Wednesday, December 13, 2006

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!

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