In the US things move at the speed of light. People are always focused on the future and what else they can be doing. We are so consumed with getting things done and doing things our way that we forget that the rest of the world doesn’t always work the same. Which is how I found myself with loads of extra free time during my stay in Chennai.
By November our production had hit a bit of a lull. Our editor had a terrible experience with registering with the FRC in Chennai and it turned out that they rejected her visa and were sending her back to Germany. After many days going back and forth to the registrar and struggling to find any clarity they told her she had 5 days to leave the country. Turns out she was given the wrong visa back at the Indian Embassy in Germany and needed to return to Germany, get a new visa and only then could she come back. That basically meant that by the time she returned to Chennai to start editing again I would be gone.
To fill the free time I surprisingly found myself with, I needed to find some things to do. I decided to start taking Hindi courses. It is a little bit ironic because while I am in India, and Hindi is the 3rd most spoken language in the world, it is NOT spoken in Chennai, Tamil is. Nevertheless, I still wanted to learn Hindi. I googled Hindi courses and found a couple of language institutes. I signed up for a conversational course and Voila!
I also decided to start volunteering with a local NGO. The organization is called One All and it was started and is run by a woman from Japan. She has been living in Chennai for 3 years and decided a year ago to start her own non-profit. The goal of the organization is to teach kids about empathy and respect through ultimate frisbee. They talk about what happens when you get jealous, angry, sad, etc. when you are playing a sport. Then they sit in a circle and talk about how those same feelings transfer over into real life and how they can work through them. The sessions are mostly taught in Tamil and the kids only speak Tamil, but I communicate through visual communication. My role is just to play the frisbee game with them and help with drills and relays. It’s a great distraction from the heartbreaking and sad stories I hear every day filming the documentary.
Finding other activities in which to participate while I have been in Chennai has challenged me to put myself out into the community and meet new people. It has also pushed me to stay flexible and take everything one day at a time. Throughout my time in Chennai and working on this documentary I have found that nothing ever goes as it is planned and it is extremely important to be okay with that and just try to go with the flow.