Jet lag, hilarious stand-up comedy, inspiring women helping other women, an impromptu game of cricket, beautiful little children, hanging out of a rickshaw zooming past goats and storekeepers in a slum community, visiting a rural village and meeting with the doctors working to turn around child mortality for part of India’s child survival campaign…this is just a bit of what life on the road has been like producing “Stand Up Planet” from here in Mumbai, India. Oh, and that’s just over the last three days.
A few of my observations thus far:
Hasan Minhaj, our host, is not only a brilliantly funny comic, but a great sport (not good at cricket, though – sorry Hasan!) and has a soul that connects deeply to the mission of this project – to connect comedy with some of the toughest challenges in the toughest places on earth (while having some crazy adventures along the way).
Tanmay, Aditi and Karan, our new friends from the India stand-up comedy world, made us all laugh out loud at a stand-up comedy night after a 12-hour day of filming. And that’s really saying something, considering that some of their jokes were in another language! Apparently, the body language of stand-up comedy transfers across cultures and continents. Who knew?
We headed over to the Shivali Nagar slum community in Mumbai a few days ago, where Hasan met some local families, visited a mosque, and even got to drop in a milestone birthday party – 5 years old! – for the little kids who live in the community. What we learned: Chocolate cake affects all kids the same way, no matter where they’re from. Oh, and the name of the little kid who is the “biggest troublemaker”? Hasan!
The groundbreaking Aditi, one of only THREE female stand-up comics in India, not only kills it on the stand-up stage, but is a passionate advocate for women’s right to equality and social change in India. Hilarious, socially conscious, brilliant. She was invited to spend some time in a support session for women in an underserved community, talking about their lives and challenges.
The next day, our friends from UNICEF invited us to see the other part of India – the kind of place that’s so rural and dry that you can look for miles and see only a few cows and hay hanging in the trees. At this time of year, everything is completely brown and dusty, and the water has dried up from every single river, pond and stream. As our local guide told us, it will stay that way until the rains come in late July; India is in the midst of the longest drought since biblical times, a few folks mentioned. UNICEF, the Indian government and USAID committed to a new effort in child survival last year – the “Call to Action” for saving children and mothers through improved access to health care and vaccines – and the local health care center and village we visited is on the frontlines of the action. We met moms with new babies, dropped in on a session with doctors and nurses providing health and reproductive training to teen girls, pregnant young women, and women with brand-new babies. It was a scene full of hope and smiles (except for the wails of the babies being vaccinated!) – a really exceptional reminder of the challenges and the promise to save and improve all of these lives for the better.
My thoughts about it all: I’m beyond grateful to step into a world that I’ve studied and read about, to meet so many people with lives so different from mine, but similar in a lot of ways. I’m grateful for the generosity of people inviting us into their homes, their sacred places, and their safe places to share their hopes, their jokes, and their dreams for the future. And I’m ready for more… off to starting filming our next day.