The call to prayer at midday today reminded me I needed to put my book down and start on the productive needs of my day. Just as last weekend, the first prayer of the morning pointed out that it was far past time for me to be asleep. When I first arrived, the low drone over the PA system from the mosque down the road was startling. I've never lived near a mosque before and, sadly, Islam is practiced quietly in the States. But far faster than I'd expected, I grew used to the elegant chanting that flows through my window or across my stage during the two that overlap with our shows. I don't understand a word of it (I'm learning more Hindi and Spanish than Arabic these days), but it's comforting. And I've begun to cycle my own days around them. It hit me recently that we've long passed our halfway point, I'll be home in NYC in 54 days. As a secular American, it was interesting to realize how much I will sorely miss my daily ritual with the call to prayer.
Back in November, I had a funny moment with one of my runners. We all still barely knew each other, Salman especially barely spoke. It was during a prayer break when I'd snuck into the office to have a few minutes of quiet before the next onslaught of performances. I thought the office was empty until the door to our tech closet opened. Now, this closet is jam-packed with our servers, spare cables, and general technical debris. There isn't much room for a human being, just one clear stretch to reach the server. So I was rather confused to see Salman walking out of it as though this was perfectly normal. I started to ask him what on earth he was doing in the closet before I see the prayer mat in his hand. He looked up to see my face go from utter confusion to understanding and starts laughing at me and I can't help it, I start laughing too. We're both bent over double laughing hysterically at the idiot American who skipped the logical conclusion and thought Salman had just casually wandered into the tech closet for fun. He now winks at me when he's in the office during prayer times before stepping away.
My daily rituals and exposure to religion and tolerance are not just limited to Islam. The Bollywood cast is mostly Hindu, their b-boy is Muslim and one of the female leads is Christian. Yet the two non-Hindus are always the first out of the dressing room when one of the team leaders calls out for their starting prayer. They all pray together before their first performance of the day. If it's on my stage, I'm often invited to join hands with them. I don't know the chant or the ritual but holding hands with these beautiful and generous dancers, I offer up a prayer of gratitude of my own.
It's been an indescribable experience to be here surrounded by such open acceptance of all religions, to be surrounded by people of grace and acceptance. In the States, religion is a quiet sensitive topic, here it's always come up in my first time hanging out with friends. Our religion or religious upbringing is a huge part of our background and everyone is always curious. We all ask questions of each other and why we choose to believe what we do. Agnosticism isn't exclusive to Christianity, my friend in the Bollywood cast had never heard that English word, but it describes what he feels about Hinduism. He believes in something but he questions many of the scriptures he's been taught. Another friend says she is Hindu by culture, it is her background and heritage, but isn't always what she believes in spiritually. I'm reminded of a friend who claims to be Jew-ish. I explained the term to my Bollywood friends and they were laughing. Yes. Sometimes yes. Ish is exactly right. For all of us.
The Bollywood team leaves in exactly 2 weeks. It's just started to hit us that the season is beginning to wrap up. We all comfort each other that we'll see each other again, we'll visit, this is why we have social media, but we all know it's not entirely true. Maybe I won't make it to Mumbai, maybe none of them will make it to New York. We will all scatter to the winds and who knows if our paths will cross again. My statue of Ganesha, photographs, and memories may be all that lasts of our close friendships here.
A career in the arts is one of constant transiency. Never permanent, never staying in one place, never one routine, and never staying the same. I feel myself growing and changing from who I was in October, a lot has changed, a lot needed to change, and there is still more change to come. I hope to hold on to the grace, humour, generosity, tolerance, and friendship I've found here. I hope I'm not the same person who left NYC with no idea what was about to happen. I still don't know what to expect every day, never mind in April. But I'm excited to embrace the changes and the turbulence ahead. And to keep my time here as a reminder of how much still I have left to learn, see, and understand. I hope to never be done learning about this world. I hope I'm never finished making new friends.