I was feeling pretty homesick and decided to forgo this whole Watson year thing. I got on the first flight to California and flew to Hollywood before coming back to Vermont.
I’m still in India. (Not that I actually expected anyone to be fooled by that picture). However, I did spend the day at a place that was trying to recreate parts of America.
Before I go further, first I must say, “Happy Diwali!” Clearly I came to India at the right time because it’s allowed me to celebrate both Dasara and Diwali. Diwali is one of the major Hindu holidays of the year and is a festival of lights. During this time, neighbors go to each others' houses to catch up and exchange sweets, malls swarm with “Season’s Greetings” signs and Diwali sales, and people fill small clay pots with oil and candles to signify the triumph of good over evil. As I type this, each keystroke is punctuated with the sound of firecrackers outside being lit by children all over the neighborhood.
Most things were closed today for Diwali, but, on a whim, I decided to venture to one of Hyderabad’s major tourist destinations: Ramoji Film City. Ramoji brags to be the world’s largest film studio complex (I’m a little skeptical). Regardless, it’s a sight to see.
The set for a music video of a Hindi song.
Most Indian movies (particularly Bollywood movies) are filmed at Ramoji. Given the popularity of the movie industry here, I thought it was worth a look. I wandered through the complex on a bus with other tourists and came eye to eye with plywood replicas of streets and sights from all over the world. There’s a fake Taj Mahal, a generic international airport structure (that doubles as a hospital on the other side), a neighborhood set up to look Bengali, a neighborhood set up to look South Indian, a London street, and of course, Hollywood. From a sociological perspective, it was pretty fascinating.
If you ever want to feel probably the most disoriented that you could, I advise you to visit Hyderabad, India, and then proceed to Rajoli Film City where you will be told about plywood London streets in the Telugu language while listening to Jingle Bells. (That song continues to haunt me here).
As a result, I spent most of the day walking around like this:
[Please note how anticlimactic this video is, how strange it is to be almost entirely alone in the park, the rather creepy music, and the fact that the street is cleaner than any other street I’ve seen in India].
Also included was a “Wild West” Stunt Show.
And a ride that was quite similar to “It’s A Small World After All” in which “America” was represented with an Oklahoma room and a room for New York that consisted of dolls of teenage boys fighting next to the Statue of Liberty. (Let’s not dwell on what others must think of America….)
I also ate my new favorite street snack which is, simply, corn.
There are some vendors where you get, literally, a cup of corn with a variety of toppings; my favorite is “masala” where they add various spices, salt, butter and a little bit of lemon. Delish.
There were also amusement park rides in between the film complexes and I had one of those Watson-year moments where I just stepped back and kind of had to laugh at the whole situation. There is perhaps nothing more simultaneously sad and ridiculous than going to an amusement park alone. Think about it: the whole thing is just meant to be silly and childish and indulgent; all things that are hard to conjure up (or rather pathetic if you try to) on your own. Nevertheless, a guy working there needed one more person for a mad teacup-esque ride and kept trying to persuade me to be the one. I reluctantly agreed and sat down in one of the cars. I looked around and realized I was the only woman on the ride not in a saree. I realized a crowd had gathered to watch me ride the ride. I realized that I way too old to be on a teacup ride. I realized I was alone, and couldn’t even laugh about the absurdity of the whole thing with friends.
And then I realized I was already on it. And all I could do was hold on and laugh about it to myself and stop thinking so much and try not to get sick.
And the day of plastic replicas and imitations of the Wild West with Bollywood music video sets all became kind of beautiful in their absurdity. Because what a perfect analogy this situation is for my year, in all of its ridiculousness and randomness.
Because I’m already on it. And all I can do is hold on and laugh about it to myself and stop thinking so much and try not to get sick.
I finished the ride and got in line for a second turn.