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Teenager chases a film dream in Mumbai

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Marq Rodriguez enrolled in school in India and braced himself for a culture shock.

He hadn't ventured further than the US and the Caribbean but decided to go to Mumbai for film school because the tuition was relatively cheap.

“I'm paying for my schooling myself,” he said. “My family wasn't in the best situation economically to send me to school, so I had to work and apply for scholarships and represent myself. What I realised is the money I would spend towards education would be significantly more in the west than that of the east and other parts of the world as a whole, so I asked the question: what school is going to get me the most value for my money?

“I saw there was significantly lower costs of living in Asia, so instead of closing my mind to the opportunities ignorantly and just assuming going with the west was the best option, I tried to research other options.

“I considered the culture and lifestyle and a plethora of things before jumping into a college or school. I looked at maybe 34 different schools and felt like mine was the best option.”

The 19-year-old left the Island in July to study film at Whistling Woods International Institute. He learnt he'd been awarded the HSBC John D Campbell Arts Scholarship just before he left. The grant provides him with $30,000 per year, for up to four years. Still, he's cost-conscious.

“Outside of tuition and rent, I try to live off of $10 a day so for me that includes food and a ride to and from school,” he said.

“In Mumbai it's more expensive than other parts of India. There are parts that are very luxurious. The food and transportation are still cheap compared to Bermuda and the US, but if you're going shopping retail it's almost the same as the States.”

Mr Rodriguez scoured the internet for help in advance of his departure. He learnt about Mumbai culture, and safety in the capital city.

Once he arrived, the sheer number of people, the climate and the “amazing abundance of food” took some getting used to.

“The language is something that's been a challenge, but at the same time people are very expressive here so you can still feel a connection that goes much further than just words,” he said.

He's had to learn some things about India the hard way.

“I've learnt it's not common for people here to shake hands. One time I was thanking someone and offered to shake their hand like I do in Bermuda and they gave me a really weird stare,” he said. “When you move overseas you have to be willing to adjust what you know and adapt it into something new.”

He's learnt to be careful about where he gets his food and water. For the first two months he only ate Domino's pizza and McDonald's, as he thought local food was too spicy.

“The amount of people at a stall is a good indicator of whether it's safe or not. I've been lucky only to have been sick once in the last couple of months,” he said.

One of his more “exciting” firsts was a ride on a motorised rickshaw.

“There are no doors to close so if you fall out of a rickshaw you really fall out,” he said. “That was pretty much my first few experiences trying to get adjusted to life in Mumbai.”

In his spare time he's travelled with friends to Goa, a tourist destination famously known as the Rome of the East.

He's also ventured to Ahmadabad where he took part in Asia's largest filmmaking challenge: India Film Project. Budding artists are given just 50 hours to write a script, cast actors, film and edit their work before presenting it to a panel of judges.

“I also went to a place called Surat to celebrate this nine-day festival called Navratri. It's a festival full of colours that they have in the honour of Goddess Durga,” he added.

He gains more confidence in his new surroundings with every day.

“Every single day I'm going to be talking to someone who doesn't speak English and I have to figure out how to go from point A to B,” he said. “While doing that I'm stripping away the fear of being by myself.

“This is the first time I'm absolutely on my own and learning how to get food and find my way around. I'm learning how independent I am. I'm finding out more about myself and my limits and the extent of what I can and can't do. You learn what resources are available to you very fast and about what's around you and how you can use what you have to the best of your ability.”

His advice to other young people is to not be afraid to chase their dreams.

“There's no point in trying to fit yourself into a box,” he said. “You have to think outside of that to get anywhere so to whatever length your dream is, make steps towards that.

“In my opinion following your dream is something you should never compromise on.”

At peace: Marq Rodriguez (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Learning independence: Marq Rodriguez

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Published January 12, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated January 12, 2016 at 1:36 am)

Teenager chases a film dream in Mumbai

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