Process Reflection for Multimodal Project

Upon receiving the assignment to create a Digital Story, I really did not know where to start as I was unfamiliar with video-editing software like iMovie.  However, I did know that I would use clips from my interview about Americans judging my interviewee simply based on her appearance.  I chose that part of my interview because Rita spent the majority of her time speaking about this subject and seemed amused by the ignorance of others.

Using these clips as the basis for my project, I brainstormed about the theme of judging others to introduce and end the story.  I started with a memorable quote and decided to end with a brief summary about what was said.  Although I did not know how to use all of iMovie’s functions, I did include sound effects and background music to increase the liveliness of the presentation.  Finally, I added photos of Rita and things that she spoke about to provide viewers with a visual experience as well.  Overall, I wanted to make sure that I covered the topic that Rita seemed most passionate about, and emphasize it with several effects in iMovie.

Portfolio Reflection Letter

Dear Portfolio Assessment Committee:

My name is Max and I am currently taking Ms. Taneja’s English 101 course.  At first when I saw the class title, This Place Called India, I felt a bit intimidated.  I never took an honors or AP English class in high school, so I already believed that I would struggle throughout the semester.  Adding onto my overwhelmed feeling about taking an undergraduate level English course, I knew little to nothing about India or its culture.  However as I soon realized, my lack of knowledge about the nation and advanced writing would not hinder me.  I have actually become a more confident and organized writer by simply enjoying the interesting subject matter and then applying it to various genres.

An important aspect of this course was to be able to write in an array of styles that apply to ranging audiences.  For example, in the first half of the semester we were tasked with creating a Photo Essay about the British Raj (India under Great Britain’s rule).  I knew that for this assignment, I had to appeal to larger audience, specifically one that was interested in learning about Indian history.  To cater to the readers, I ensured to include pictures with interesting captions that would grab their attention.

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Figure 1. A photo with its caption from my Photo Essay that I used to support my argument.

Later in the semester, the class received an assignment to write an Argumentative Essay.  This genre seemed more like the style of writing that I was accustomed to in high school, so I was definitely more in my comfort zone.  While the photo essay targeted a larger audience, this essay helped me develop my skills by appealing to a smaller group.  This group was comprised of immigrants thinking of moving to another country.  Using Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreting Maladies, I wrote about two immigrant families, their behaviors, clothing style, and overall quality of life in order to show potential outcomes of moving to an unfamiliar location.

During the last month of classes, we were required to write two reviews – one about a Bollywood film and the other about an Indian restaurant.  In my movie review, I provided an analysis about Swades, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, and aimed to inform potential watchers about whether it was worth seeing.  Similarly in my food review, I summarized my experience at Chat Patti in Decatur for readers to decide if they would want to dine there.  Since these reviews are for readers interested in satisfying food or an enjoyable movie (just about anybody), my style was much more informal than in other assignments.  This genre is commonly seen by a large audience, so it was important to make the pieces informative and of course, enjoyable to read.

Of course, this class has also boosted my confidence as a writer, and has allowed me to take more risks for the sake of creativity.  In January, I found myself constantly staring at a rubric, trying to write exactly what was asked, and nothing more.  The result was that my early blog posts, such as my Keywords Reflection seemed bland and incredibly systematic.

Whenever I write, I follow certain steps in order to ensure that my work is the best it can be. Surprisingly, I was using many of the terms we discussed in class without even knowing. For example, I always start my writing process by reading my prompt and determining what the rhetorical situation is. This helps me plan what I will say in an essay because it gives me an initial idea of what details I will include. My next step is usually to think about as much information about the topic as I can and formulate a main idea to guide my writing. When writing the main idea, or thesis, I make sure that it is worded very specifically to address all parts of the prompt.

After seeing my plain approach to writing, my goal for the course was to find my voice and not strictly stick to what a rubric requires.

Therefore, I knew when I wrote my Interview Article about an Indian immigrant, Rita Kapahi, who moved to the United States thirty-three years ago, that I would work to achieve my aim.  The article was supposed to read similarly to one from The New York Times, so I was able to work my voice into a more casual piece. Writing this piece made me realize that my argument would be weak without analyzing what my interviewee said.  By creating an Annotated Bibliography, I was able to strengthen my argument further with varying evidence about other immigrants’ lives.

Rita initially lived in Smyrna, and as it turns out none of her neighbors were like she was. They were all White, and most of them had never come into contact with a person of Indian descent. Unfortunately for them, they did not even seize the opportunity to meet one, as Rita says that most of her neighbors never attempted to get to know her. They took no time to consider that she was in an new, unfamiliar location, and stayed away simply because she wasn’t like them. Dr. Fred de Sam Lazaro, the director of the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas, similarly speaks of arriving in Minnesota and standing out as one of the only Indians in an almost completely white area. Both Lazaro and Rita speak of a unique perspective, in which they were judged simply because they were different.

Using others’ works, I could relate Rita’s story with others’ experiences to increase the ethos of my article.  With these elements, the article turned out to be unlike any other work I had written, as it was much more personal and less robotic.  I also saw myself grow as a critical writer and thinker by relating different works back to my interview.

Definitely the most important aspect of any piece of my writing is the planning and revision that occurs.  For the majority of compositions throughout the semester, the class would talk about a topic or genre, brainstorm, write a draft, review each other’s work, and later, edit.

While following this process, I avoided simple grammatical errors and disorganization, and composed pieces that flowed seamlessly.  The work that I definitely put the most time into planning and perfecting was my interview article.  Before even sitting down with my interviewee, I had to draft a tentative list of questions and hold a mock interview with a classmate.  This practice-run allowed me to see how the real conversation would proceed.

Did you live close to any family?

What are the ethnicities of your friends in America?

Did you experience any discrimination?  How so?

Do you still practice your customs/traditions from India?

How has your opinion of the United States changed from before you arrived to now?

What is your favorite experience from living in the United States?

Using my partner’s feedback, I was able to add these questions to my list in order to learn more interesting details about my interviewee.

After working on my questions, I met with my interviewee and tried to get as much information as possible to include in my article.  I recorded the whole conversation, and made sure to jot down important points that she made.  Without starting my draft, I then listened to the eleven minute clip and planned my entire essay on two post-it notes.

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Figure 2. Post-it notes that I used to plan/outline my Interview Article.

I used this outline to organize my work and have enough information to reach the 1000-1200 word limit.  Upon completion of the article, I then contacted Rita and asked her to read it over and to tell me what needed improvement.  With her help, I added more personal information to make the essay as accurate as possible.  In my draft I said:

Rita and her husband attended some of the best Indian universities.  They met in America but had their homeland in common.  Additionally, they both shared a common work interest, so this helped them bond.

However, I revised this section with additional information from Rita to make my article more detailed.  My final draft included the following:

She says that both of them went to top-tier schools in India, so they had an instant connection not only from work, but from the knowledge that they shared. In fact, Rita and her husband’s first conversation was about their joint love for ALGOL, a now obsolete computer language.

The final step of writing about the interview was to go back and revise small mechanical mistakes that I originally did not see.  This whole process took over a month, but led to me writing an article that made me proud of how far I have come as a writer.

I now believe that all of these projects have improved several of my writing skills and have me more confident in my work.  By writing varying genres, I learned to adapt my style and cater to specific audiences.  For example, I adopted an informal tone for my two reviews.  Also, I have become a more critical writer, as I have gained my voice and ensure to support my arguments with sufficient evidence.  With my voice present, writing has become a much easier process and more enjoyable overall.  I can confidently say that Ms. Taneja’s English 101 course has made me an insightful writer and I look forward to future classes that will help me develop my skills further.

Sincerely,

Max

Chat Patti: A Brand New Experience Right in Front of Me

 

For years, whenever one of my friends would ask to eat Indian food, I would quickly decline and suggest a cuisine that I was more accustomed to.  I refused to broaden my palette simply because of the negative views I had about the food.  To me, Indian dishes had strong smells, did not look appealing, and were unlike anything I had ever tried before.  Obviously, when I was faced with sampling some of Chat Patti’s menu, I was a bit apprehensive.

Upon my arrival to Patel Plaza in Decatur, I saw many different Indian shops, from a sari boutique to a large marketplace, Patel Brothers, to several restaurants in every direction.  The parking lot of the plaza was gigantic and just about every spot was taken, so I immediately knew that this area was popular with the Indian community around Atlanta.

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When I saw Chat Patti from the outside, it looked packed, with families and friends chatting and enjoying their meals.  As soon as I entered, I noticed the energetic and exotic atmosphere that the restaurant possessed.  The walls were covered in fluorescent lights, servers walked around to each table to ensure customers were satisfied, and the menu was displayed behind the counter, with detailed photos and names of every dish.  Fortunately, the line moved quickly, and the man taking my order was helpful in recommending dishes that I would enjoy.  He even input my order into an iPad, which displays the restaurant’s successful attempt at efficiency and maintaining modernity.  Chat Patti actually reminded me of a pizza restaurant, due to the similarities of ordering at a counter and then choosing your own table.  I could tell before I sat down that this was going to a unique, but somehow familiar experience.

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My order consisted of two types of chaat, a street snack commonly enjoyed in India.  First, I had samosa chaat and before trying it, I noticed that it was topped with three different sauces and smelled spicy.  When I tasted it, I was completely surprised.  It had a smooth texture to it, and was a combination of so many flavors I have had before.  I would describe the flavor as spicy, but sweet, with a taste that resembled a burrito from Chipotle.  The samosa chaat was packed with flavor and really impressed me.IMG_6523

The next dish that I had was sev puri, a finger-food topped with different sauces and mango seasoning.  This dish was presented nicely, with a piece in the center and the rest in an octagonal border around it.  When I bit into a piece, I realized that it tasted similarly to the samosa chaat.  However, sev puri is crunchy so it does not have the same texture, and it has a bit more of a powerful sweet taste.  I didn’t attempt to finish this snack, as I opted to have to rest of my samosa instead.

After my meal at Chat Patti, I can say that I am now a fan of Indian food.  It gave me a good preview of what to expect from other dishes and left me wanting to try something else.  Altogether, the two types of chaat cost less than $15, so this was also an affordable meal for a college student.  I have to give Chat Patti 4 Swoops out of 5.

Interview Process Reflection

When I was first confronted with the task of interviewing a complete stranger and writing an entire 1000 word article about her, I will admit I was quite overwhelmed. After I finished the interview, I listened to my recording of the conversation and jotted down a summary of the most important points. Additionally, I read several interview articles from The New York Times and The Guardian to get an idea of how I could format my piece.  With my planning phase complete, I then went on to actually writing the article, which consumed the majority of my time.  Of course, I made sure to use the parts of the interview that would best support my thesis.

Once I finished writing my first draft of the article, I went back to revise my work.  I made sure to include quotes, to provide evidence for my claims.  Also, after hearing that we should reference our sources, I ensured to mention an article I read that fit in really well with one of my paragraphs.  I finally just checked over my grammar and mechanics of my essay, which were for the most part fine.  Upon completion, I felt a sense of relief, but also content that I wrote about a topic that I had almost no knowledge about a few months ago.  My interviewee, Rita, spoke of a perspective that I had never considered, and it made me become more aware of others’ backgrounds.  Most importantly, this assignment helped me understand a point a view that was foreign to me.

A Surprise Behind Every Sari

“People assume when they see you are dressed in a different way,” Rita Kapahi says of Americans who do not know who she is. This is an issue that many immigrants, whether Indian, Chinese, or even Guatemalan, face. People see someone that looks different than what society deems as “normal” and make assumptions about his/her character and life. It’s a shame, because these people might be missing out on an opportunity to meet a truly interesting and kindhearted person. They might be missing out on an opportunity to meet a well-educated person, who loves their field of work. They might be missing out on meeting Mrs. Rita Kapahi.

Rita really came to America with a clean slate. Her family remained back in India, and she arrived alone, waiting for her co-workers to pick her up. She had not a single possession when she landed in the airport in Atlanta, as her luggage was lost during her journey. All she had to her name at that moment was her sari and her vast knowledge of mechanical engineering and computer science.

The fact was that Rita came here 33 years ago to work on a software project, and has lived outside of Atlanta ever since then. Back then, only the most skilled workers were recruited from India to come work here, and she pounced on the opportunity. This is something that has changed in recent years, as Rita says Indians of just about any skill level have the chance to start a life in America now.

Thirty-three years ago. The year was 1984, and the state of Georgia was populated for the most part with white Americans. Georgia was nothing like Rita had ever imagined about America. She says “When you think of America, you think of either big cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, or you think of big farms, or you think of Florida. [Georgia] was nothing like that.” On her drive from the airport, she notes that “there was nothing, just a few warehouses and some small straggling gas stations.” To her, the vast emptiness of Georgia was a complete shock, and strayed from what she pictured America to be.

Of course, this difference was not just about landscape, it was something much larger. Rita initially lived in Smyrna, and as it turns out none of her neighbors were like she was. They were all White, and most of them had never come into contact with a person of Indian descent. Unfortunately for them, they did not even seize the opportunity to meet one, as Rita says that most of her neighbors never attempted to get to know her. They took no time to consider that she was in an new, unfamiliar location, and stayed away simply because she wasn’t like them. Dr. Fred de Sam Lazaro, the director of the Under-Told Stories Project at the University of St. Thomas, similarly speaks of arriving in Minnesota and standing out as one of the only Indians in an almost completely white area. Both Lazaro and Rita speak of a unique perspective, in which they were judged simply because they were different.

For this reason, Rita, like most Indian immigrants, socialized with others like her. Her friends consisted of other Indians, Pakistanis, and Bengalis, all people that hailed from Southeastern Asia. Interestingly enough, her husband, who she met through work, immigrated to America for the exact same reason. She says that both of them went to top-tier schools in India, so they had an instant connection not only from work, but from the knowledge that they shared. In fact, Rita and her husband’s first conversation was about their joint love for ALGOL, a now obsolete computer language.

Another aspect of her new life in America included leaving behind the rest of her family in India. This would be difficult for anybody, as not being able to see a loved one for an extended period of time can definitely be trying. All that Rita, and most other Indian immigrants, could do is keep in contact with her family back by calling them. She recalls that a long-distance call to India used to cost $2.99 per minute, which meant calls had to be short in order to save money. So, it’s easy to imagine how happy Rita and her family were when the price of calls decreased to $1.49 per minute. In the modern age of Skype and other video chat services, sometimes we forget that long-distance communication used to be costly; we do not realize how much a fifty cent price decrease can positively impact someone’s life.

Luckily for Rita and many other immigrants, times have indeed changed, and with it, technology has also improved. Now, there is no need to have contracts with third-party companies in order to call home, there are several businesses that will provide that service for little to no cost at all. Rita is able to contact her family in India at any time, with no financial inconvenience nor time restraints on the length of the call.

Something else that has changed since she arrived in the United States is the fact that she now has a family of her own living here. She now lives in Dunwoody, about half an hour away from Smyrna, with her husband Sunil. Together, they have children that have lived their whole lives in the United States. As with many second-generation immigrants, their children are more “American,” in that this nation’s culture is the one that they have experienced for the most part. They are even in relationships with other Americans, something that was unheard of during the time that Rita came to this country, but something that we commonly see in our society today.

Rita’s story is truly an interesting one, and provides a point of view that the majority of Americans are unaware of. Many natural-born American citizens make assumptions about a person solely based on his/her appearance, but do not consider how fascinating he/she may really be. They do not consider what that person had to go through to live in a completely new part of the world. But ultimately, they do not consider that the person might just be Mrs. Rita Kapahi.

Swades: A New SRK Fan Club Member

If you have never seen a Bollywood film before, you wouldn’t expect one like Swades to be your first. This was exactly my scenario, and I was caught extremely off-guard. Before watching it, I knew who Shahrukh Khan was, and knew what Bollywood was, but I had a limited viewpoint. I expected every movie to have random outbreaks of singing and dancing, and big colorful sets. However, Swades surprised me.

Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and starring Shahrukh Khan, the expectations around this film are huge. It would’ve been a real shame if India’s biggest superstar, and the only director to bring India to the Oscar’s in recent years, couldn’t produce a quality film. Fortunately, this film is a winner.

The main issue with this film is the storyline. The problem is that there really isn’t a story, which makes the film drag. At a length of around 3 hours and 30 minutes, there are some points where you just want the film to end. Not much happens in the first half, and it is basically an extended introduction to the village and its inhabitants. The film really picks up in terms of plot in the second half, when Mohan is exposed to the extreme poverty in front of him.

Gowariker seems to lose his grip on the film at times, and loses focus on the main plot. There are many scenes that he could have easily cut out of film, which would’ve made it a shorter and sweeter affair.

Out of the many songs in the film, only a few stood out to me. First, the song in the RV is interesting as Mohan picks up a man off the streets and sings with him as if he’s known him for years. The last song, “Yeh Jo Des Tera,” is very good as it perfectly connects Mohan’s emotions with the situations of the film. However, the songs are a major contributor as to why the film reaches a 3 hour length, and the ones that didn’t connect to the plot were unnecessary.

The performances in this film were quite interesting to see. I now know why Shahrukh Khan is referred to as the King of Bollywood after watching this movie. He is the heart and soul of Swades, and he carries it throughout the 3 hours. His portrayal of Mohan seems effortless at times, as he always has the audience invested in his character. The supporting cast, from Gita to the postman, is fantastic as well.

The main reason this movie is a success is the message it carries. This isn’t something that is relatable to Indians only, which makes it very special. The message I received from the film is that there is no place like home. For a college student hundreds of miles away from my own home, I can say that that is an accurate statement. Even though Atlanta is a great city, New York is my home and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Besides this, the message is relatable for the millions of immigrants in the world. No matter where they go and how successful they become, they will never be able to forget their homes.

Swades isn’t the greatest film ever made, but it’s an important one for sure. It has a bunch of flaws, but it seems like Gowariker intended on it being a simple affair. However, Khan’s powerful yet subtle performance and the incredibly moving message make this film an enjoyable experience. I give Swades 3.5 Swoops out of 5.

Progress at its Finest

Even though India is a nation of many traditions and customs, citizens have worked hard to progress as a society, and to have experiences that were originally unimaginable.

This principle of progression was the main focus of Bachi Karkari, a columnist for the Times of India. She spoke of her life in India with enthusiasm because she has lived long enough to see how far the country has come.

Karkari began her lecture with an explanation of what India was like back when she was a little girl. During that time, she commonly watched as her parents would pay for various items with cash. To her and every other Indian citizen, paying for just what was necessary was the norm.

But, as time went on, Karkari observed that the average Indian consumer was changing along with the nation’s economy. By 1992, India was ready to set forth new laws that would help it integrate itself into the global market. These laws included a reduction in import tariffs, decreased taxes, and an increase in foreign investment.

Now, Indians were spending in a manner that totally went against tradition. Instead of only purchasing necessities, consumers now bought items that interested them. This can also be attributed to the introduction of credit cards. Consumers could spend without having to dish out cash immediately. An instant effect of the new way of spending was that Indians now made time for leisure as well.

A long term result of the liberalization of India’s economy was that the strict patriarchal society had become less important. Women were able to make huge gains with the capitalistic economy. They were obtaining jobs that only men held before, and making their mark on society.

Towards the end of the lecture however, Karkari said that although much progress has been made, total equality is not in near sight. India still remains patriarchal and men are unwilling to give up some traditions. For example, although women are now working in businesses and other sectors of the economy, men have maintained dominance by holding the highest positions.

Like most Indians, Karkari was very proud of how far her homeland has come. She went from living in a society run by men, to seeing her nation liberalize and women accomplish so much. Karkari believes that although India has made great strides in progressing as a country, there is a lot of work to do before true equality can be achieved.