Monday, December 25, 2006

flying close to the stars

[Note: pics to come soon]

Sometimes my tiny life seems to move into spaces that are so large and so filled with wonder that I might burst. It has seemed that way since I got here…. but Christmas Eve definitely pushed the envelope.

A mellow and sumptuous start to the day was a brunch at the Mediterranean-styled Olive restaurant in Bandra. Prashant and Vani picked me up, after collecting Serkan and Burcin…. and took a scenic route through the Sunday traffic via Juhu to the playground of the stars in Bandra. Olive has such a relaxed feel to it…. as Serkan said, it could be anywhere in the world and succeed. Expensive by Indian standards, we felt most grateful that we are paid in our yankee dollars (and for this meal were treated by our dear John Hughes…. oh if he could have joined us!) and could enjoy such a treat for $29. It is a buffet to blow your mind - including endless alcohol – with incredible seafood, salads, little nibbles of pates, mezes, hot meats and dishes, pizzas, salads, and pastas made to order, amazing cheeses and breads and a grill that had skewers of huge shrimps, lobster, calamari and marinated fish. And I’m not even mentioning the dessert table that made my knees weak. They had a band for this special occasion (well, two guys – one on keyboard and an electric guitar) playing great music – Pink Floyd, Beatles, all sorts of nice stuff and they had great voices! I have to say the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills has a rival now. According to Prash the Bollywood Stars normally show up here (this was a Christmas brunch so too crowded for them)…. so what more could you ask for! I can see this being my new hang out. Mellow… calm, great food…. atmosphere up the whazoo… sigh. Spending 3 hours over tranquil food….. nirvana. :)

I didn’t realize the day had more events planned. We dropped by a hair salon across the road where Vani is close pals with the owner (they do all the stars there apparently) for me to meet him and have a quick consult....schmooze basically (not my strong point!). Cool joint… great music playing and beautiful people everywhere.

Then…. things start to move into the surreal world, and I’m not talking some trashy MTV 20-something reality show here. We drive a little way into Bandra as Vani is taking us to one of her close friends’ houses. She wants me to meet him, she says. The building is where the goddess Aishwarya Rai and cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar live (!!!) ….. and, this man we are meeting is a major dude in India. His name is Prahlad Kakkar and he is *the* commercial director in India. He knows everyone, is always wanted by the media for interviews and quotes and is a true personality in every sense of the word. Vani says to me… “You have to know this man…. he’s how you’ll get to meet the stars. You must leave here with him having your number and you having his” Whoa! So…. we go into his lovely flat and get comfy in the many couches around him and proceed to have the most hilarious conversations. Vani tells him that I have to find a man in India and what should I do. He is full of the most delicious and side-splitting advice I have ever heard. It is refreshing and contagious stuff (hardly any of which I would do!) and we are wishing we had a tape recorder to keep it for posterity. What a guy. He tells me that I should be aiming for 18-20 year old wanna-be stars and basically ‘potty-training’ them (his term…definitely not mine!) in the ways of all things womanly (and I mean *all* things) and then when I get bored with them…send them off into the world. He believes I should start up a school…a service as it were…to help the women of India and to please myself! He also said I should aim for married men… those married 5 years…. as they are rather desperate and all potty trained already…. and then I won’t be tied down. When I mentioned I really didn’t want to do that anymore… and was actually hoping to get a little settled down…Prahlad just brushed it aside and said that was crazy and that I totally just need the young ones and the married ones… just use them as I see fit. It just had us all howling with laughter…. I told him he was now my guru. Vani made him promise to introduce me to the stars I like. ‘That’s not a problem in the least’ … says this cheerful, cheeky, larger-than-life man. And then he told us all the stories of their crazy lives and what they are really like while we drank tea…. what an afternoon. Like I said….. my little life can seem awfully huge sometimes.

And now I have Prahlad’s number in my cell. And he has mine.

We couldn’t really end it there, could we? ;) Vani had a friend in town…. Se we came back to my apartment and had a quick bite to eat, then got dressed up and headed back to Juhu to a club called Rock Bottom. We arrived after 11pm but the place was nearly empty still. Some nice white booths all around with couches, and the cover charge includes drinks. Cool looking place. Not a soul on the dance floor though. Vani does something to me … gives me dutch courage or something. I would never do this in LA…. hell, I never really dance in LA anyway…. but the two of us went out there and went crazy all by ourselves. It was great fun. Noone was watching anyway and we just enjoyed the music and let it all hang out. Finally some people gradually started to join…. but it never got too crowded like at Poison so it was a great place to dance and enjoy yourself. We finally left just around 1:30…. happily exhausted. I don’t think I’ll be able to take it all in, let alone top that day for a while. Hmm…. perhaps I shouldn’t say that. This is India after all. You never know what is around the corner. ;)

Friday, December 22, 2006

no more rain.....

The end of a great week. After a fun afternoon with work paying for the office to see Happy Feet at a local cinema (lots of hooting and hollering at our shots... yay - Rhythm and Hues!) .... Arun, Serkan and his wife Burcin and I headed by cab (no rip off this time) into Juhu to have dinner at Rain. I'd been looking forward to going back here since 2002. I've always read up on the reviews of the place to see that it was still good... it's always been a cool hangout popular with Bollywood stars and one of *the* places to go in Bombay. We thought we might be lucky and get in without a reservation since we'd be there early at 8:30 or so. I had tried to call them all day but couldn't get through to the listed number. The taxi driver asked for directions, and got us there.... but..... it really didn't look like we'd find a 'happening' restaurant there... it was very residential. Couldn't find any sign of it! I asked a young guy in the laneway and he said.... it closed about 3 months ago!! Tragedy.... no more Rain. RIP.

We ended up at a South East Asian place around the corner and had a decent meal there instead. Cheap drinks and nice outdoor tables. But still.... I'm mourning for the loss of Rain......

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lovely Rita Meter Maid ..... where were you?

Sunday afternoon.... after a soporific biryani lunch (we had joined my dear college friends Anil, Gayatri and their son Nikhil for lunch - we had studied CG together in Toronto way back in 1996) - we headed from Shivaji Park to downtown Bombay. We told the driver "Gateway of India".... only the most well known landmark of British domination in the city... a big archway commemorating the landing of some fancy-pants Monarch or other coming ashore and saying "I declare this land continues to be a part of thy snobby empire - let them eat cake!" .... it's very famous.

Anyway.... the driver indicates that of course he knows it. We head off... and before very long it appears that things are not all that they seem ;) He starts to pull over quite frequently and ask other taxi drivers how to get to the Gate of India. That's ok at first... it's happened a bunch before and they all work like a big database of information together that I think is very cool. But after about the fifth time I'm beginning to think either he suffers from major amnesia or he doesn't trust anyone as far as he can spit. At one point he asks one guy then drives *literally* 50 meters ahead and asks another dude! Arun and I are starting to get a little .... wary, shall we say. Not long after this.... 9 questionings into the ride..... he stops at a red light and drifts over the line (I am surprised that it mattered ... most traffic lights don't seem to have lines that mean anything)... and at the other side a cop on foot pulls him over. The driver throws us a look and gets out. They stand behind us and I see him get 20 rupees and try to bribe the cop. C'mon dude... 20 rupees??!!! That's not going to do it! The cop doesn't even glance at it... he keeps writing the ticket. Arun and I are out and out chuckling at this point.... and when the guy asks the cop for directions to the Gate of India I think we start rolling in the back seat. I would have taken a photo if I didn't think the cop might have objected. ;)

He drives on.... but only to stop 100 meters later to ask for more directions! Unbelievable! Then he turns off the main road and starts a windy, roundabout meander through downtown Bombay and the Churchgate area. I find where we are on my street map and see we have only a couple of streets to get there. Meanwhile ... the driver is asking away.... making kissing noises out his window to attract the attention of passer's by to ask them for directions. It was just comedy at its purest. I was waiting for him to turn around and see the face of Mr Bean.

When we finally arrived after an *interminable* amount of time... we looked out to the meter...which on a cab is outside the windscreen. The guy had this old weathered plastic cover over it and from the back seat there was no way we could read it. I presumed *he* could...perhaps.... and he went to his meter card to translate the numbers into a rupee amount. I watched what he did.... found a number on one side - thought for a moment, then turned the card over to the higher amount side.... found a new amount and handed it to us and said that we owed 300 rupees! Wow... um.... we were a little shocked but not having taken a taxi before we didn't really know, plus he had gone all over the place and maybe that was right. Arun asked to see the meter card..... the guy handed it over and reset his meter at the same time (cheeky bugger!) We really couldn't do much... so we paid. Then afterwards it dawned on us that he had added his fine onto the original fare when he turned the card over! Man.... and to think for one small moment I was thinking of tipping him extra to help pay for it!!! ;) [btw: the following picture is not taken by me... I found it on the web]

Yup..... we wuz well and truly ripped off.... ;) Arun was pissed!

Anyway.... we wandered around through the throngs of Indian tourists around the Gateway.... looked at all the vendors selling the most amazingly useless stuff. :) The best was the enormous balloons that I defy anyone to come up with a use for. No kid could even hold it..... and you couldn't fit it in the car home.... let alone on the motorbike! hahaha.. I'd love to see that though :)

We took a carriage ride in the tinsel-silver carriages around the Taj hotel... then went into the grand and gorgeous Taj for a little break and a drink (fruit salad with fruits I couldn't even name but just loved!) Arun had a falooda..... a rose flavoured drink with ice cream (kulfi) and noodles (vermicelli)!! :)

After that... a walk along the ocean front...then deciding where to eat dinner. We were getting tired so decided to stay local. Gayatri had advised us to go to Khyber (if in that area)... a place near the Taj a few corners away. It was beautiful inside... marble open stairs up to low ceilings and stone walls.... very atmospheric. The food was tasty... but I was already stuffed from the wonderful chicken biryani at lunch so didn't make the most of the Khyber raan (thick thick red spicy sauce and giant pieces of mutton). Yummy cheese naan.... my favourite. ;)

It's took 1 3/4 hours to get home. A taxi to the Marriott in Juhu (only 140 rupees ALL that way) and then an auto from there to Lokhandwala and home ... a looong day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Lamb by any other Name...... is not a Lamb

A little side note here. Arun taught me something about Indian cuisine..... when you order lamb in India you're most likely getting (what we in the West call) mutton - adult sheep ..... and when you order mutton you're probably getting goat. So now you know!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Nahee to dessert at Zenzi

A lazy day of nerding out with Arun... and when I say nerding out I really mean it. We were truly a part of the attention deficit disorder generation - tv on with the sound down for the cricket, ipod on with music blasting, and both of us with our laptops on our laps using our newly installed wireless dsl. Could we possibly have had any more media stimulation?? ;) Anyway... I digress.... after a day of that - we headed out for a night in Bandra - the centre of Bombay nightlife.

There is a backstory to the place we chose. An animation supervisor at R&H in LA, Erik De Boer, spent quite a while at our India office. He befriended a puppy outside the office building, which became orphaned. He would feed it and the guards knew about his growing relationship with the little street 'urchin'. One day... (I think the dog was 3 weeks old or so) the puppy was hit by a car and badly hurt. As Erik put it to me 'I had a choice - do I kill the dog now and put it out of its misery - or am I now a dog owner?' Well... you can guess the ending to the tale, right? So then.... the puppy is rushed to the vet and nursed back to health (with the help of a loving R&H office) and Erik takes her back to the US with him. Turns out it's extremely easy to bring a dog back from India... no real concerns for the rampant rabies or anything. who knew?! His favourite hangout while he was here was a bar/restaurant run by Dutch people (he is Dutch) called Zenzi... so that's what the dog was named. Hence we had to go see the place.

It's a block or two up the road from the club Poison we went to last Saturday night. We got there really early in Mumbai terms - most people eat out around 10pm here, so places don't start jumping until much later. We arrived around 8:15pm. It was very stylish but quiet. We had heard the music was good but nothing was playing while we were there. Had some good fish (pomfret) and tasty appetisers. The pork was so delicious. Only big downside for me was the other patrons were mostly white...and I have to say I am really enjoying being around only Indian people all the time. I don't want to go where the white people are ;) Especially since we had two bloody Aussie guys talking loudly next to us... spare me, pleeeze ..haha!

The desserts were not too interesting so we thought we could go somewhere else. I suggested the JW Marriott. It is a phenominal hotel..... quite the fanciest I've been in anywhere in the world... just so grand and full of people dressed in theie finest. Many restaurants - we went to an Italian one and sat at the bar and shareed a decadent chocolate sinful creation. Veeery good.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

lunch out for our gang

It's hard to believe that all the planning in LA and here we are at the end of week one of the apprenticeship programme already! Vani took all of us, including all the regular staff people involved, out for lunch at the InOrbit mall. It was great fun... we couldn't all fit at one table since there were 20 of us. So we split onto five tables and were served tasty thalis... this place was Gujurat style.

The waiters come by constantly retopping all the little bowls. And the head waiter guys have all this cool sign language (think baseball's sign language for what to pitch to throw!) to indicate what table needs what food. There must be about 20 different foods you are given - your taste buds are certainly teased in ever way - delicious...and then a choice of about 4 desserts (I had gulab jamuns to die for.... better than any I've tasted before. Juicy inside... oh man. My mouth is watering even now....

I took a bunch of photos... today was the first real day I have taken some. I had showed my camera to Ravi... who I know will become my mentor in all things photographic here in India. He is full of good tips. I look forward to going out to take photos with him. I've put all the photos on my Flickr site.. so you can check them out there.....

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How old am I

Oh yeah... one cool thing. I had test results back from the Dr... and I guess they didn't really know my age. So they put down 24.


When You're Slidin' into First and You're Feelin' Somethin' Burst...

I don't want to really dwell on the last few days. Today was a much better one. But I guess I should touch on it just to 'add to the colour' so to speak.... not to be too visual about the whole thing. It turned out that the trip to the Rice Boat restaurant on Friday night that Arun and I made had pretty dire consequences and by Sunday I was heading towards something I would have rather avoided...ahem. I thought it was just the results of the night at Poison with the girls.... but I spent the night in the loo and then Monday morning my body was aching and I was doubled over and emitting liquid in ways I never really wanted to be familiar with. How to go to work?! The ride in the auto that I usually love was one painful bump after another... white-knuckled all the way.

It was day one of the much anticipated lighting apprenticeship programme. The first one at our India office of Rhythm and Hues! We met with all the apprentices in the screening room and went through the introductions and the exhaustive instructions (employee handbook in a giant nutshell) all morning. Nice bunch and it seemed like a good ice breaker. By the end I was in agony though. I lay all afternoon on a couch in Vani's office... stomach cramps like a knife.

That night.... yeah.... saw too much of Percy the Porcelain. We know each other well now. I couldn't come to work the next day.... and headed into my second day of not eating. By about 3pm I realised I might be passing blood and felt the level of panic rise ... sharply, shall we say! ;) Oh bugger.... I really didn't want this. I felt like such a loser. Anyway... Vani jumped into action and before I knew it Aparna from HR at work was here and the Dr was coming. She gave me the prescritions he ordered over the phone, he came and did the once over, and I settled in for a night of nausea and vomiting to end the saga. I stayed up all night... started reading The Golden Compass which was fantastic and went well with the hallucinations :)

The next day.... starting to improve.... pumping the Gatorade and by the end of the day... a teeeny teeny bit of rice. First food in 3 days! Whahoo.... tummy flips of shock and horror and thankfulness!

Today I was back at work.... sheepish and embarrassed that I lasted not a week in India without falling sick. Yeah Jude... way to go. That's a way to show you're tuff! :( Oh well... it felt so good to be back ... and amongst family! Straight into class and helping Arun teach the apprentices. Very fun and challenging. They are a great group. All seem to be interested, motivated and wanting to move faster than the pace we planned! I was pumped with questions... a really good test for me. I loved being pushed like that. It was exhausting in a most satisfying way. My energy was very low but I had a really good day. Of course... it's only 9pm and I want to crawl into bed now ... g'night ;)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

30,000 I Do's in a Day!

So.... today is an auspicious day.... I saw on tv that in Delhi alone 30,000 couple have gotten married! I don't know how many in the rest of the country... that's just one city. Apparently traffic is blocked and being redirected and wedding venues are overbooked all over the city. What a thought! :)

Truth or Dare and a little Poison

(Once again posting a little late due to not getting internet connection in time)

The first week is over! FAST! Arun and I are tenderly spending Sunday recovering from a crazy night of partying Bombay style. I didn’t quite do what Arun did but I still feel totally wiped out. I don’t have the energy those girls have ;) Let me start at the beginning. At 3pm the apartment was descended upon by about 17 of the R&H girls..they brought all kinds of snacks and drinks and their excitement, giggles and colour. It was more female company than I had experienced since probably…. um… primary school? hehehe…. The guys from work had come earlier to set up a projector for the dvd player and were connecting our internet. They got Arun’s working but as they started on mine the girls started arrived and they were banished...boohoo… will I ever be connected to the world again? (Monday they say… fingers crossed)

We watched ‘Rang de Basanti’ that I had bought a few days earlier (watched with Arun who hadn’t seen in before). As it got to the most serious part Vani said ‘ok, too depressing, everyone has to strip’! Squeals of dismay! But she didn’t quite mean it… more 'pretending you were stripping'… so I put ‘Lady Marmalade’ on as loud as my little speakers could bare and Vani started to show us how to do it! We had the movie projected on us and the atmosphere was hilarious…everyone was shy but got into it and the performances were pretty funny and everyone clapped and hooted. I could see how these Indian girls can really let their hair down…couldn’t really see this happening at an LA party in the same way ;)

Next came Truth or Dare… everyone had at least one turn and most people actually took the dare! Vani came up with outrageous dares… we had people showing their underwear, pretending to make out with cushions, licking biscuits to turn us on,Vani
farting on command (!), and one girl mounting a chair like a motorbike and hugging the guy in front of her... amongst other things ;) It was really funny. The questions were hilarious too. I took Truth and was asked which guy at work I liked…… of course I answered (even though I have little knowledge of everyone yet) and got a lot of ‘Oooooohs’ when I replied..... hahahaha! It was all a hoot!

After that we had a treasure hunt organized for us…. A lot of fun. It had 3 teams of us running around the apartment looking for things frantically. One pair of socks, 3 stones, a red rose, 1000 rupee note (who has one of those!!), 2 hair bands... lots of things. Mayhem ensued! I suspect I am getting things out of order here. We continued
our Truth or Dare… and ended up in a ‘give Jude advise on how to get an Indian man’ session! Everyone had something to say! We played Dum Charades… which is Charades to us in the West…and my job was to give someone on either of the two teams an Indian film name for them to act out for the other team. It was really fun. (Oh shoot... I forgot 'Omkara', and 'Yuva' and 'Sarkar'! and .... and...!!) At the end they gave me five western film names for me to do. Challenging but fun! I’ve hardly ever played but they were really good so I didn’t have to act much before they got it! Phew ;)

We ordered pizzas (let me just mention that Dominos in India is so good! I would never eat it in the US but here it is pretty tasty!) at some point in all of this. People began to leave and we called poor banished Arun home. He had been asked to hang out at the other R&H apartment by Vani but by now it was nearly 9pm so he came home and there was only about 10 girls left. I convinced him to hang out with us… Vani tried her hardest to get him to strip…hehehe … the panic in his eyes was like an animal about to be caught by hunters ;) after much cajoling we finally let him be…though he did have 3 of us dragging him at one point. I can only think of 3 people who perhaps would done it.. probably Greg Yepes, Salar Saleh and Danny Speck could have been convinced…. haha..we’ll never know!

So…. we then had a conversation carrying on the earlier topic of Indian men and what they like etc… but this time from Arun’s perspective. He has told me a lot already, but the girls were fascinated to hear his point of view and really grilled him. He got some pretty tricky questions! Finally they decided it was time to go out. I was tired and my stomach was ..well…. how shall we put this delicately…hmm… ok…. Arun and I had gone to this great Kerala restaurant called Rice Boat on Friday night and the food was delicious but S-P-I-C-Y…. and I had started suffering from it about midday…. But,I wasn’t given a choice about going out. ;)

I convinced Arun to come along. The girls took a long time to get ready and we didn’t head out until around 11pm I guess. We had a driver in a Scorpio, and all 6 of us fit in with baggage. Traffic was heavy for a while but got better as we got closer
to Bandra. We drove through Juhu past lots of cool looking bars and into Bandra past the amazing looking JW Marriot (must go there one night!) until we found Poison…

reputedly the most happening club in Bandra. We pay and head in….. lots of people, pounding music, free drinks (more on that later..haha) and loads of young Mumbaikers (hey, I read this word somewhere ok? I don't *really* know if they call themselves that!) out for fun. We grab a piece of floor and dance ourselves crazy. The music was great… dance music that was a combo of western and Indian…. Perfect mix. Good DJ and lots of people to watch. It got more and more packed and started to get a little uncomfortable at times as people pushed into us…but we had fun. My stomach played up at one point… standing all that time was the problem.. I felt a bit dizzy after dancing like a maniac. But drinking water and visiting the loo seemed to help. Yeah yeah…TMI ;) It was actually quite a small club. Didn’t see that many good looking guys though… and the ones there were all had girls with them… bummer! ;) Arun was in luck though…. Many gorgeous women. He did not want to dance and began to drown himself in beer (Fosters no less!!! Blegh!) but Vani got him going eventually and he was having fun. He did forget his limit though and before he knew it he was on his 7th…8th…9th!!!!! I knew he was in for trouble. We left as the club was about to close after 2pm. Arun was not in a good way… I was so tired… but the young girls were ready to keep going! Hehehe…. I ain’t as young as I used to be. Plus the remains of jetlag and an upset stomach don’t really help… whahoo!

We were driving home when Arun had an emergency stop…. I need not say more. ;) we got in just before 3am. I gave Mum and Dad a call and crashed. A restless night and today
we have felt like trucks hit us…. though Arun worse than I for sure ;)

It has been a great week though. The apprenticeship programme is pretty much ready to go and we are settling in to the office very well. I think people are still a little shy to talk to us… but hopefully that will change. I just want to make some good friends very soon. We have been enjoying the food court at the InOrbit mall every day sooooo much! Man…. delicious. We’ve eaten out a couple of times and ordered in as well. Still tired but I know it will all change soon. Tomorrow week 2 begins… now for the real work!!

The Yin and Yang of it

(Also posting from many days back)

So… I have finished two days of work at R&H India :) I have found the yin to my yang. It feels like the piece that was missing really. What a place. Vani has decorated it so beautifully… the pictures didn’t do it justice… and the atmosphere is wonderful. I will take some photos myself and post them (sometime!). It’s not just the look of the place but the people that really make it. Everyone is so happy and friendly. Many smiling faces…. pretty girls and cute boys ;) I have been made to feel so welcome. The first day was a big tour around with introductions. It is going to take a long time to get to know names…. which I feel guilty about. I will study the intranet people pages as often as I can. Catching up with the admin guys who looked after me on my day of arrival was lovely, and then meeting people I had only seen on the small tv screens of the video conferences was such a nice change. I sat in on the orientation of 3 new animators… very thorough going through the employee handbook item by item. It reminded me of the old Rhythm and Hues and the values we used to hold so dear but seem to have lost. I feel this is the place we used to aspire to be…. actually working and existing. Sigh…. very inspiring. It’s a great workplace and you can see how much people seem to enjoy it - at least from my initial viewing.

At lunchtime Vani and I went around the corner to the InOrbit mall… one of two monster malls next to the building Rhythm is in. OMFG! Now.... This place makes the malls I see in the US look pretty pathetic… Fox Hills was always a dump but looks like a hovel next to this beautiful sparkling diamond of a place. Wow…. And I’ve never seen a foodcourt like that :) I intend to try every single place in it… except for the boring Ruby Tuesday’s ;) puh-leeze!! We ‘um and ah’ about what to have and decide on dosa’s …. A masala dosa for me.. delicious! Too full for a falooda for dessert. Some other time. Am I going to balloon up to the size of a buffalo while I’m in India???!! Gulp! Hehehe

The afternoon I hit a wall of the tireds…. ( jetlag catching up again) but I last out until it’s time to go home and see Arun who has arrived from the LA office via his hometown Coimbatore. His flight was cancelled and he got in it was great to see him when I got home. We ordered Chinese food to be delivered and then both crashed kinda early. I was nodding off as we waited for the food to arrive (you gotta love all the delivery in Bombay!). Did the dishes a little ineffectively in cold water… no hot water in the kitchen. :P have to get used to not having a dishwasher for a while. Good practise for me to actually do some labour eh? Haha

Today the car was on time and we headed off to work.. Arun’s first day. We went to some dailies for the Museum gag shots and he was introduced. We had quite a few meetings about apprenticeship stuff, and the plans for our time etc. All sounds good and productive. It’s very odd having office boys running after us bringing glasses of water if we need it, or coffee, or cutting up fruit or anything. I just don’t need to be waited on hand and foot… I want to do it back to them! It’s lovely but I just don’t know how to receive it without returning the favour! They are so kind!

We had lunch at the mall with Vani. This was super special! A Rajasthani thali…. A big metal tray with lots of little metal bowls that were constantly replenished with tasty delicious spicy veg curries and lots of rotis and things for dipping etc. So damn yummy…. I stuffed myself! Dessert I had rasgulla - a round ball, bread-like consistancy in sweet syrup. YUM ….. most excellent. Arun seemed very happy to be having that food :) Only thing is it knocked us out and we were yawning ourselves silly all afternoon! Teehee.

We got the apprenticeship training shot rendering with the help of the genius pipeline guys Sam Nair and Satish - who was constantly at our side … both so helpful and lovely. I am really impressed… I haven’t had help like this before. Instant and completely dedicated! Yay India office… you rock!

I had an email from my friend Jesh who went to the same CG school as I did in Toronto. He and his wife live here (he has an animation business) and he was in the area so he dropped by. We hadn’t seen each other since about 1999 or so… but it was like yesterday! Just great…and the amazing coincidence was that they live in the same apartment building as Arun and I!! Freaky...a city of 17 million people?!

5:30pm couldn’t come quickly enough…. jetlag again…. for both of us I think. Arun is now lying down and sleeping. I’m listening to my ipod and planning on an early night. I hope I can sleep better… still only getting about 4 hours a night. Joy of joys. They say we may get internet hooked up at the apartment tomorrow. I sure hope so…. I’m in withdrawal without it. Especially since all these sites are blocked at work… including YouTube! Eeeks ;)

Jazz, Krull, Wonton Soup and being there.

(This is posted for my first day in India)

Feels like about 4 days have passed… but in fact I only arrived yesterday. So…. Let’s have a wavy movie moment of going back in time ~b’llooop b’llooop b’lloooop~ Heathrow, with hours to spare I decided to go through into the departure lounge. Innocently stroll up with my hand luggage that I’d come from LA with and the security guys freak out as apparently I’m only allowed ‘one’ bag. I have my stuffed wheely bag, my laptop bag, and a tiny shoulder handbag. But nope… one only. Shite! Doesn’t matter that you’re in transit or anything either. So… I have to either check them or stuff them all in one. No way I can check my expensive camera or laptop… and my main bag is stuffed with 6 months of prescriptions that if I lost …well, I would be in big trouble. So…. I go to the luggage shop right next to the entrance to the gates (I wonder why, they're on a good deal..snigger) and there is already another girl having to do the same thing. I find a simple cloth duffle bag that fits everything (45 English Pounds.. expensive!) and try again. Nope… the bag is too big to fit the dimensions. No luck. They tell me to try and shift things around… take the camera out and carry it by hand. I do it right there in front of them… then one guys sees me pull the camera bag out and he says ‘oh, you can carry the camera bag separately’ … phew… what a life saver. I am so relieved. I can fit everything inside my one bag now and carry the camera bag. I return the 45 Pound duffle bag… get a refund and go back through thinking I’m a-ok. Turn the corner and this big ‘Minder’ type security guy… older Pommy mean dude says.. “you have two bags…. You can’t bring 'em in”. I explain what just happened for the last 3/4 hour … he couldn’t care less. I go up to the counter… the woman says I have to take in one bag… I say I’ll try and squeeze one into the other. I end up on the floor again knowing I’m fighting a losing battle. Take the camera out… squeeze everything from its bag into my main one… but I’m out of luck. I have an empty camera bag I’m going to have to check (which I guess isn’t such a big deal)! I go back up to her and explain, and she looks down and suddenly I see her change. She was Indian I think…. and she totally took pity on me and let me through! Next thing I know my bags are going through x-ray and the guy is joking with me about my Canon lens having a Nikon lens cap. He was a Nikon guy and ‘we could never be compatible, could we!’ with a wink. I didn’t know if I was coming or going! All that and I was through. :)

The departure lounge was great. Lots of shops and places to people watch. Amazing looking people… saw a flight attendant from a Saudi airline and she was so gorgeous. Such exotic places and people. The coolest thing was the list of flights leaving while I was there… some cities that make the imagination just go wild - Copenhagen, Dubai, Seoul, Newark, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Doha, Cape Town, Delhi, Stockholm, Addis Ababa, Karachi, Mumbai, Toronto, Auckland, Hong Kong, Ahmedabad, Sydney, Amritsar, Bangkok, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Lagos, Singapore, Bahrain, Oslo, Istanbul, Chicago, Miami, Stravangar. Phew! A snapshot of 7 hours at Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

Virgin-Atlantic used a clunky old plane for its Mumbai flight… not like the new one from LA. But I didn’t mind… I was surrounded by handsome young Indian guys and it suited me fine. I sat on the inside aisle… the guy next to me was from Bombay and worked for BP in shipping. He had been on a business trip to England. We chatted a lot. He watched Superman Returns and was amazed when I pointed out the shots R&H had done. The guy across the aisle from me was an IT programmer in finance and was on his way to Bombay for his marriage. He was fascinated by R&H and what software we used. He lives in London.... I wonder if he's moving for good or if his wife will go back to London with him?

I couldn’t stop smiling as I saw Bombay rising up to meet our wheels (by the feel of the landing I thought it was going to come right through the plane and touch my feet!). At 1pm it was a balmy 31 degrees Celsius ... hot! Took a while to get my suitcase but everything else was a breeze… not even a question from Immigration about what I was doing here! The plane was nearly an hour late… poor R&H guys waiting in the heat :( I came out to the familiar sea of faces, but this time I was looking at all the signs for my name… and there it was! I found my driver…and then this lovely young guy from admin – Swapnil. He was so nice and made me feel instantly like I had a friend and was at home. I was led to a fancy new car like a Land Rover – an Indian Scorpio. They gave me a bunch of roses from Vani… and we were off. I gave some rupees to the begging children which brought on more.. Swapnil said not to… so hard not to though… mere cents to me!

The drive to the apartment was great. It all felt so familiar and ‘normal’. The roads weren’t that busy… I didn’t even seem to notice the crazy driving this time! It got more bogged down nearer to Andheri where the apartment is so it took longer than expected but I didn’t mind at all…. So much to enjoy and take in. That strange feeling of being ‘home’. Everywhere such handsome faces and so many people.

We got to the apartment and as we waited for the lift there was that unmistakable rancid smell that makes your nostrils want to turn inside out. It’s a brand new I can’t imagine what exactly causes that smell… but I’ve never smelt it anywhere else but India. Hehe… unique to India! 17th floor… workmen in the hallway doing tiling and things. Only 2 apartments on each floor it seems. We arrive and another R&H admin guy is there waiting – Yogesh. He is very kind and proceeds to show me everything about the apartment. I try to take it all in but I’m reaching overload at this point. The cell phone instructions go over my head a little (but I’ve got it under control now… a little wacky, but man, are calls cheap!). The apartment is amazing… brand new, sparkling marble floors… shiny kitchen and nice bathrooms off each bedroom. I take my time choosing a bedroom based on sun position and all the construction outside (thanks for the heads up Danny Speck!). Plus the one I’ve chosen has a cool shower with jets and all sorts of stuff. I think I could fit two of my bathrooms back in LA inside it!

We head out to a couple of malls near the apartment to buy some breakfast food to stock up the apartment. I just can’t believe the changes in Bombay since 2002. I didn't see malls here then… or the fancy big stores everywhere. Disappointed to read in the news a couple of days ago that Walmart is coming here… damn! :( Anyway… very cool little mall and great supermarket with everything I need. I drool over some of the things I haven’t seen in ages… lots of English things too. Stuff I wish I could get easily in the US. I buy cereal, juice, fat free milk, soy milk, biscuits, bread and fruit. 600 rupees… and Yogesh INSISTS on paying. Very embarrassing… way expensive in Indian terms…. I am not used to people paying for things… especially when I was just given my 5000 rupee stipend for exactly this purpose!

Anyway… back to the apartment where I bid them all adieu, and I immediately call my close close friend Anil that I studied CG with in Toronto. We have been dying to get together…. It’s been 4 years and that’s too long. I organize to get the driver and car back and I head towards his house in Shivaji Park. Although it’s not far away the traffic is horrendous as it’s Saturday night and everyone’s going out. Over an hour later we arrive and I see him, his gorgeous wife Gayatri and their friend Azim… all of whom I spent a dreamy Christmas and New Year with in Goa in 1998. It’s like yesterday. :) We head downtown along Marine Drive… the beautiful lights of the Queen’s Necklace sparkle and it’s like magic. I feel so like I’m home. We get to the Tata Theatre downtown just in time for the jazz rock concert by Bunny Brunel and the jazz all stars. Amazing bass player with his group of brilliant musicians. In the break as we mingle for coffee.. Anil and Azim meet people they know and point out some of the biggest musical stars in India .. people who’ve played with Miles Davis and others.. and I’m standing next to them .. very surreal! We leave at 10pm to head to the Royal China restaurant (the finest Chinese cuisine in Bombay) for a fantastic meal. Best Chinese I’ve had in years!... oh the wonton soup!!! They do a great dim sum apparently so I’m looking forward to that. It was such a great night and hard to take in that I had arrived that day. Back at Anil’s the driver was patiently waiting to take me home…. such a different way of life here. I got home around 1am and called Mum and Dad in Canada. I was beyond exhausted..but so excited to just be here. You would have thought I would have slept well…. But after a couple of hours I was awake…. bargaining with my brain to sleep again. Maybe got two more hours by 7:30am. Needless to say I felt like a giant dung beetle had rolled me over a thousand hills this morning.

I was supposed to go out with Vani but I ended up sitting in front of the tv. Now… let me tell you about the tv here in India! I have over 80 channels… a lot in hindi but a lot of great English stuff too. I watched a great episode of The Amazing Race Asia where everyone is nice to each other and it’s just the same without the ugly bickering and drama. After that I saw a bit of one of those crazy Japanese game shows with hindi commentary… particularly entertaining that way! Then..switching channels I heard title music that I haven’t heard in years! “I know that!” It was Krull!! I don’t know how many conversations with my fellow nerdy friends I’ve had lately about this movie… but I’ve been wanting to see it again for ages. So I was glued to it… and it held up pretty well! So between seeing things like that and all the Bollywood I can get my hands on… I am stoked! :)

I’ve spent the rest of the day sleeping … aaah. Sweet! Now of course… it’s time for bed again… I need to think like a cat and go for those long hours! At least I’ve caught up with this…and this will be the longest blog entry I’ll ever do…that’s for sure!

Friday, December 1, 2006

I remember this smell!

Well.... here I am in an Internet Cafe in Heathrow.... feeling much better. A little topsy turvy since I landed at 3am my time... but hey, I'm not complaining :) As the clouds parted and I saw little english row houses I suddenly felt a rush of excitement. It hadn't felt real before... certainly does now though. And then as I was walking through the concourse I got a whiff of the English air... crisp, clear..slighty scented... I don't even know what it is really. But I hadn't smelt it since 1979 when I was 10 and it came right back with a jolt. Happy making. :) Love those sense memory thingies. Smell does it more than anything for me.

Walked through to Passport control. Ok.... ahem.... we're not in Kansas anymore... this is nothing like American immigration, let me tell you! Nice young Indian girl asks me all about what I'm doing, where I'm going... I tell her India for 6 months. She asks me what I'll do there. Her eyes light up. She asks all about it. I tell her and joke that my dream is to meet Bollywood stars. She says "which one?" "Vivek Oberoi" - me. "Well, when you find 'im, bring back 'is bruvva for me" she says in her broad London brogue... (which you never expect coming from that gorgeous Indian face!) Yup.... this ain't LAX! (or maybe it is, if you get my drift).

And now... wandering around Heathrow. The faces here... unbelievable! I thought New York was a melting pot.... but it is NOTHING like this! Every race imaginable ... wonderful. I'm in Shangri La watching all this :) Such beautiful and exotic people... no wonder the English are unhappy about immigration... they are so plain and bland next to all these incredibly handsome and stunning people ;)

So... £6 for an hour of internet time, $2 american for a bottle of water and I have another 7 hours to kill before I take off for Mother India.


[Entering these from London at an Internet Cafe]

Sitting at the Gate at LAX... it's 5:12 and I would have been leaving 3 minutes ago but we're delayed until 6:30pm. Works out ok really... less time in London now. Time is what I have on my hands - so I can spare a bit! It's been a an interesting day. Stressful start with this damn migraine making everything way more painful than I could really handle. But I'm taking shallow breaths and trying not to think about it. As I was standing in line waiting to take my shoes off and have everything scanned and looked at up and down and every which way, I started chatting to an Indian gentleman in front of me. He was born in Uganda, his wife born in Kenya. I ended up having a drink with them and such great conversation. Really nice people... they live in London. Nice beginning.

I'm now having my last chai latte for a while. Had a chat to Mum and Dad and met a sweet old Scottish lady at Starbucks on her way to New Zealand for 7 weeks. It feels like such a small world now.

I feel excited through this haze of hurt. I would prefer to send the pain to a different part of my body though. I vote for my big toe... or perhaps the back of my knee? Perhaps a small spot next to a fingernail. Right now it's where I live... and I can't concentrate.

Hugs and sniffles

Well.... "my bags are packed and I'm ready to go" .... nearly time to head to the airport. Can't quite believe it. Got a cracking migraine to bring me down to earth though ... yeehaa. Dropped my car at work and did the last goodbyes. So many hugs and sniffles with people that it's hard to say goodbye to. I know the time will go by quickly... but many people to miss. What good friends I have made here.... contrary to what people say about LA. It has become a great home for me. The city of displaced peoples. We're all a big family now. I hope things don't change too much while I'm gone.

OK.... time to pack this puppy up and get moving. I've got a bird to catch. Jai Hind!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


oh god...... packing .... :(

For your consideration

What do you do when you live in Hollywood and you're leaving for the other side of the world the next day for half a year? You go to an industry screening of course! c'mon people... get with the programme ;) So... tonight I went to the Writer's Guild to see a screening of Bobby... the new film written and directed by Emilio Estevez about the day that Bobby Kennedy died. Now .... you need to understand a little backstory. Way back in the mid to late 80's when I was at university, I had a big crush on Emilio.... Young Guns... Repo Man, The Outsiders.... his Billy the Kid cracked me up with the crazy laugh as he blew people away - "best dollar an' eighty I ever spent" ... plus he was short... suited me just fine! He wrote and directed a few things.... mostly non-memorable.... the fun Robin Hood with a 'doh' at the end - 'Wisdom', then 'Men at Work' (stick to the band and don't bother watching the movie!), the Vietnam vet returning home drama 'The War at Home', and one I didn't see - 'Rated X' a biopic about two brothers who had a porn business that led to their downfall into greed (sounds like a winner). But now..... after quite a hiatus..... there is 'Bobby
..... and this one is quite something. Firstly... *everyone* is in it! Harry Belafonte, Anthony Hopkins, William H Macy, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Lindsay Lohan, Heather Graham, Helen Hunt, Christian Slater, Elijah Wood ... plus a bunch of people whose faces you know and names you don't. It's an amazing bunch and they all outdo themselves...even the ones that are normally mediocre! They obviously were impassioned by the material....and it is inspiring. The actors working the kitchen are something to look out for. Plus it documents the landmark of the Ambassador Hotel which was recently demolished.... a travesty, in my humble opinion. Very moving film... I won't say much more... other than go and see it. It gives food for thought in this day when we surely need some politicians like Bobby to rise up and lead the country out of the mess it's in. Sobering and sad and worth remembering.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

rain and snow

It poured here last night... and snowed in British Columbia today. It seems like winter has suddenly hit. I feel like I need to run away quickly... before the cold enters my bones. It's cold...and the cold makes me even more tired. I'm waking at 4am every day and don't have much to fight against the chill - outside or in my head. The anticipation is so great and I'm just ready now. I think I've got things in hand, only dread is saying goodbye to the cats..... that's not going to be easy at all. But I am so looking forward to just climbing into my seat on the plane, getting comfortable, watching some movies, write on my laptop and maybe do a little of that addictive sudoku. Just shut everything down and let the planet spin underneath me until I set down on a different continent.

I hope they show some Bollywood films on the plane :)

Monday, November 27, 2006


About to head out for my last sushi in quite a while. I have been searching online looking for sushi places in Bombay (will I ever call it Mumbai I wonder?.... old habits die hard)... and I have actually found a couple. Who knows what they'll really be like of course. But worth trying .... us Angelinos will die without the raw fish experience at least once a week ;)

T minus....

Sunday arvo, Los Angeles..... doing laundry and feeling like I am forgetting important things ;) How did it go from 3 weeks to a few days? I think I was a little over-confidant.... just thought I had all the planning under control. But "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" as John Lennon said.... and a lotta life has been happening! And a lot of planning! And now I find myself with 3 1/2 days left... almost there.... almost there.....