Namaste! My name is Tsukumo, and I’d like to welcome you to my first post on the Summer in South Asia 2016 blog.
It still hasn’t really hit me that I’m about to leave my home next Monday to Varanasi, India, where I will be working with an NGO called NIRMAN. Partially, it’s because I had just come back from a three-week trip to Brazil. (I was part of the PCAP/GCC Brazil program with Professor Ashley Lucas, where I was making and seeing a lot of theater with various local groups.) But mostly, it’s because I can’t believe I’ve finally made all of my plans to leave for India after all the hoops I needed to go through.
Coming to this point took A LOT of patience and flexibility. I applied to the Summer in South Asia (SiSA) program knowing that I wanted to work with a project that combined my interests in arts and social justice, and I prepared an application with such project in mind. I was working on my research question, homestays, and other logistics for months, before and after acceptance to SiSA. However, this plan fell through for unforeseen reasons just a few weeks before I was about to depart. As heartbreaking as it was, I knew that I had to find another plan as soon as possible to stay a SiSA fellow.
Janelle Fosler, our wonderful and hard-working advisor for SiSA, was quick to connect me with Nick Pilarski, a SiSA alumnus from 2012 who has done a project involving theater and political action. Nick helped me get in touch with NIRMAN, an NGO that works with the community to provide education to students of all ages, from English classes to various arts-related workshops. As a music major trained in Western classical music, as well as experience in teaching English as a Foreign Language and leading improv theater workshops as a Prison Creative Arts Project volunteer, I thought perhaps I could offer something for the program and learn how arts can be used to talk about social justice. I feel very lucky that they have offered me an internship position that I will be starting next week!
Located in northern India, Varanasi (a.k.a. Benares, Kashi) is one of the most spiritual cities in the world. Hindus consider this city an important pilgrimage site, abode of Lord Shiva and home to River Ganges that can wash away all sins. I am very excited to get to know this beautiful city over seven weeks, and I know I’ll have a lot more to say about this place after my time there.
I don’t really know what this trip will be like. I try not to have too many expectations going in, except that it will be an experience of a lifetime no matter what happens. (I still have nightmares about my plans falling apart, though. Hopefully, that will stop soon.) With a few cotton clothes, some toiletries, a brand new journal, and my oboe, I hope I am ready for my next adventure.