Archive for June 2nd, 2009

Alright it’s been a while so here’s some week 2 highlights of Mumbai Madness…

Colaba: Shopping trip part 1 commenced with a cool cab ride to South Bombay’s colaba causeway. Madeline, Kate, and I went buck wild at the hundreds of street vendors selling scarves, Ganesha trinkets, and bangles.  Some observations in Colaba: 1. If the price is not reasonable walk away because the vendor will either a. bring it down or b. you can find the exact same thing just steps away 2. Don’t buy drums from the men walking around with them because they will never stop following you and banging them in your ears 3. Careful with glass bangles… 4. See one thing you like and the shop keepers will proceed to show you all the merch that they have, sometimes this is helpful sometimes it’s a guilt trip. 

Feeding Time: After another day of adventuring around Mumbai, Jill, Aamir, and I decided to hit the Whistling Woods gym for some late night cardio. On our way to facility we made a wrong turn and ended up one street over from where we wanted to be. To get back on track we decided that the small dirt path next to the cow/buffalo/ox barns would be a good short cut. However, at the same time that our rickshaw began driving towards the other road, the barn doors flew open for some kind of roaming/feeding time and large horned beasts were EVERYWHERE. Stuck in the middle of the herd, Aamir bolted from the rickshaw leaving me and Jill alone to be sniffed by the wandering animals. The sea of dark beast final parted and we screamed at our rickshaw driver to speed through them while Aamir followed sprinting behind us. Eventually we all made it to the road with our limbs in tack but our dignity was definitely lost with the local farmers…

Internship: Madeline, Kate, and I met with Anshuman, the assistant director for Peter Gaya Kaam Se, the film we will be interning on! We were all excited to be able to read a professional script, see storyboards, and watch how the shoots are organized under a production schedule.

Hijras: Heading back from shopping trip part duex, Madeline, Kate, and I were sitting in our rickshaw in the middle of Bandra traffic. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw them, three large figures in saris weaving through the vehicles tapping on windows and clapping their hands. Hijras are cross-dressing men who beg for money using their signature clap that uses only the palms of their hands, loudly proclaiming their presence while walking from car to car. Unlike the other people begging for money, the hijras usually mean business when they come to your window. The ones that came to our rickshaw yelled in Hindi, of which all I understood was gora (white), and repeatedly said 300 rupees. Staring straight ahead, the three of us ignored them until they finally left, but the experience made me wish for a auto with doors.

SRK: Rounding out our week we were all invited to sit in the audience for Farah Khan’s new television show. Lucky for us the guest was Shahrukh Kahn, the most famous actor in all of Bollywood, featured in movies such as Om Shanti Om, Billu, and DDLJ. It was interesting to see the behind the scenes chaos that goes into producing a television show, and the differences between the US and Indian organizational styles. While in the US there is the concept of “time is money,” in India it seemed like all the changes and set preparations were being made at the time of the shoot. We sat in the audience for hours before the show even started tapping while the crew lit and blew out candles, moved furniture, and constantly swept the sand off the beach set design. Although there was a lot of waiting and the air conditioner broke down halfway through, in the end it was worth it to see SRK’s charming smile and dance moves!

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3, 2, 1, Go!

Watching the taping of the Farah Khan talk show – Tere Mere Beach Mein – was truly an experience. What made it so special was the guest – Shah Rukh Khan!

Last year, my students and I had waited for hours for SRK on the set of his film “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” but he never came. This year, he did show up and was on stage for more than four hours – and he was so close that I could have reached over and touched him. But I didn’t. We also didn’t get to “meet” SRK but just watching him command the stage and the audience was exciting.

To see the “King of Bollywood” in real life and in full form is a delight. He is actually not so short. He is rather handsome, charming and witty, and a professional through and through. I do think his movies do not do him justice.  He nailed his lines in the very first take, was patient with the crew as they worked out the kinks (this was the very first taping), and kept Farah Khan calm, and everyone engaged. He was a good sport and did whatever was asked of him without a complaint. I guess it helped that this was his home production – A Red Chillies Entertainment venture.

The theme of the show was that SRK is a “Joru ka Gulam” or a hen-pecked husband, and his wife, Gauri Khan controls him completely. SRK took this in his stride for the most part and dealt with it well, even when it got a bit tiring for the rest of us.

My favorite segment was when a “normal” couple came on and talked about how the wife controlled everything, and although she was tired of all the responsibility she couldn’t stop because she was afraid that it would all spin out of control. (She sounded so much like me a few years ago, that it was a bit disturbing. But luckily I did have the courage to let go, and we’re all so much happier.) It turns out that to get her husband out of bed, she says to him every morning, “3, 2, 1, Go!” And when he doesn’t follow her commands she kicks him out of bed!

How I wish I could just command people like that, and get them to do whatever I thought was necessary. Since I no longer have a “husband” at my beck-and-call, I think my wish would be to always have a chauffeur driven, air-conditioned car waiting for my every command. I am very fortunate to have lead a very privileged life in India (I am eternally grateful to my parents for this) and more than 2 weeks of rattling around in auto-rickshaws in Bombay’s heat, dust and humidity is getting old. I want my “real” Indian life back – now. “Driver, gaadi lao…3,2,1, Go!”

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