This visit is the first time in 18 years that I’ve been back to Chicago. My family lived in Buffalo Grove from when I was 3 to 7. As a result, some of my formative childhood memories were created here.
Yesterday, we came back to our old apartment complex. The apartment we lived in looks exactly the same from the outside. The school bus stop where I once got hit in the mouth with a frisbee is still there. So is the winding path, bridge, and running track where I first learned to ride a bicycle. My dad would wake me up at 5 in the morning every day to teach me to ride with my training wheels off. He never learned to ride a bike himself, but that is the typical middle class mentality isn’t it? Make sure your kids get every opportunity you didn’t have.
This is where I learned to ride a bike. If I had been here a couple days ago, I might have used this picture as my “road pic” for Photo 101.
Another memory that always makes us laugh happened in the parking lot in front of the apartment. I was probably 5 years old and there was a puddle completely covered in white flowers and feathers. To me, it just looked like a patch of ground, but my dad knew there was water underneath. He saw my little kindergartener’s mind considering and he told me repeatedly not to step in it. Of course I thought he was just pulling my leg and I stepped in it anyway – my feet were totally covered in dirty water, hah!
We walked around a bit more, taking our old routes and reminiscing about friends we had when we lived here and places we went. We visited my first elementary school. We visited some family we hadn’t seen in all these years.
My first day of kindergarten consisted of a scavenger hunt around the school which culminated with finding the gingerbread man. This is also the place where I learned how to hold scissors safely.
Perhaps my favorite moment was when my uncle spotted a tiny Indian girl with short hair and a pink jacket playing on the same swings I used to play on at that age and said, “Look! There’s Shachi.”
Home is a funny concept. For most of my life, “home” was wherever my parents and brother were living. India was also referred to as “home”, especially by curious white Americans who wanted to know where I was “really from”. Now, home is starting to feel like New York City. (I try not to say this outright to my mother too often.)
Mummy in the hotel room: We are currently on a trip, and she is a familiar sight in an unfamiliar place
I knew relatively few people when I moved to NYC. It’s a place where my friends are truly just mine
, and my apartment is just filled and decorated with my
whimsies. None of it has been curated for me by family members or a school. I realize that for some people this is the exact opposite of “home”, but I’m really loving meeting new people with fresh thoughts – it just feels right. I have a wonderful little niché of friends (we call ourselves “Uptown Funk” – hah) and I like that I’m in a place where I can meet people from so many different walks of life.
This blog was created because I want to take full advantage of that. I find that in life, and especially in a large city like NYC, it’s easy to get stuck in your own social bubble. I’m hoping that by keeping this blog, I’ll be more inspired to go out and explore the world, meet new people, and keep writing. In that vein, I’ve decided to take on the challenges of Blogging 101 and Photography 101 – a blog post and a photograph every day. I’m hoping it will get me back into the swing of writing for the public – and that it will help me create a little “home away from home” on the Internet.
Are you taking part in Blogging 101 or Photography 101? If so, comment below and I’ll check out your posts!
The week started out fairly normally. I had heard that the movie “How to be Single” was going to be filming 30 seconds from my apartment so I knew there was the vague chance of a celebrity sighting. I’ve seen a couple famous people in New York before, so although I was excited, I wasn’t freaking out. The only person I really cared about seeing in the HTBS cast was Rebel Wilson, but I figured the chance of it happening was slim since she’s Pitch Perfect 2 came out just last week and she might get mobbed. The filming was supposed to happen Monday morning but I was wrapped up in work all day and didn’t end up stepping out until 6 pm. Lo and behold, I walked out of my apartment and there was Rebel Wilson happily smiling and taking endless selfies with a mob of middle-schoolers. Just as I paused to consider trying to take a picture with her, she was called away by the film people. It was just perfect lucky timing that I saw her.
The next day, when I was traveling on business and sure the high point of my week had passed, I got a message from my dance company’s director, Minila, about a special opportunity. We had been invited to NBC to dance with Nick Cannon for Red Nose Day. My mind was blown. Ajna has been offered some cool opportunities in the past, but this to me was a sign that people are really starting to take notice of us.
I flew back into the city on Wednesday evening and switched immediately into dance mode. We were at 30 Rock until late in the night, but when Nick finally came over and danced with us, it was exhilarating.
On Friday, my friends and I had made plans to go see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. I’d been wanting to see this play since Neil Patrick Harris had starred in it but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. There have been a string of talented Hedwigs but when I saw a billboard advertising that Darren Criss is the current star, I knew I had to make the time. I’ve thought of Darren as immensely talented and down-to-earth for a long time – from watching him in “A Very Potter Musical” to clips from “Glee” all the way to his features in Tyler Oakley videos on YouTube. One of the friends that I had planned with, Proma, knew Darren from working with him on AVPM, and thought that we might be able to get in to see him. I wasn’t sure it would happen because her plans were uncertain until the last minute, and we didn’t know what kind of security Darren would be surrounded with. I should have known, though, after the week I was having, that it would all work out.
Darren was somehow even more down-to-earth than I’d expected. He was instantly thrilled to see Proma and very giving. He chatted with us about the show and the many moods of Hedwig (he called her “She” like it was someone he knew rather than a character he plays), and took us to his dressing room for a pictures. His wardrobe man and manager were also very friendly.
This week has been utterly surreal. In one week I encountered three celebrities in 3 completely unrelated events and in 3 very different ways. The first was basically a chance event – the kind of thing you’re told to expect, living in New York. The second was borne of the work my dance company has done over the past two and a half years. And the third was a result of making friends with some really talented and interesting people. All of it makes me love the City more than ever. And I find that the reason I’m thrilled has very little to do with celebrity. It’s really more that I know now that the things I’ve always wanted – surrounding myself with people leading interesting lives, achieving my creative goals, and living and interesting life myself are all things that are accessible.