reflect the new time zone, and felt awed by watching the entire map scroll across the interface.  We're on the other side of the world, untethered to what passes for our daily reality, for two months.

My flights were chill; I met a Sabiha from Mumbai, who lives in DC while pursuing an MBA at AU and was on her way to surprise her parents with her first visit home in a year-and-a-half (and who had glasses that matched mine nearly exactly); a Dr. Mukesh Sarna who: taught anesthesiology at Harvard; asked about advice I’d lend his son, Samir, who’s applying to law schools this winter; shared tremendous insights into interesting aspects of medical practice, teaching, travel and politics; dug my rhymes, and; even shared photos of a recent dinner with some contacts (Shabana Azmi and Javed Mukhtar of ANHAD) to whom we reached out this past week!  My legs were stiff at the end of each flight, but I got a stamp from Milan (which is a gorgeous city, at least from the air) in my passport, so it's all good.

We're doing a small guerrilla show in a small café here in New Delhi tomorrow afternoon, and we apparently have an invitation to spin music and kick rhymes at a party Wednesday night – though we'd planned to go to Dharamsala that afternoon, so we might not make it.  That's been the most challenging aspect of our logistics: figuring out which travel plans to throw to the wind in order to make the various gigs to which we're which we're getting invited.  It's a great problem to have, but it introduces some fun & games with respect to our wheres & whens.  Never a dull moment….

5:51 p.m. – It’s been an intense day, so much so that I keep forgetting I’ve not yet even been here a full 24 hours.  Alitalia lost one of my bags on the way here from my last stop in Milan, which I’m hoping has been delivered while we’ve been out today. 

We crashed at dawn, after I celebrated my first morning in India (for which I got to observe the sunrise) in suitable fasion.  After fun late night conversation and martial arts goofiness in Akshay’s dojo, we climbed a small observation tower in Akshay’s back yard, where we looked out over his lavish, lush neighborhood and hashed through the logistics for our first few weeks that remained in flux.  

First, we settled on the notion that we should indeed split our forces when opportunities offer the chance to assert a presence in several places at once.  That prompted a decision that Vishal will spin a party here in Delhi on 12/22 while Hawah and I focus on Pakistan.  Later, Hawah will go to Mumbai a day or two ahead of the rest of us, leaving Vishal and I free to pursue a follow-up gig here in Delhi on our way down south to rendezvous with him.  Finally, we will act on the chance to spin music at a party here on Wednesday, pushing our dates in Dharamsala, Srinagar, Lahore and Islamabad (and our dates for passing through Chandigarh and Amritsar) back by one day each.  We’ll be back on schedule once we’re in Mumbai…where we apparently have a volunteer videpgrapher waiting to join our traveling circus!

It’s been a productive day, though I think we’re all itching to move on in order to start our programming in the field.  Our workshop at the local café got pushed back to tomorrow, and we spent several hours over the course of the day securing Authorization Letters from the U.S. Embassy (where a Foreign Service Officer suggested that being an FSO is a better second career than a first one, alleviating some of my lingering regret from having passed up that option for my legal training six years ago) for Vishal and I, and picking up Hawah’s visa for Pakistan – which allows us only 7 days in the country.  If nothing else, it at least makes planning our departure relatively easy….

Aside from my bag going missing, I’ve had a few other mishaps, but nothing serious.  My I-pod crapped out on me as soon as I tried playing it for the first time since leaving, which was disappointing as I got it specifically for this trip, I’d barely used it before, and Fadi just went through a small series of contortions the day I left to update it with some music I recently recorded.  And after recently spending a week in the hospital for mysterious swelling in my left foot, I’ve noticed sensations frighteningly like those I experienced at the beginning in my right foot.  I can’t fathom what that’s all about, as the docs ultimately settled upon the theory that I was simply having an allergic reaction, and there would seem few potential allergens to which I was exposed both in DC, as well as here in Delhi, that I hadn’t encountered before this fall.  In any event, if you know a good allergist, email me.

Among my most indelible impressions from the day are: the exhilaration of successfully sprinting across the street amidst the mad (but apparently routine) frenzy that passes for traffic; the beautiful, bright green parrots for which I hear Delhi is famous; the random and welcome company of a pair of backpackers – one of whom had more stamps in his passport than I’ve ever seen before – who kept us company while waiting in line at the Pakistani embassy; a series of ubiquitous signs announcing to passersby in public areas that “you are under surveillance”; the joy of having relatively few things to actually do, as well as the resulting bliss of having time to actually reflect on experiences as they happen; and the predictable onset of the (probably increasingly frequent) phenomenon of finding myself needing something…that I’d just left somewhere else.

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