I was one of the five that arrived for the first leg of this expedition and was astonished on a daily basis by so much of what I saw, heard, felt. People I spoke to here in the states who had there told me that there was no way to really prepare for what I was to experience. I spoke to a man from India who told me I should imagine that I was getting on a spaceship and would be landing on another planet.
Bombay is astounding – dense, and extreme in its life and death-ness – such vibrant and beautiful people in such incredibly desperate circumstances. Families with children living in little more than shacks without adequate plumbing or water, poverty beyond what I could have conceived. But what really struck me was that in the face of this, and without exception, the children we had the privilege to play for were bright and lovely and affectionate.
In the spirit of the first update that we wrote as a group – together, letting it fall out of us – I will try to capture in a few words some of the impressions that have stayed with me most strongly:
- Impromptu slapstick routine exploding from playing with kids after the show – everyone laughing and laughing – the kids at how silly we were and us at sheer surprise. Following THEIR lead is what made us funny.
- Groups of boys at the state school for destitute children so enthusiastically taking on the making of their “found object” musical instruments – creating drums and shakers beautifully decorated with flowers and leaves that they showed off to us and played with pride and HUGE smiles.
- A group of adolescent girls at the same school, introducing themselves and each other –in English. One girl pointed to another and confided to me—“she’s my best friend”. One shared an original song about her absent mother. Our unscheduled visit with them lasted for nearly and hour.
- Having to really work toward gaining the trust of a suspicious adolescent boy (and subsequently, a few of his mates!) with a magic trick—until he was swept away with the fun of trying to teach his friends how to do it.
- ALWAYS a group of adults, usually men, craning their necks to try to get a view of the show through the windows and doors of the schoolrooms
- By the end of two weeks of doing shows, the schoolrooms became an oasis to me. We would arrive sometimes after a two- hour or more drive in traffic and heat and chaos to find these peaceful, cool (by comparison) places where the children could just be children, if just for a little while.
- Heartfelt invitations to stay for lunch—to come back tomorrow—to stay and stay and stay.
- And again, hugs and handshakes and kisses blown and crowds wildly waving and shouting “Bye-bye!”