Before entering college, students have almost unlimited resources for advice on how to make the most of a University experience. As a recent graduate, however, I have found it surprising that there is so little published work on how to “survive” the first year out of college, in the iron grip of the real world. The first year after graduation holds challenges – and exciting opportunities – for everyone, but spending my new-found independence in a completely different country has presented its own set of learning experiences.
For many young adults, dealing with roommates is a rite of passage. I am currently living with four roommates, all below 30. I am grateful that they are all generally neat and considerate, and we get along very well. However, when five hard-working young professionals have to split time between only two bathrooms and one stove, some eccentric group dynamics are bound to arise. Adding to this general maelstrom is the fact that only two of us are native English speakers – the other three are from Brazil, Russia and Czech Republic, respectively.
However, besides the occasional bathroom-schedule conflict, I have thoroughly enjoyed absorbing my roommate’s diverse world viewpoints. My Czech Republic-roommate Ondrej, for example, is a wonk for economic and foreign policy, and has already enlightened me on such geopolitical intricacies as post-World War II Eastern Europe and the Palestine-Indian tensions. He recently bought me a book of Franz Kafka’s “greatest works,” hoping to give me some insight into Czech’s greatest author. I have lent many of my own books -- including a few biographies of great American figures – in return.
Aside from learning about how to build healthy roommate relationships across different cultures, I also like to think I am learning how to be resourceful with my dietary options. In college, my “meal plan” was a mix of cooked dinners at my fraternity, campus dining halls, and frequent ham sandwiches I would whip up between classes. I was actually looking forward to post-college experiments with cooking – in particular, I had imagined myself embracing the thriving “local food” movement. My generation in particular loves to bolster organic, pesticide-free, healthy meals that support small farmers. However, seeing the dearth of choices in Indian “supermarkets,” I now understand that maintaining obsessive control over one’s diet is a near-impossible privilege in many parts of the world.
My market of choice, Haiko Supermarket, is packed with expats every Saturday morning, when I normally make my grocery run. Haiko absolutely satisfies the basic requirements of a food store, but having been spoiled with the culinary paradise of Wegman’s Food Market in New York State, I do pine for meat options besides Haiko’s two choices of chicken or mutton. My current favorite snack, tuna, only seems to be in stock about two weeks out of each given month. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful, although finding non-bruised fruit can sometimes be a challenge. With regards to eating “local,” the closest options I can think of are the cheap and popular roadside food stalls, offering everything from raw produce to specially cooked Indian snacks such as bhel puri or vada pav. These dishes are delicious, but for foreigners they can present some serious sanitary concerns – not to mention the foods are often deep-fried and very unhealthy.
Food quibbles asides, I have had opportunities in India which I’m fairly certain are not available to my recent graduate friends in the U.S. – such as appearing in Bollywood film productions. Most recently, I was recruited to work alongside several other expats in a commercial for a water heater company. I played one of several cricket players, giving a cricket coach a rough time during a game. After his hard day on the cricket pitch, the coach goes home, has a hot shower – courtesy of the water heater – and all is well.
In total, the filming took about 22 hours over the course of two days. We shot at a cricket stadium – Dr. D.Y. Patil stadium, which pleasantly reminded me of a U.S. baseball stadium, especially at night working under the stadium flood lights. In addition to meeting many other expats – including a large contingent of Russians – I also enjoyed watching the film directors and assistants at work. The directors were abrasive but effective – we finished the shooting early on Sunday and I was lucky enough to be featured in five scenes. I am told the commercial will be edited and on the air within the week – all I can hope for now is that they don’t edit my scenes out.
Though I doubt I will ever be given any speaking parts, I would still like to continue participating in Bollywood work as the opportunities arise. Bollywood agents enjoy recruiting expats for their “exotic” looks – not to mention the gigs generally pay well. These kind of exciting offers are like icing on the cake of my Indian experience thus far. I’ll always be able to buy beef in the States – hopefully “localized” beef, at that -- but when else would I have ever had the opportunity to be apart of “Bollywood magic?”
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