10:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Our first adventure of the day brought us to a Dance Village about two hours from our hotel. We learned that the village housed students who spend more than 8 hours a day dancing and a couple hours more receiving an education. Personally, I would find that rather arduous. Dance groups like these traditionally tell stories through their performance and often showcase their religious beliefs.
Shortly after arriving, we stepped in to watch a beginner’s class. Nine girls and two young men followed the instruction of which I presume to be the teacher and three female assistants. Though not every spin and step was perfectly fluid and gracious, their persistent emphasis on the smaller details was obvious. For dance groups such as this one to accurately and cordially tell a story, they must make certain that every hand motion, every heel stomp, and every hip swing is done with precision and rhythm.
After watching the class, we fed our hunger for adventure and wandered around the Dance Village. There were many hut-like structures that the students and instructors stayed in, giving us a glimpse into how the dancers spent their lives. All around the huts grew pretty flowers and exotic fruits, as vigilante bats flew around. In honor of the recent opening of The Dark Knight Rises, I named my little nocturnal friend Bruce Wayne. Soon after, the photographers in the group began their hunt for the best candid picture, an award that any picture of me surely won’t be nominated for.
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
After our exploration around the village, we ended the visit accordingly, by watching a performance rehearsal starring the instructors from earlier and eating another lunch highlighted by masala, naan, and sweet, golden, doughnut-like balls of deliciousness. We also celebrated the trip’s first birthday, arranging for a surprise chocolate pudding-type treat for Bianca, the day’s special girl. It had to be an odd experience for the Indian servers at the restaurant to hear us sing the “Happy Birthday” song before devouring their food. Well, maybe I was the only one ‘devouring’ sad food…everybody else ate in a much more civilized manner.
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
We’re getting to the time in the trip when the bus rides are no longer just a talk-to-your-seat-partner event. The conversation started with a couple of PG-13 topics, all of which were heartily debated until an abundance of laughter overtook us, delivering a number of quotes that I cannot share with you in this public setting. Just know that our group is closer because of it.
6:30 PM – 9:00 PM
With a night to ourselves to explore the town, it was only fitting that we arranged to be transported via auto rickshaw. And if you think riding in the bus was exciting, it feels downright boring when compared to taking a spin on India’s most famous three wheeled, cart-like transportation mobile. For only 20 rupees (40 cents!), you and three friends can be driven to any location and back, though it is not recommended for the feint of heart. Not only will you weave dangerously between cars and trucks and motorcycles, you will also have the privilege of traveling at ground level and taking back-roads.
Also fitting was our destination of choice for dinner: the Hard Rock Café. This was a unanimous decision, seeing as none of us had yet to even smell any resemblance of American food for four days. Now, four days doesn’t seem like a long time at all. But when you’re confined to the heart of southern India and have taste buds begging for a more familiar taste, four days can seem like an eternity. So we loaded our stomachs with burgers, fries, mac n’ cheese, and onion rings until our digestive systems were satisfied for a brief, but significant, return to the norm.
Following dinner, we loaded back into the auto rickshaws, though our return back to the hotel came with one stipulation. Instead of paying another 20 rupees to be taken straight back to the hotel, Paul negotiated a deal that call for a detour to a jewelry shop so the drivers could fuel up. And though most had their doubts as to the intentions of the men we made a deal with, we all made it back safely, to the relief of many.
9:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Almost everybody spent the rest of their free evening at the bookstore next door, treating themselves to some “light reading” to help unwind from a trip that has been nonstop thus far. After the bookstore closed, many of our group’s book-lovers went to a late night book club, where they were joined by a few of Germany’s (or was it France’s?) finest readers.
I, however, did not join, instead opting to watch some cricket in hopes of learning how to follow India’s pastime. An hour and a half later and I still had no idea what I was watching. But try again soon I will, you can count on that.
Nrityagram – Dance Village: www.nrityagram.org