Sunday, May 13, 2007

whizz bang!

It's 11pm and the folks who live in the slum next to my building and work on the construction site of the new apartment blocks are letting off fireworks :) weeeeeeeeee!!!

a little somethin' somethin'

...eeck... do I even qualify as a blogger at this rate? A month since my last post :( The guilt has been weighing me down... I must say. Not a huge number of 'quotable' things have happened ... but I have been busy and happy happy. It's all good. It's May now... the summer is HERE. People are telling me they feel the monsoons will come early this year...soon in fact. So I am proud of getting through the summer so far without any *freak* moments like I used to have in Perth... wanting to peel my skin off my body in heat panic. I am spoiled with a/c so how can I possibly complain anyway.

So the general schtuff that has been keeping me busy is all the interesting developments at work. Moving off my involvement with The Golden Compass, I have been immersed in the 2nd Lighting Apprenticeship programme. I missed my buddy in arms Arun... but I have gained a wonderful new friend in our educator at this office... my Guruji... Amit :) We had 2 great weeks of intense class teaching together.... and I watched him just flourish in his element. A natural teacher.... he made learning a pleasure. We had a blast together. I felt a clumsy git when I would chime in with my little blurbs here and there... none of the simplicity of explanation that he had! Ah well.... perhaps my talents lie in other places!

The class is now starting their mock production... a great bunch of folks, it's always freaky to put myself in that position of coming in to our studio and learning all this stuff cold. What a challenge! Jargon, tech issues and un-learning everything you have learned... haha.... how to push those brain cells to the limit babeeee! We've been working different hours... 11am to 7:30pm.... it's been different and a nice change. I have enjoyed sleeping in late! Been sleeping badly... but those late morning hours are good sleep. The morning auto ride is different. Hotter and much more traffic.... the roads are not waking up any more....everything is definitely alive and on the go by 10am!

Other than work... life has been a party! I had Jane from LA here for a while and we had a blast, though I had a sickness while she was here that stopped us from the real insanity I had promised her. Still it was amazing .... she is missed!! We both had birthdays while she was here. Now... it's been a while since I celebrated my birthday... just haven't felt 'in the mood' and been alone. Seemed a bit nuts to throw myself a party when I really didn't care and there wasn't family or anyone really close there anyway. But.... I have realised.... there is no such thing as a secret ignored birthday in India... hahaha! Talk about being made to feel special for a day! The office sends email out...and then a bazillion handshakes and emails later... I get called into the screening room for surprise cake, flowers and presents! ok... I admit... it was really lovely and once again I fell in love with everyone. How often can this happen? :) Jane got the same treatment.... we are spoilt... rotten!

Been getting some GREAT bike rides with friends...a selection of bikes. I have realised that even on the hottest day ... being on the back of a bike is rather cooling.... nice :) I am lousy at climbing on for some reason.... what's *that* about?... residual problems from those few horse riding lessons as a kid or something?? I mean...c'mon.. it's just a bike! I guess my midget status gives me trouble gettin' a leg over! hahaha :) At least I give prior warning - "this is gonna get wobbly for a moment as I clamber on!"

There's been dancing out late at clubs until we all collapsed, movies and food, and staying up all night talking to best friends. Life is truly peaking! :) I'll put the couple of things that require detail in separate posts.... but here ya go... something finally to chew on.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

grace kelly and I

Have I ever really talked about my morning ride to work? Such a special time of day... about 8am and the streets are just awakening. I step out onto the street in front of my building and wait for an auto to pull over. It's an interesting little dance... you can't even call it a conversation - that you have to determine that the driver will take you to your destination. Going to work I say "Malad - InOrbit mall' and then if he's willing (which he usually is in the morning) I will see an imperceptable twist of the head or roll of the eye indicating for me to get in... and that was my 'yes'. At night... the autos cluster around the entrance to our glass megastructure... waiting for all the call centre workers to pour out, and when I say 'Andheri West (Vest is more how I say it... in one quick string 'Andherivest') Lokhandwala Circle', usually quite a few are not interested in the shorter fare and shake their head once or grimace a little and look away. It took a little while to learn the language... but I have it now.

So... I climb in and grab my long scarf to make the necessary arrangements so that I arrive looking a little human. It's a fast ride and the good drivers really pick up some speed when they can.The autos are completely open to the wind on either side... so those of us with long hair can end up with quite an afro if we're not prepared. So, twisting my hair into a braid and hooking it under a bra strap, then tightly swathing my scarf around my head... I am able to hold down most of the flyaways and keep it under control. With sunglasses on I always feel like I'm doing a Grace Kelly impression though... and I can't help but feel incredibly 'white' ... sigh :( Oh for that olive skin that lies deep within my genes! ...perhaps I could have a reverse Michael Jackson incident ;)

On the days I wear a salwar kameez then I use the dupatta to wrap around my hair. They're really long though.. and it's almost like a turban has snaked its way off my head and tried to strangle me.... looks a little amusing I'm sure. Unwinding it at the end of the ride is like unwrapping a mummy!

The auto drivers are notorious for not having change. For a 30 rupee ride I can often get grief for only having a 50 rupee note. It's my fault for not knowing the language that I can't argue the point.... I can tell him to go left and right, and straight, and to stop.... and I can say some pretty nasty things about his mother and sister (not that I would!).... but I don't know how to tell him that he should bloody well have 20 rupees change at all times!! I think it must be one of the most valuable things in this city... the 10-rupee note! Don't leave home without it!!

The drive in the morning goes along some back streets that are tree-lined and have dogs awakening, people walking and amazingly... hardly any traffic. We pass businesses and shops that are closed ("Gym and Tonic" anyone?), chai stops, coconut stands and head onto the main Link Road where things are a little more busy... but still distinctly alive with the morning rhythms. One stretch of road is lined with autos getting washed. They glisten in the sun, and some lean to one side as their drivers make adjustments to the tiny engines underneath, the three wheels making it easy to tip over and get to the nuts and bolts of the machinery.

People are washing and shaving on the streets... every aspect of the morning ablutions is carried out in full view. Cars and people all getting cleaned. Water splashes everywhere.

We drive past the mutton and poultry stores.... small vans loaded with 'broilers' the fat and healthy white chickens destined for a short future I try not to think of, are ready to be unloaded. The mutton is of course, goat... and often I will see them milling about in front of the store. It's amazing that they are loose and don't escape. They are all nibbling away at stuff on the streets and appear calm, content and very healthy. Coming in all sorts of wonderful and varied colours, they are some of the loveliest goats I've seen.. and though their future is sad too.... I think they probably have a much nicer life than livestock destined for western tables. Sometimes they are curled up on the side of the street almost like a dog. I swear though... being a vegetarian is one thought away!!

As we see the mall appearing ahead, I tell the driver 'left laner' and he has to brake from the speed he was able to gain on that one little stretch of road. He turns before Hypercity and we drive past all the motorbikes parked along the roadside. 'Bus bus' I say and he pulls to a halt next to the security station at Mindspace and the 10-minute ride is over. Hopefully I have the right change... coins even .... and I thank him in hindi. I often get a shy smile as I say thankyou more than once and meet his eye, and for one more moment I have a little connection. These guys ride all day in the heat and monsoons.. for not a lot of money... and their world fascinates me. Gotta learn the language Jude.... so much you're missing out on!!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

pujas and presidents

S'been forever hasn't it. .... I feel a bit stressed at how much time has lapsed on the blog... but then not a lot has happened really, so I am just going to write some snippets and wing it.

Whatever that sickness was, it got a hold of me and gave me quite a bear hug. A course of the scary Cipro later and I still didn't seem to be getting rid of it.... and everyone at work was getting a bit worried I could tell. I'm not very good at being sick.... no... let me rephrase that. I'm actually *very* good at 'being' sick since I have been so much in my life.... but I'm not good at it around other people... and I tend to just want to hide away, hibernate it out, so to speak. This is a country where everyone helps everyone though... and I'm sure they wondered why I didn't want a lot of attention. Finally though I started to see the other side of it, which was lucky as I was missing a Rather Big Event in R&H history. John Hughes had come to India!

John is the wonderful and remarkable person who, along with his colleagues, founded Rhythm and Hues. He is the president and owner... and has inspired a lot of us in ways he'll never really know. Now that he has this Indian facility - which has existed for 5 years - everyone has been urging him to come and visit, but we never really thought he would. But... the planets aligned and a butterfly sneezed, and he was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FICCI Frames Conference.... so... it was really happening!

I was out sick for several of the 5 days John was here... so I missed out on some of the excitement. At work it was almost too 'exciting'... with the admin team being put into super-high gear to get things ready for his visit. He's a very easy going person and will have wanted nothing special, but it *was* the first ever trip... so things had to be perfect.

I felt very emotional when I first saw him.... gave him an enormous hug. Even though I knew we didn't have much time to talk right then... and may not get to, there was something about seeing him at this office that meant so much to me, it gave me quite a lump in my throat. I wasn't to know that that was really just the beginning.

So.... as I said ... I was out sick for quite a few days.... but 'dragged my sorry ass' in to work on the afternoon of the last day of the conference to go to the company meeting. Of course it was a super-special one with John in attendance and everyone in really high spirits. John made a great speech.... had us all laughing and on the edge of our chairs feeling very proud of the office here. I know I was holding back tears at the things he said... and I could see how heartfelt his emotions were. Many questions were asked and when he went over his amazing life story of how he found himself in this industry and the founding of R&H... I think we were all like little children around a campfire listening to a great storyteller. Of course when the introductions were made and people had to sing or dance - John was a great sport about it. His choice was to sing a chinese song that he sings for his children. It was fantastic... and the crowds went wild! Very good... I wonder if they will see this tradition starting up in LA ;)

I hadn't just come in for the meeting because Vani had said we were all going to a Bollywood 'extravaganza' that night. Serkan, Burcin, Jane and I headed off in a hire car to the lovely Renaissance Hotel at Powai Lake where the conference was held. Oh my....what a view! The hotel and its grounds look towards a cityscape across the lake, and at night it twinkles and sparkles as cars drive along the waterfront like little networks of fireflies. I was mesmerized.

We sat outside in the heat and watched a rather amusing and *very* unprepared presentation that signalled the end of the conference. The one thing I did enjoy was a dance academy that did number after number to the latest Bollywood hits. Man... talk about *stunning* women and men... and holy crap could they move! The costumes were a bonanza of colour and mirrored sparkles and it was truly a feast for the eyes and ears. Our problem was ... we needed a feast for the stomach too! By 9:30pm we were famished. It didn't help that they had a huge buffet all at the ready that wasn't going to be served until 10:30pm and the smells wafted over us as we sat and watched. It was too much to bear! So we headed in to the hotel to look for restaurants. We found several including one that served a buffet, and though we didn't really need something that large so late at night... we were ready! Serkan even had 5 desserts :) Though we hadn't seen any Bollywood stars, the food was bloody good and the magical view and dancing had been a lovely break from all my days of sickness.

The next day was John's last at work. He had been meeting with each department seperately to meet everyone and answer questions. We had the lighting meeting in the screening room, followed by group photos. I could tell how much he was enjoying it all. People are so responsive here.

At the end of the day Vani had organised a puja at work. The priest I had seen at the temple way back on Valentines Day, had come to perform the long and somwhat solemn ceremony. Anyone who wanted to participate was invited to sit at the back of the room. Jane and I were asked to come, and we sat cross-legged watching Vani and John going through the many ministrations of the quiet and trance-like ceremony. There were so many flowers and the room smelt wonderful... and as the priest tore them up and gave Vani and John the petals for the three of them to throw onto the images of the goddess, I felt myself floating away on the monotone chanting of the mantras and the sweet scents drifting through the room. Even a cold stark office building can be made into a little piece of heaven here in India! Only my stiff knees and slouching, aching back brought me back to reality... and as John was given an apple and flowers, and drank curd from his hand, I hoped that perhaps we were near the end of the ritual.

As the tika powder was applied and the formal ceremony was over, it was time for the rest of the company to join in. I looked behind me and realised the room was crowded. One by one we were handed the tray with the burning flame on it to wave slowly in front of the goddess.... it felt very calming and meaningful, though I don't know what or who I was thinking 'to'. India gives us extra things to strengthen us though... and having been so sick, it did feel nice to be part of this small ritual that was so colourful and full of flowers and fruits and foods.

Each person knelt down for their blessing or prasad... they prayed in their own individual way and received the tika and a small amount of water in the palm to drink. Then... the thing I knew they were all excited about... a bright orange ladoo. This is to me, a special Indian sweet... they are so saturated in colour and are moist and sweet and kindof fall apart as you bite into them. Hehehe... pretty mouthwatering. Worth finding and trying if you can! They always make me think of the old lady in the movie 'Water'.... all she wanted was a ladoo... that was all.

The priest recognised me from the visit to the temple. He was to prepare an astrology chart for me... which I still have to go and hear about. But he was chuckling and clucking away to the others in the room as he looked at me. I asked what he was saying... apparently I have gotten fat since he saw me last time (boo!) ... he also said I will get married in India. Well... that's easy for him to say.... if he can suggest where to find this likely lad who doesn't care about the hands of time or the colour of skin, then I might think he's onto something ;)

~ ~ ~ ~

On that last evening we all went out for dinner with John. It was a local restaurant we all like, not far from work. Aryans serves tasty food and is comfortable and has a good atmosphere.. though don't go if you're in a hurry... they take a l-o-n-g time with the food ;) It was all the managers and Jane and I... and though many of us were tired from a long week, I think everyone enjoyed it. It felt good to be sharing dinner with John again after so so long. There was one surreal and quite delicious moment where I listened to all the managers discussing very indepth concepts of astrology with John... I wish I hadn't been feeling so yukky, it was very nice to let the conversation wash over me. Several of them have read or are reading Shantaram, the book that is totally engulfing me at the moment. I can barely bring myself to finish it... but it's the most amazing book I think I've ever read. It was so good to talk about it and know others had similar thoughts. I'm nearing the end of the book now.... exhausted as if I'd been hiding behind rocks and watching everything right in front of me. I don't know how it's going to end... don't want to know. But it makes me love this city more and more and gaze in wonder every time I step outside the door.

Friday, March 23, 2007

you give me fever

Um... so that sickness I mentioned last time.... it's been an odd one. It didn't really want to bugger off.... didn't want to pay attention to the antibiotics that were sent to beat it over the head. So... I spent the rest of that long weekend with a higher temperature and a painful throat, feeling quite ugly and pitiful. Rather a wasted opportunity to get out and see some of 'Indja' but ... there you go. I was running out of food in the apartment and it was all a bit pathetic .. hehehe. Of course I wasn't supposed to eat anything spicy either. I felt like a wimp!

My latest visitor from LA was arriving on Monday, which happened to be a company holiday for Gudi Padwa, the Maharashtrian New Year. Jane flew in just after 10am and arrived at the apartment near noon. I was a sorry mess and not in much shape to be a good host. She was pretty excited to have arrived though and that was good. We hung out for a while and then I rested. We ordered some food to be delivered in the evening.. but I ended up eating toast. She bought me FOUR jars of Vegemite which made me one happy little sandgroper!!

Tuesday morning and I knew I wasn't going in to work. Too sick. I stayed home but Ruchi came over to take me for a blood test. I was a little scared about where I was going... visions of some primitive place.... but man was I impressed!!! Right next door to my building, the clinic was sooo modern and clean and swanky!! Lovely lobby with a wide flatscreen tv showing cricket news (of course!). We paid up front for the test - 500 rupees which is around $11 US. Not bad eh? That was for a bunch of blood tests and a urine test. I waited only a couple of minutes and a guy came and took me to a back room where I sat in a special testing chair opposite a girl in a salwar suit with her arm out and a scared look of pain on her face. When the needle went in she really winced... it didn't help my nerves at all!

The man was so sweet. He did an amazing job and it barely hurt at all. He was interested in where I was from etc. I was so impressed at how little blood he took and how he prepared a slide right next to me. One tiny little fat glass vial was all they needed. In LA they take five vials and change them while the needle is in your arm.. leaves a bruise for sure.

I went back home to rest and continue doing the 'nothing' I'd been doing all weekend. Well... at least it included this incredible book I'm reading... Shantaram.. READ IT!! ;) Every word is infused with a love for Bombay and its people that leaves me breathless.... he writes my thoughts more clearly than I think them! Like I said... *read it* .... it's a giant tome but a true page turner!

I went back to work on Wednesday but my fever was even higher and I felt a little worse than Tuesday. The test results had become available online Tuesday night and didn't seem to show much. So Ruchi took me off to the doctor after the VC and she told me that it was probably a bladder infection this time. I'm not sure how that has caused all the throat and congestion problems.... but now I am taking the antibiotic of last resort.... Cipro. It's a scary little blighter... and not little either... it looks like a suppository! So that and another drug are now coursing through my veins and hopefully this will do the trick.

Thursday night after work, Jane, Vani and I went to the tailer near Orlem church again to get some more things stitched. I still had several fabric sets to have salwar kameez and skirts made. I just hadn't had a chance to get there til now. The lovely tailor Nikki recognised me. She's really great and does such good work. I enjoy going there. Apart from the great things Mum used to make me as a weener in NZ, I've never had clothes custom made and it's amazing how different they are when made to fit all the measurements of your body.

Now it is Friday night and I am watching cricket and enjoying the memories of yet another meeting with Vivek Oberoi at his office today. Of course I still can't put the details down. I took my friend Jesh along.. it was a great and successful meeting. Vivek called me 'Red'... which made me chuckle. He was in fine form and it was a meeting full of laughter and brainstorming.

Jane is asleep on the couch.... India needs a 5.2 runs per inning to win so it's a tough game. Send them good thoughts everyone!! Aim towards Trinidad and Tobago.....

Saturday, March 17, 2007

mistress of no spices

I had been feeling just a little 'off' for quite a while..... I can't really describe it. Just 'something in me blood' .... and it came and went. But over the last week it seemed to get worse. Several friends had colds and I thought that's what I had as I started to get a fever and a slightly sore throat. After a couple of days of it though, and not much sleep to speak of, I realised it was time to see the doctor. It's a slightly different process here in India.... no calling and hoping you can get an appointment in the next day or two. Ruchi, our wonderful R&H guest coordinator, just hopped in an auto with me and took me to the doctor's 'office' when it opened at 6:30pm. It was not far from work... near the Pop Tates in Malad. I wasn't sure what to expect... but it was a bit of a surprise! I had previously been to see an orthopaedic surgeon about a stretched nerve. He had a real office with several rooms and a doorway. This was simply a 3-sided hallway open onto the street, with chairs along the walls and a table at the end where the kindly and attractive female doctor waited for patients. I sat down, she asked what was wrong... and the consultation was conducted right there, for all the world to see as they walked by. It was certainly very different to any doctor visit I've had before. All for the bargain basement price of 50 rupees... you heard it folks... that's just over 1 US dollar.

She was very nice, looked at my throat and said it was very very red. Listened to my chest which was clear... and took my pulse. She said I had a throat infection.... which seemed to make a lot of sense and explain the fever and the 'bad blood' feeling. I was a bit alarmed when I told her of my fibromyalgia and she didn't know of the condition, plus she didn't seem too worried about the drugs I was taking and whether they would play nicely with the ones she was prescribing. I made sure I researched them later. I got her to explain what she was writing out for me - antibiotics, a decongestant and something else I didn't quite catch. She was very caring and reassuring though... a lot of the advice was that I needed to not eat fruit, not drink anything cold and not eat ANYTHING SPICY... hehehe. A bit of a challenge here in India.... not hard but requires a bit of effort when you're not feeling at the top of your game.

No worries.... at home it's easy (even though I can't cook)..... lots of toast and cereal and the delicious pate and crackers I have discovered. But my cupboards were pretty bare and I wasn't sure what to do for dinner tonight. So... what do you do when you just don't know what to eat, can't have anything Indian (which includes Chinese as that has its own indian masala added to it), and just need a little TLC when you're sick? You go to the J W Marriott for a buffett, of course! ;) It's a feast of kings, and the atmosphere and people-watching is worth the price of admission alone. Walking past the elegant bar from the fancy loos, I had a great celebrity sighting as well! At a table of four listening to what *must* have been an industry conversation, was Soha Ali Khan.... the beautiful sister of Saif Ali Khan and an actress in 2006's outstanding hit movie 'Rang De Basanti'. Wow.... she looked gorgeous... I was so excited!

It wasn't the only Bollywood moment.... at the table right behind me sat the director Madhur Bhandarkar. I've really liked his films 'Corporate' and 'Page 3' and can't wait to see the recently released 'Traffic Signal'. You could almost say we were rubbing shoulders ;)

So now... time to take #2 antibiotic. My throat is raging and the fever hasn't broken yet, but the night was fun and I am lucky enough to be having a long weekend. Lots of hindi dvd's to watch and a great book to read (Shantaram). All is well with the world.

trainspotting and no birdspotting

Ever since I arrived I've heard notorious stories of the local trains. Some people just frown and tell me with great seriousness that I shouldn't attempt to ride a train, others laugh and then still frown a little and tell me I'm crazy to want to go take one. I had seen the people hanging out the doors so nonchalantly and heard of them even sitting on the roof! I read in the fantastic local magazine Time Out Mumbai (only 30 rupees every two weeks!) that at peak hours you get 16 people to every square metre in the compartments... first class or otherwise! They tell me the womens' compartments are even worse, with girls pulling hair and fighting to get in ;) Sounds a riot! Well.... I guess I didn't really want to go at peak hour but I definitely had to try this experience on for size.

The perfect opportunity arose last week when one of our pipeline guys, a brilliant photographer, Chingkhei, sent mail out to the company asking if anyone was interested in a trip to the east side of the city to try and shoot the flamingos before they left for the season. Chris and I both jumped at the chance.... though as it turns out Chris was a little worse for wear after an all-night drinking escapade with the newly-formed india-fulltight group. Let me briefly explain... I had suggested we form an email alias for folks who would like to go out and partake of a drink or three on a regular basis... and thus was born india-fulltight! I couldn't go for the inaugural night.... I'd been feeling kinda sick for days and my stomach was in no shape... but I heard the die-hards were out until nearly 6am. Hardcore babeee! I don't quite know how Chris made it out with us really!

We met Chingkhei at the Infinity Mall near my house, and got an auto to the Andheri train station. Even that was a ride in itself.... longer than I expected and on really rough roads, but through some especially colourful and exciting looking local markets that I would love to explore. We felt pretty rattled when we arrived... but three to an auto holds you in pretty tight! The story of Aditya's auto flipping over at the end of the "fulltight" night before was not reassuring however! Lucky he was a little drunk... and not hurt at all ;)

So.... we arrive at the train station and I instantly love it. It truly is the hub of life in Mumbai.... I think half the population at any one time is at a station! That's a joke of course... but it's such a bustling lively place with so many kinds of people coming and going. I could sit there for hours. We had to stay on our toes to keep up with Chingkhei as he pushed through the crowds towards the ticket lines. I was fascinated... my eyes darting every which way trying to take it all in. The signs and colours. It would take me a while to figure out which train I would need, certainly, but Chingkhei had printed train maps and he surprised both of us by barging straight up to the front of a very long line to the ticket window... even in front of the person who was there. He explained later that if you're buying first class tickets you don't have to wait in line! I think Chris and I both had the same 'pit-of-the-stomach' feeling though.... it felt more like 'the white folks pushing in to get tickets' to us.... but before you could blink Chingkhei was back with our return trip tickets to Sewri. 104 rupees was the cost per person for first class. It seemed like a bargain... but when compared to the weekly passes, let alone the regular fares we were definitely paying the top end.

We then found our way to the correct platform and sat waiting for the train. It was an excellent chance to people-watch... and of course - be watched. I feel pretty comfortable with being a spectacle most of the time here - I think it's healthy to be out of your element and I am fascinated by the interest people show. It ranges from mild curiosity, to shy glances that break into smiles after a response, shocked stares, and of course there's always the guys that think all western women are not much more than prostitutes. Don't enjoy that so much.... but you have to take the bad with the good. 90% of the time it's all good and you can get some really great moments out of it. The security guards at my building gave me serious and mistrustful looks as I walked by to get the auto every morning. But I raised my hand in the salute of greeting so often used here, and smiled a 'hello' or 'namaste'. Now I get big smiles and nods from them in the mornings... I knew I would break them ;)

It was pretty hot on the platform - we were catching the train at about 2pm - and with the summer coming fast the temperature was in the 30's and a bit sticky. The rush of cool air as the trains poured in to the platform was welcome. When our train arrived we quickly got up and headed to the first-class carriage. We knew not to be fooled by the moniker, it's only first class because of some padding on the seats and less people able to afford to go it in it... hence potentially less crowded. But it's simple and grimy and real and I loved it. We got seats and I took some photos... the other men on the train thinking I was a loony I'm sure. ;)

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Firstly... it was SMOOTH.... a travelling sensation I realised I hadn't felt in so long. Even when we're in a fancy modern car we're still at the mercy of the bumpy Bombay roads ... and suddenly we were gliding along with not a ripple. It was wonderful. People came and went and we counted down our stations. I could have sat there for quite a long time though... just enjoying the ride. I'm sure it makes a big difference when you catch a train like that from the beginning of its route as well. Guaranteed a seat ;)

At Sewri Station it was quite different. There was a lot of loud noise, strong smells I won't describe to you (teehee), and people rushing everywhere. We weren't sure which way to go.... but it turned out we had to walk right along side the train tracks and out across some other tracks to head towards the mud flats. As I saw people just casually walking all over the tracks I could see how it was that so many are killed by trains each year. It seems so odd to see them walking along the tracks themselves... I kept waiting for the voice of a guard to call out and stop them... but it's just normal here.

Chingkhei asked several people for directions to the waterfront.. and we headed down streets bordered with small restaurants and tea stands. We were definitely firangs in a foreign land ;) ...everyone stared... this was right away from the main city and much more like some other parts of India in the feel of the street life. As we walked further and further on, it was as if we left Mumbai behind and entered a poor industrial village. It was very muddy and the people were of tiny wiry build - hard physical labourers you could tell. But lovely grimy kids with big smiles and "hello auntie how are you", laughing as we came by. Suddenly we hit a little mound of dirt and mud.. climbed over and onto a 'road' being used by big trucks - we were right in some industrial zone and away from everything now. There was mud everywhere and we appeared to be walled in from the sea by a giant concrete and barbed wire wall that looked impenetrable. We headed along... avoiding the puddles as best we could, past derelict worksites, trucks and workmen playing cards. They didn't look up, which I admired. There also seemed to be more cards on the muddy ground than on the table ... so I don't know what the state of the game was!

Eventually we reached a street again... and I saw a sign pointing to the Sewri MudFlats. A concrete jetty with seemingly abandoned but actually very much alive boats, marked the spot. We could see the tide was going out as we saw mangroves poke their heads above the water. We walked around one side along the rocky beach, littered with items of clothing that looked like they had once belonged on a Bollywood film set.... glittering purples, yellows and reds, all covered in dirt and torn and battered. No more life left in them. It was sad to see so much litter along the coastline, but inevitable that the dirt from the streets would find itself into the environment like this.

It was pretty clear that we weren't going to find any flamingos. We kinda realised as we looked though, that there would be many hiding places for them along the spreading coastline towards the distant power plant.. and if I was a flamingo I probably wouldn't have hung out right next to the jetty where the people were! There was a pleasant breeze though, and after all the walking and hot sun it was very welcome. A man near us invited us to come aboard one of the boats to take photos of the flats from a closer view, so we braved the 'plank'... a precarious gangway, and stood there for a long time taking it all in.

We began to notice the different kinds of terns and gulls that were flying around... all fishing from the air. They would hover and dive from a great height into the water to come out with a fish. Quite dramatic. Chingkhei was taking lots of photos with his big lens... I didn't take mine out as I just didn't feel I was good enough to take that kind of shot. Manual focusing in mid-air on a flying bird?... I need a little more practise before I do that ;)

The train ride home was even better. More crowded this time, we had to stand, and after a while I took the position by the open doorway with Chingkhei. There is something very freeing about standing there, holding onto the centre pole, head out into the rushing wind, your body feeling the power of the train move through space. You could fall out without anyone even noticing, and it's a heady rush. Nothing to these seasoned Mumbaikers I know.... but for lil' ole kiwi me it's most fun and I look forward to my next journey on the local trains.

a late morning meeting

Certainly is late! It's over a week since I went to Vivek's and I haven't posted... my my! Well... it's been just so busy and I also have been trying to figure out what to write. I realised since it was both a 'work' type of meeting and also at the office attached to his residence... all things that I can't really talk about with this being somewhat public.... I couldn't really put a lot - or much - detail at all. So..... if you know me and want to know what happened I can probably tell you a little... but unfortunately for the one man and his dog who actually check out this blog.... I can't really say anything. Needless to say though... it was awesome and another thrilling chapter in my Bollywood experience. We left him with a Rhythm and Hues demo reel on DVD and he sms'd me that night after having watched it with raving reviews.

Way to go R&H!

One thing that was very meaningful and lovely (and Jenny.... if you read this I know you'll be a little envious but I was thinking of you the whole time!) was my encounter with a particularly sacred cow. Prasad and I had to wait next to my favourite temple in Juhu to be guided to Vivek's house. It is the temple that Vani had taken me to and I had such a profound experience in on Valentine's Day. People generally seem to refer to it as the Hare Krishna Hare Ram temple but I've heard it called other names. Anyway... when we had gone the last time we had not seen the famous cow that stands outside. People go up to it and ... forgive me if this is not quite correct - take blessings by touching and feeding it. It's a lovely sight.... an older woman sits with many baskets of food in front of her and you can donate some rupees and give some to the cow. I was excited!! Prasad took several photos of me and I gave her four big balls of lumpy moist grains. She gobbled them up... I could cup her big wet snout in my hand and feel how strongly she urged forward to get the food from me. She knew what I was there for! I patted her face and neck and just wanted to give her a hug... though she might have wondered what that was all about! It was good to be close to a furry again.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

i feel reality impacting here

just a quick note... I am getting pretty excited. It's 11:30pm.... and tomorrow morning at 9am R&H's production manager Prasad and I are going to Vivek Oberoi's house! how freaking amazing is that! I'll fill you in later... but I had to share.....

oooh... BIG fireworks going off right by my apartment... sounds like bombs... very pretty... very loud... very late... hehehe

And I'll be amazed if anyone knows what movie the title of this post is a quote from ;)

Saturday, March 3, 2007


I've only just begun to realise the changes that I've gone through since I've been here. I don't mean true enlightenment.. I couldn't be that arrogant. I am a long way from that. But I have been infinitely 'lightened' .... many weights have lifted. And without me even noticing them leaving. My life in LA was good... don't get me wrong... but I was always worried about something... and had an inner sadness that I couldn't shake. Now, I just seem to feel peaceful. I don't 'want' for things like I used to. I wasn't materialistic, for sure... but I usually had a few things I would think about and wish I could buy. Now I don't think of that at all.... no wants at all. I see so many things in the stores and am not interested. All the kinds of things I used to buy. No need... just pretty to look at ...but they can stay where they are thankyouverymuch. How curious... how interesting.

And as far as worries go... I was 'always' worried... secretly weighed down by the things that I just had no control over but controlled my life. What would happen at work.. my visa.. my green card... my disastrous lovelife... worry worry worry. Now? I just have an innate sense that all will work out fine.... I'm where I am supposed to be.. and hence things are going to happen as they should. Now *that's* a tune I haven't played in my life before. Not sure who this new being is... but I welcome it... peace and calm. That's it, isn't it.

Yesterday was Holi... the festival of colours. I didn't get to celebrate it myself sadly.... my friends were all saying it was too dangerous as the colours are really bad for the skin.... and I kept seeing that on tv too. I really wanted to be out there throwing powder and getting covered in it though. But I watched from my apartment window and enjoyed from afar. Later as I walked along the street by my building in search of my favourite tiny bananas, I passed many people all covered in mostly pink and some silver and wet from head to foot. There was a pretty crazed and out-of-it look in their eyes... and my guess is it was bhang... which is basically a pure form of marijuana mostly put in milk or lassi or something like that. The government turns a blind eye to it on Holi and it's given to everyone... even kids and the elderly... everyone! Hehehe... only in India eh? My friends say they will give me some.... but not on a weekday! ;)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I visited my wonderful friends Anil and Gayatri and their cute-as-a-button son Nikhil on Sunday. They live in a building right beside Shivaji Park ... a famous piece of land that has created many a cricket star (ok... yeah, it has a big historical and political past too... and is significant in the whole Shiv Sena arena I mentioned earlier but let's not dwell on them too much again - we're strictly left-wing live-and-let-live here at BNACGD Blog!) ... and each day you will find every inch of grass is covered with young people living the dream of one day playing cricket for team India. It's quite a magical place and the agreeable noise of bat against ball and the shouts of boys and men playing their favourite sport has something very comforting about it, especially later in the day as the sun gets low and kisses the dust in the air. It's a nice place to be.

After a fantastic lunch cooked by Gayatri and a lot of great conversation and music (some Pink Floyd to reminisce about the concert since we'd all gone) I visited Anil's CG business. It's a lovely office with mosaic tiles on the floors and brightly painted coloured walls. Nikhil was proud to show me every little detail... each bathroom included! Anil drove me part of the way home and I grabbed a snap of a crazy sight.... the photo really didn't come out but it sums up one of the truly unique things you'll see here in India.... an entire family on a motorbike! This was Dad, Mum and the kids..... *three* kids...... ... two in front of Dad on the petrol tank.... and one behind squished in between him and Mum. Amazing. I wish my photo wasn't blurry... but here you go.

Another snippet.... tonight I had the most wonderful visitor. In my kitchen... on the 17th floor.... a *beautiful* glassy green gecko! :) Very handsome... and BIG.... I tried to catch him to rescue him....but he was not having it. So gorgeous... I can't imagine how he got in... or will get out. I am a bit worried... I hope I can see him again though. I shall call him Pepe.

Monday, February 26, 2007

happy everything

Whahoo..... Happy Feet just won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature a couple of minutes ago! :) watching it live :) Congratulations George Miller.... I could see how touched and happy you were! Pretty fantastic to have worked on the winning movie :)

yes.....a contrast to the last post I know.... conflicts, conflicts.....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

have mercy

my heart is crying ...the Rape of Sabrine.....

my tax dollars are paying for this.....

I want to throw up


I forgot to mention.... something totally trippy the other night. Prashant and Vani had taken us out after work (by *us* I mean myself and the new LA visitors who arrived last weekend - Wilmer and Chris). We had gone to a great joint right overhanging Juhu beach called the Vie Lounge.... very beautiful, and I had lobster to die for! Anyhoo.... we're driving home in Prash's car and suddenly .... next to us on the left hand side... the nose of a monster..... nope... I'm not talking about an elephant.... it was ... a Rolls Royce! And not just any Roller... it was enormous... like something out of Batman.... a big grey ghost..... mygod.... we were in shock!

When Jenny and I had stayed in the Marine Plaza hotel a few weekends ago, during breakfast overlooking Marine Drive we had seen a yellow Ferrari drive past. That was pretty mindblowing at the time.... especially as it shared the road with a cart being pulled by two giant elegant white brahmin bulls. Then on Friday night a Porsche was parked by the ATM machine. A Porsche with a big splat from a bird on its windscreen mind you ;) hey... if I was a bird I'd be aiming for the best car too.... have *you* seen Jhankaar Beats? either quantity.. or quality I say!

I'm used to seeing Ferraris and Lamborghinis and Lotus and that sort of car in LA.... but I still got excited with a Rolls or a Bentley.... I had driven by the Rolls Royce show room at the Millenium Mall and always said 'who on earth would actually drive that on the streets of Mumbai??' ... well... now I've seen it! Vani said it was a politician.... hmmmph.....

Saturday, February 24, 2007

honeymoons and rockstar red

Last night I went to see a new movie... opening night - a new Hindi movie. It's called Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and it's a comedy. Obviously, it was in hindi.. but lots of english and it was completely easy to understand. The story is of 6 couples who take a package tour in a bus to Goa for their honeymoon. Though a comedy.... there were lots of quite serious issues that come up.... and lots of melodrama as well. Funnily enough.... Dia Mirza who I had met last Saturday on set with Vivek was in it, as was Arjun Rampal who was standing in front of us at the Roger Waters concert! So there you are then!... small world :)

This morning.... I went off to my Bollywood salon in the gorgeous Union Park area of Bandra for a haircut and colour. This time I wanted to mix things up a little... so I asked Raychel to go for a more vibrant colour. We picked one out of the book... and boy have I gone RED... I'm a rockstar now! It's vibrant and wild.... they took a photo of me when I left. They were pretty excited about it. I like it a lot.... a rich deep, purpley maroony red. If I stood out before.... now I have a big arrow flashing on my head... haha! ;)

Raychel told me a lot of stories about Bollywood stars I can't put on the blog... pretty gross stuff. It's kinda like all those rap stars lives and videos - times 10.... it can be an ugly world. Not unexpected... and not unlike aspects of Hollywood at all either. She is the stylist to Sunil Shetty... who is thankfully a sweetheart she said... and she goes on set and on location with him. Everything she sees and hears from her stylist friends... and shared with me - just very sad and unnecessary. Oh well.... it's a dog eat dog world .. and there's not enough dog to go around....

floyd and floating pigs over mumbai

Returning from a morning on the set after a couple of nights of not sleeping... I was so wiped out and I just slept a lot of the weekend. The Sunday night was another great night... a Roger Waters concert - the closest you can get to a Pink Floyd concert nowadays - something you only get to do once in a lifetime I think... especially since I missed out because of geographic location earlier in life. The amazing thing is that if it was LA I would have had to have bought tickets months in advance and they would have been major coinage... but I got these on Friday for me and 3 friends.... and they were for the best 'seats' (it's all standing room only) at 3000 rupees each (roughly $69 which seemed pretty amazing for what Roger Waters).

So.... my Indian brother Pavan came to pick me up... and he brought along Mandeep, my trusty friend, confidante and coordinator from work, who had been at his house for lunch and was travelling with us part of the way. We piled into an auto... quite a pinch all three of us, as those boys take up a bit of room. :) It was fun... we were in high spirits and there were lots of laughs. It was warm but a really nice day - the streets were alive as always and we saw the cats roaming around the fish market waiting for tasty morsels to fall.

Mandeep jumped out at an intersection, and we continued through neighbourhoods I haven't seen before, including the one where the leader of the Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray lives. He was a cartoonist once... but is decidedly un-funny now. He started the ultra-conservative Shiv Sena political party in 1966 based on the beliefs that Maharashtrians deserve more rights in Maharashtra than those who are not from Maharashtra. There has been a lot of violence because of it.... and lots of the principles of hinduism seem to have been thrown by the wayside..... but then fundamentalist groups always do that, don't they. He sure lives on a pretty street ;)

Pavan and I reached the Bandra-Kurla complex... a huge area/street with big corporations on it...opposite the world's biggest slum. India is world of contrasts.... but you get used to it quickly in a strange way. It's a massive street... about 4 lanes on either side, which is something I hadn't seen for a long time, other than the highway. Of course... noone is actually following those lanes when they drive... so it's much more lively :)

We meet Uma, another coordinator, who is very excited to be coming to the concert. We've decided to meet at the ICICI Bank building and then catch an auto to the concert grounds... so we head there (after some confusion as to the direction... but following the mass of people seemed the way to go) and then find ourselves overwhelmed by the number of people! we thought since they hadn't sold anywhere near the full compliment of tickets at the top end, that the line would be short to get into the 3000 rupee area..... but we were way to hell and gone when we finally got to the end of the line!! I was trying to meet my friend Anil and his wife and friends... but there was little chance of that!

Finally... close to the time the concert was due to start, the 4th member of our group, Prem arrived. He had ridden his bike and had his bag with him... something the ticket said was forbidden... so I figured I'd play the 'girl' and 'firang' card and carry it myself. We were herded through the seperate sex screening - a regular thing here. The ploy seemed to work... there was some questioning but they let me in and I handed the bag back to Prem - no worries!

We only just got in and walked over to the stage as the concert began. We were so close... 20 feet if not closer! Incredible. Of course... being standing room.... and me being a midget... it wasn't the best view I could have had. But then... Indians are shorter than, say, Americans... so I was better off than I might have been. We looked up and a few people in front of us was a Bollywood star - Arjun Rampal. Hehe.... he didn't stay that close for too long but it was fun to see him up close and personal-like.

The concert itself is hard to describe. Roger Waters was amazing.. he sounded just like the albums. His band was phenominal. And he played hit after Pink Floyd hit. It was very moving. The whole stadium was singing each song... and I found myself choked up many times just overwhelmed at hearing the songs live and not really believing that I was doing so. The only thing that was a little disappointing was the light show... or lack of it. There was some nice pyrotechnics.... but not the giant computerized moving lights you think of with Floyd. But still.... it was wild. At one point a HUGE inflated pink pig balloon floated over the crowd. It had things written all over it.... very political statements... even some in hindi. [NOTE: follow that link and you will find a reference to the pig on Feb 18th 2007 in Mumbai ] A lot of general things, and some relevant to India about getting rid of the caste system and saying all religions are one. But right across the arse... 'Impeach Bush Now' :) sweet! The coolest thing... and none of us knew if it was scripted or not... it got loose from its ropes and just flew away.... into to the night air over Mumbai.... quite a sight to see.

The encore was unreal..... the whole stadium thundering and screaming 'we don't need no education'... and I couldn't help but remember the last day of primary school when we played that on a cassette and totally upset our teacher..... haha.... it was a great moment... and it must be an anthem for a generation I think. Then my favourite song of all... 'Uncomfortably Numb' .... big lump in the throat. I had my cell phone held up to record on its crappy video camera.... and so did everyone else. In the old days at a concert.... you would see everyone holding up cigarette lighters. Now it's the slightly blue glow of the cell phone screen. Modern technology.... it looks cool though.

I was a sweaty, numb-footed mess when the concert finished. We stood outside for a while hoping to meet friends but getting cell service was impossible and the sea of people made meeting pretty we headed on to find autos for Uma and Pavan, and I would catch a ride on Prem's bike. The weird thing was the way all the autos were acting.... they just did not want to give *anyone* a ride! It was quite odd.. still don't really know what the story was. Perhaps the masse of young people was a bit scary and they didn't want to risk it..... but they weren't stopping for anyone. We decided that Prem would give Uma a ride to her train and Pavan and I would start walking to a meeting spot.

It was a really fun walk.... VERY LONG but totally enjoyable with many people and a warm infectious evening. At one point, a long way from the stadium, we went past where a muslim wedding was ending.... and many women in long black burkhas were walking in front of me. The first one really caught my eye. She was so slim and so obviously had such a gorgeous figure underneath the black garment. I got a glimpse of her beautiful eyes. She walked with such a sexy attitude and was just so eye-catching and marvelous. Then coming up behind her, were three more women.. and their black burkhas were all covered in little black sparkling twinkling sequins and decorations...all stitched into the fabric. It was great to see how they were expressing themselves and all the lovely little touches coming through when at first you can't tell anything about them. It made me really smile.

We walked and walked.... all the way to the end of the Bandra-Kurla Complex Road... over bridges and past water.... to the edge of Bandra. Finally met Prem waiting on the bike, and Pavan was going to get an auto while we headed off on the bike. It was a great night!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

stars in my eyes

Ha.... my life :) Pinch me... or rather ... don't :)

I was talking to my Mum on the phone at 8:30am... still lying in bed, when my phone buzzed with an sms message. It was an sms from Vivek with details on how to get to the shoot at Film City. He said he was only shooting until lunch so to come early. He gave me the number of his assistant in case I had any trouble.

I didn't even have to contact him... I was floored! Needless to say I was out of bed and ready pretty damn quick.... went down to the street and crossed to the line of cabs. Before I knew it I had all the cabbies around me trying to determine 'which' Filmcity I wanted to go to. Um.... I'm pretty sure there is only one! So... since my Hindi consists of a few words that don't help in cases like this..... I called Vivek's assistant and got him to talk to them. I was on my way! The cab driver said 200 rupees for the fare and I just agreed.. which was a bit silly, should have been a metered fare, but oh well, who cares ;) The drive took me near work and to Goregaon East ... it was a beautiful drive, through some neighbourhoods I had been to, and some new ones. Such activity and life everywhere. I just can't ever get enough of it... drinking it up every day. Even last night, I got a bike ride home from a friend, and just round the corner from my house... an elephant! Just walking on the street... I am so lucky :)

So... the signs appeared for Filmcity and the landscape changed to more rural... we approached the gate and the guard said 'no' to my 'I'm a guest of Vivek Oberoi' ... so I called his trusty assistant again and the golden road was paved. It wasn't far to the shoot. There were lots of people milling about... like a set anywhere. I was led through and suddenly... could see Vivek sitting on the hood of a jeep being interviewed. I stood nearby and watched a little and looked around at the surroundings. One woman questioned my presence but immediately it was fine when I said who I was with. Many faces were staring at me... but that was fine, I understood I wasn't really part of the scene and was a firang to boot.

There was a brief pause in the interview and Vivek got his assistant to usher me into his trailer. I was offered chai or water or anything I needed... but I felt way too high on adrenaline to need anything. I sat for a while.... then looked at my Roger Waters tickets (concert tomorrow) and gave my friend Anil a call to talk about the plans for meeting up. We were talking as Vivek entered the trailer. Man...did I hang up quick! He blew in with a whirlwind of noise and presence.... all in black in his character's costume ( you can see it in the movie posters - he wore the shirt that is in the close up picture and everything else including all the wristband stuff and necklace you see in the walking shot - quite overwhelming). He apologized for the wait as he was being interviewed by the BBC. He sat in a leather chair and started to tell me the story of the movie. "Shootout at Lohkandwala"... which happens to be where I live, in fact. It's based on events that happened in 1991 when over 280 policemen surrounded a building near mine and spent over 6 hours in a shootout.

Vivek is playing the upcoming mafia gangster Maya Dolas from the underworld of Mumbai who was disobeying his boss, the big don of the underworld. Maya gets killed in the shootout. It sounds like a great dramatic movie.... I can't wait! He was really into it... very serious about the story as he described it. It was interesting just to watch an actor talking about his role and the movie - almost obsessive - all encompassing. Just the way you would hope an actor would take the seriousness of the role to be.

About this time I started to realise how freaking odd it all was that I was sitting there having this conversation with Vivek Oberoi... haha.... I felt very comfortable, and it was just so surreal! There was a knock at the trailer and in comes a gorgeous Bollywood star... Dia Mirza.. who was Miss Asia Pacific 2000. I had seen her in Dum with Vivek and he introduced her to me very sweetly and was so gracious. She was very nice to me too and she had just returned from Barcelona so we talked about Gaudi and her impressions. She is playing the only reporter who was actually on the scene during the shootout... and Vivek told her about a compliment she was paid by another actor who wished that he was killed by her instead. He wanted to fall off the top of the building as he was firing when looking down at her.... and the way he acted it out to us was quite funny. I had to pinch myself... here was Vivek acting out in the trailer to me and a Bollywood actress... what tha'?!

She left and we chatted some more and then headed over to the set. It was time for some filming! He introduced me to the director Apoorva Lakhia, who had very cool tattoos, and I sat next to him at the video assist, and watched as dozens of people organised the shot. It was within the Lokhandwala complex... with burning cars, cops shooting and *General Meyhem*. Very cool! Dia came and sat behind me and started to go through her dialogue sheet with someone.... it was fascinating to listen to and watch. One thing I have always loved about the Bollywood movies I watch is the type of language they use... a blend of Hindi and English - and I turned around and watched as she made pencil edits on her script and saw how it was written in the beautiful Hindi script with all these English words dotted amongst it. She had some lines missing and was synching it up with her coach... and I loved to watch her write the hindi next to the english... her handwriting, as all Indians seem to have, was immaculate. Puts me to shame.

The director was hopping up and down from his chair taking care of final details. He finally sat and alternated between a microphone and a walkie talkie, the call for fire was given... and the cars were lit and began to burn pretty hard, 'roll cameras' ... and finally 'ACTION'.... all hell breaks loose! Guns firing everywhere... but it's mostly around the corner from where we are sitting and we see it all in the video assist... it is a great shot... panning camera past crouching policemen firing like crazy. It must have been such a war zone back in 1991, I can't imagine.

At the end, things return and we wait as everything is readied for a repeat with a different camera move. We roll again and the director is in love with this take. Got it! After a little while, Vivek returns laughing with the crew, finds me and asks if I would like to see the set. Of course! He leads me though and we walk into one of the buildings. It is so authentic.. I truly feel I am in a street.... it's not like a set in Hollywood where if you look a little closely it feels fake... this just looked real. It was Lokhandwala! I was impressed. We got inside and he showed the wooden structure that holds the facades together and what they climb up to get to the upper levels of each building. I just couldn't get over how authentic the place was. The look was great. He said it was all constructed in 15 days... and it looked like it had been there for years.

Back to the trailer and we continued to talk. He asked exactly what I do and it was so nice that he really seemed to be interested. We discussed the company and our facility in LA and now Mumbai, and all about my coming here and how I love it. It was such a comfortable time... lots of talking of India... and what makes this wonderful country what it is. We talked of his life and living in New York and London.. then his schooling in different places including the exclusive Mayo College near Pushkar in Rajasthan. He was telling me of the beautiful inspiring buildings... the house he lived in was built by the Maharajar of Jaipur for his son. 30 foot ceilings... incredible details everywhere.. he loved it.

At this point 3 women arrived... they were representatives of the Cancer Patients Aid Association, a group Vivek has been a spokesperson for for 5 years. He is so passionate about the topic... and has facts and figures about the affects of smoking pouring out of him. It was a really great discussion... and could lead to some collaborations with Rhythm and Hues if the planets continue to align themselves in the way they have been for me! ;)

We chatted of many things - much talk of Mumbai and how you get sucked into its spell. Riding on bikes and how wonderful that is, the bond between young guys here... and how that is different in the US. He told us how when he lived in New York studying, he worked in modeling and did quite well for himself, then managed to save 70% (because he's Indian) ... haha .... He was able to look like all sorts of ethnic groups... hispanic, native american, indian, south american... it sounded pretty cool. He loved New York. But India was always calling and he couldn't stay away from this magical place. And it was struggling from nothing to prove his talent and make a name for himself.

The Cancer reps had to leave for another meeting, and we continued to talk. He wanted to know where I was from... so I shortened the story and made it New Zealand mostly. He LOVES New Zealand... says it's his favourite country. One day he wants to travel from top to bottom and east to west. He shot Naksha there in Rotorua and was telling me how he stopped at a homestyle cafe one day in his costume and realised that he had no money to pay but the lady was fine about it. He went back later with flowers and to pay them... he was impressed and said he's never experienced that anywhere else but India. This led us back to talk more about India and how amazing it is. As he said about Mumbai... once you are caught in it, you can't leave.... and he said there is a saying that anything you create here, like a business or any such success, you can't transplant that anywhere else... you can only keep it here.

We talked about Australia a lot too ... the differences between NZ and Oz.... he was fascinated to hear of the rascism as he had never experienced it. I pointed out... 'hey, you are a movie star... it's going to be a little different for you there' and he was very interested to talk about it all. Then onto Los Angeles and what that was like. I described my LA and how it's probably very different from the one he experiences, less fake and more down to earth. But then here the people are just so true when they talk.... and instantly onto another level, they say what they mean, no falseness and no pretense. just people. The whole morning was such a good conversation :)

But finally.. he did have to get back to the set. But he said he'll be filming again and I should definitely come out. He'll sms me. He took me out and then got his assistant to help me to an auto. Before I knew it I was in the auto and on the ride home. Surreal and lovely and comfortable. I really don't know what to think or feel.... I know that if I had met a star in Hollywood and had that experience it would not have been the long and meaningful conversation where you actually talk of things you love and what matters in life. It was another uniquely Indian experience.... and leaves me breathless.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

no chutti ;)

SMS - 15th Feb 20:16 Hi Vivek, we met at the Marriott last night and you said to sms you about coming to your shoot. The 16th was it? Just say the word and I will take a chhutti and come! -jude

SMS - 15th Feb 21:15 Chutti! That is so sweet! Well im not shooting tomorrow, 17th is when im shooting at filmcity. Pls sms me 17th morning n i'll organise it. See you then. Lv ~VO


[chutti or chhutti or chhootti or chhooti (as 4 people at work spelled it differently for me today)... is a day off]

this is for lil kim

So... I got a request from Kim in LA... 'more Bollywood' .... so I thought I better oblige ;)

Yesterday was pukey Valentine's Day... a sad day for me... but Vani got me and Jenny out and did some wonderful things. We went to her temple and had a very moving blessing from her priest, and we moved about the beautiful building placing the most saturated orange marigolds and other flowers and leaves on the feet of Shiva and Ganesha and Nandi and Krishna and I found tears streaming. It was very wonderful.... very moving... and I now have a golden orange and red string wrapped around my wrist that will stay there until it bleaches white and falls off.

Eh?.... what's that?..... where's the Bollywood?... :) oh... you were listening! ok... so we head to the Marriott for dinner... sit amongst the pink teddy bears and copious red roses... delight in the buffett of champions, then spend a little while at the Bombay Baking Company's bookstore and then begin to head towards the door to leave.... but.... *suddenly*.... I feel Vani grab my sleeve and DRAG me in the other direction while saying 'Jude... Vivek Oberoi'.

Now.... you gotta understand. I am a Bollywood movie nut... from quite a while back now. And in LA... my favourite star became the aforementioned Vivek Oberoi. He acted his pants off in 'Company' (no... not literally 'off'.... you know what I mean people!!) and that was his debut which caused a stir here in India.... and he's had an up and down career since then. People look at me very strangely when I say he's my favourite... and I follow up with 'also Ajay Devgan and Abhishek Bachchan'... which calms them down somewhat... but Vivek is the one I wait to see. In dramas.... that's his best.
My first instinct was... 'ugh.... no .. I look a fright... I don't want him to see me like this... and it'll be like a little fan-girl!' But Vani was like an adrenaline-junkie and could have dragged a double decker bus over there at that point... so suddenly we were right up to his entourage and I heard her say "excuse me, my friend would just like to meet you' and I was thrust forward.

Ba-dumm... ba-dumm... heart in throat... ok... just don't be dorky... try and be charming.. don't fall over...

And then we are chatting and he is lovely and we are having our photos taken and he's all interesting! I ask him what he's been filming.... he says something called 'Shootout in Lokhandwala'.... and I knew of it, it's based where I live... which we chatted about. Then I asked if he had been filming in Dubai.. he was surprised I knew (I read the web!) and then he rocked my world and said, 'well, we're filming in a couple of days. Why don't you come? Take my number and sms me?'

Um..... knock me over with a feather people....

hehe... I have Vivek Oberoi's number in my cell....

Of course... who knows if he will actually reply to the sms... but I sure as hell hope I get to go to the shoot. What a blast that would be. I will have my ears and ears open that day! Can't imagine it :) I will keep you posted for sure!!

that enough Bollywood for ya Kim? ;)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

bad timing

why didn't I come to India 10 years ago.... when I wasn't too old?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

a little masala

Whahoo..... it's been a big weekend. Lots of activity and lots of photos taken.... at last!

Busy busy week starting work on Golden Compass, and then the company meeting on Friday night. Jenny sang and was really charming and funny and won the crowd over in seconds. Audie did his crazy white boy dance and had us screaming for more... his last day... he has left India now! sad :( Lots of people sang and danced and a great time was had by all, followed by the big elaborate wedding-style cakes and food and music. Friday night I was out drinking at a bar in Bandra - just a good regular bar with a jukebox, good music and lots of people. Keeping an eye on the cricket on the big screen - South Africa vs. Pakistan. I'm getting used to the smoking inside... my eyes don't water or get bothered by it at all anymore. It was a late night.... only about 3 1/2 hours of sleep before Jenny and I had to rise and prepare for an 'adventure'!

Our excellent guest coordinator Ruchi had organised an Autorider car for us... it picked up Serkan and Burcin just after 6am and headed over to get us. We then had to drive east to the highway - which is the one big highway running north-south down the peninsula. It feels odd to be on it... like being transported back to LA for a moment. We stopped to pick up Prabhav, one of the coordinators who is moving from matchmove to join us in lighting (yay), and then headed south to Sachin's house. The plan was to try and catch the Saturday morning training of the race horses at the Mahalakshmi Race Course right next to where Sachin lives... but we had to get there early. We thought we may miss them... but our timing was perfect. The morning was just magical (that word again)... with dew on the grass and mist in the air. There were lots of people out walking and jogging amongst the footpaths through the horses training areas. It is quite a beautiful and peaceful place. Voices are lowered to not startle the horses...and the atmosphere is very calm. There is something about the smell of horses and the sounds of their footfalls that always takes me back to being a 10 year old horse mad little girl just so desperate to have anything to do with those giant majestic animals. It wasn't to be.... but I can still feel the magic when I'm near them. Perhaps in another life. Not racing though....

We walked through the warm up area through to the track and across to the lovely landscaped gardens in the middle. People were stretching, doing yoga and jogging everywhere. What an amazing thing to be allowed to come in the race course for free and do this! I took lots of photos and drank in the atmosphere. The sky was so dramatic as the sun rose... and when it peaked through the clouds and over the building we suddenly felt its heat touch us and knew the day was going to get hot.

We went back to Sachin's apartment... our mouth's were shaped for breakfast! We were treated to the phenomenal hospitality that guests receive when visiting an Indian house.... and before we knew it Sachin's mother had plates of delicious sweet and savory tasties appearing before us. The cooked breakfast dish itself was soooo tasty.. I need to check with Burcin for the name and description... but it was so tasty and I had a second helping. Just really appetizing food for the morning. We ended with hot drinks... I had a great traditional Indian tea... aaah..... to die for :)

Sachin uncovered his electric keyboard and Jenny played... very well! Some Scott Joplin and then Chopin.... and then Sachin played. He had us in stiches when he turned it on to auto play but mimed along with great drama.... the fact he is a dead-ringer for Jude Law made it even funnier. He then pulled his guitar out and played a bunch of wonderful songs.. some Hindi and many western. We had a great sing-along to Hotel California, more Eagles and Eric Clapton. His sister also entertained us with some beautiful singing.... what a family!! We felt so lucky to be welcomed into the house and so looked after... it was really lovely to just be in someone's home and feel that 'family' feeling.... it's been a long time.

It was time to move on to the next part of the day.... Sachin drove with us the short distance to Dhobi Ghat... which is the giant outdoor laundry area where clothes from all over the city are brought and washed in open concrete wash pans. The clothes are thrashed to within an inch of their lives.... phew. It's dramatic! The guys are standing deep in the water and get very wet... they must be the cleanest people in the city for sure! It's a sight worth seeing.... such hard hard work.

We said goodbye to Sachin and drove downtown to the Prince of Wales Museum. It's a gorgeous old building and although some of the galleries are very hot inside it's full of great stuff to see. We only saw a fraction of the exhibits... the most fascinating being the history of Bombay. Amazing to see how the 7 islands were joined with landfill to make the peninsula... hard to imagine! Some beautiful old Indian coins too. I want to go back and see more... the silk paintings were wonderful.

After the museum Uma, another coordinator from work came and met us. We were tired and hungry at this point, so headed to Khyber for lunch..... the same place that Arun and I had eaten what seems like soooo long ago. We had a table upstairs again. Such a cool restaurant design. The food was delicious... I got these tasty little sweet potato slices with different sweet chutneys on - mango, pineapple and tomato... soooo good! Kheema and cheese naans to round it out.... yeehaa!

OK.... I need to go have a shower.... I have a pinched nerve down one side of my back and through my arm, and it's driving me nuts! Very painful and hard to move. I've uploaded a bunch of photos to the flickr site... and I'll continue this blog and the photos tomorrow night after work. Dial up is slow ;) News is I might be on a new DSL ISP soon.... but not holding my breath... :)

Saturday, February 3, 2007

saturday snippets

The office boy has just come by and spooned the most delicious little cubes of fresh coconut sprinkled with large-grain sugar into my outstretched palm. This sort of thing happens most days at work... someone will come by with a chocolate, an Indian sweet or this sort of fruit treat... delicious, comforting and luxurious all in one go. :) I am so lucky!

As I rode the auto in this morning.. I watched two small girls at the intersection selling little hanging decorations to the auto drivers and motocyclists, which they hook onto their vehicles. These attractive little danglies are a cluster of thin green chillies stacked one on top of another, with a small lime at the bottom. I have to ask the significance of it... I imagine it is some nice thing bringing luck and good fortune. Haha... perhaps it wishes for a break in the traffic! But it is very pretty and cheerful, and I like it. At night, in silhouette they can almost look like big creepy spiders as the chillies stick out at all angles!

[NOTE] I found out they are to ward off the evil eye.... I think I should get one and hang it off my computer at work ...might have better luck with rendering ;)

I came in to work today to meet my friends and visit my office mate who had had a really unfortunate accident. He was walking back to work by the InOrbit mall the night before last, jumped on a bit of the road he hadn't normally walked on and fell in a 5-foot deep hole :( He broke his ankle in the most terrible way and luckily there was someone with him to pull him out and get help. It sounds just awful though. He was taken by auto to hospital (there's a picture in itself folks, imagine what that was like!) and had to endure some painful stuff to get his foot back in place. I have a photo of his foot .. it is mighty freaky! I'll post it when I get it from Imran. Satish my man... I am in awe of you! We are all waiting for you to return :)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

getting hotter

Summer is coming.... we can feel the humidity and the heat rising quickly. I have to say I feel a bit intimidated by it... more by how everyone has these knowing looks to each other as they tell us it's going to get hot, than anything else! I know it's going to kick my arse around the block.

Lots of small things been happening. Well... big and small... and I have missed writing about them. Still on dial up - and that seems to drain me of the energy to write for some reason.

We had a great dinner for the animation and bgPrep apprentices one night at PopTates... and I was lucky enough to be invited. It was also a send-off for Shish as he was finishing his time at the India office and heading back to LA. Everyone loved his presence and he was given gifts and a loving celebration. I'll post the photos on Flickr. For those interested I have posted a few more pics there...all people ones. I haven't been getting out with my camera much yet. It seems this trip has been all about people and my becoming a part of this India through the friendships I make... rather than in the past when I have done the tourist thing of taking photos and writing in my journal. I know I will take more pictures.... but I'm not in a rush yet. I can feel this time extending and the urgency is not there right now.

I saw Blood Diamond one weekend.... it felt odd to be seeing a movie where I could actually understand the dialogue! Man... what a serious and important film. Just see it... and then ladies?...reconsider when you ask your struggling boyfriend for a bloody huge diamond that is only expensive because someone decided it should be, not because it's rare. Is anything you strut around on your finger worth what those people are paying?... 'prolly not eh! :)

To lighten the mood a whole lot.... I had a fun experience getting my hair coloured! I needed a touch up... the ole' roots were showing in a big way and I needed some red back in my life! Vani had introduced me to a happening place in Bandra where lots of 'fancy people' go... so I headed down there to an appointment with 'Raychel' (it's universal folks... hair stylists worldwide always have trendy ways to spell their names!) at 11am on Saturday morning. I had allowed way too much time for the traffic, of which there was none. The drive through the suburban areas of Bandra through Parli Hill and along Carter Road by the water was just beautiful. Old large stately homes ... people out walking and a slower pace of life (a richer one of course). It was quite lovely with the giant trees bending out over the road and the cool air... I felt like I was in another time. I had half an hour to kill so I wandered along the streets and watched the people. It was lovely. I felt so relaxed by the time I walked into Hakim's Salon... the atmosphere with the fountain and the "om" recitation music playing just kept it all going. The big flat screen with Bollywood movie songs going was a fun contrast... you can't forget where you are! ;)

Colouring my hair red was quite a challenge... now, the way I describe my natural hair colour is 'desaturated rat brown'.... but you should have heard these gorgeous stunning Indian women... ' oh my god... you're so lucky, this is a real tobacco, it's amazing, look at it' and they were peering in at the roots and calling others over to see. Hehe - "one man's trash .." ... as my cousin Peter would say 'well there you are then'. But, it *was* difficult to change that 'tobacco' and get it to blend in to the rest of the red. They are used to dealing with rich jet black silky hair... not this woosey pale western stuff! So it took two tries but they nailed it!

During the second washing and rinsing phase, as I lay with my head backwards in the sink, enjoying the head massage and watching the Bollywood movies muted on the widescreen TV in front of me while I hummed along to the Bollywood soundtracks playing on the sound system, Little Miss Rich Mumbai comes along ... "Raychel... pleeeze...." I hear a whiney voice ... oh so familiar. Suddenly I could have been in Beverly Hills... it was a young spoilt brat of a girl, having what seemed to be a true crisis of a bad hair day... with somewhere special to be tomorrow and only our wonderful Raychel could save the day. She had a sense of entitlement that is reserved for the rich and annoying and she just hounded away in this pathetic baby voice that I wished I could have recorded for this blog ;) "Raychel, pleeze yaar, my godh, what will I do, you *have* to fix this.. you have to fit me in. I can't go out like this. Pleeeeeze yaar...... come on Raychel" I had to force down the gag reflex. ;)

Monday, January 22, 2007


As the second week of the next two apprenticeships (animation and bgPrep) chugged along, the lighting apprentices were really getting stuck into their mock production. They certainly got a taste of real production, with everything crawling to a halt when they went to render their shot on every frame and found it ground the queue to a standstill. They got their second shot to work on so it's been a careful process of balancing work between the two... and they have shown great character and good naturedness just going with the flow, but I'm sure it's been frustrating.

Something that is a nice touch at this office is acknowledging the passage of time a TD has been with the company. Colourful kindergarten style emails with lots of smileys are sent out by HR sending congratulations on the yearly anniversaries of the td's time at the company....and lately a whole bunch have been reaching their dates. Within the last month a whole slew of them reached both their 2 and 3 year celebrations.... and congrat's have been flying around the office. It feels special and happy and seems a nice way to make people feel good about both their own achievement and the fact that it means something to work for the company. It made me realise I wouldn't even know my exact anniversary date!

So, several weeks back a bunch of us had gone bowling and had a night out for Kunal's 3 year achievement, and on Wednesday it was Imran's 2 year anniversary. Imran has been my right-hand man for the mock-production...and saw Arun and I through the classroom training too. He's been great, so of course we had to go out and celebrate! A lot of people are working long hours on other projects.... so the group was just Imran, Kunal, Gagan and I. We headed out to the place we had gone before for bowling, but this time (to my relief... man did I suck at bowling!) we played pool. I haven't played since I lived in Toronto (ugh... how can that be so long ago... the 90's!) but it really is fun. Once again the spirit was purely one of fun... no competition at all. I was paired up with Imran against the other two and we all had a blast. We played about 3 games in the hour we had paid for (350 rupees I think) and there were a lot of tricky and fun shots. I really got a kick out of my behind the back into the corner pocket shot... what a fluke!

After that... back onto the bikes (wheeeee!) and on to Pop Tates - the one near my house - and I got to try one of their famous sizzlers! This is a hot plate filled with a huge amount of food. I got the chicken tikka.... but they come in a huge range... from fajitas to veg platters and lamb dishes. There are lots of vegetables and rice sizzling away on the side and it is definitely more than one person can really eat.... an American size meal! By the end of the night I had eaten waaay too much and felt that uncomfortable feeling ;) But we had had a blast as usual. Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

roadside attractions

One morning as we were coming in to work Shish suddenly yelled with excitment and called to the auto driver to stop early by R&H so we could go back and see an amazing motorbike. Luckily we both had our cameras that day ... and what a sight it was. Check this out..... a beauty!

It's got the Indian swastika... but they have turned it round the wrong way and it's now the nazi symbol... oops! You see swastikas everywhere here.... they are meaningful as a lucky symbol promoting well being. Ganesha often has one on his hand :)

We had brought our cameras to work for a special reason though. Right before the auto turns down the street to Rhythm and Hues... right by Hypercity - the supermarket to beat all supermarkets - there is some scrubland with rubbish in it. Invariably we see one or two guys taking a leak there.... and Shish had laughed and laughed when he caught a glimpse of a sign basically saying... 'no peeing here' right where they were. OK... I said.... we need a photo of you showing what you *really* did in your time in India... so here you go folks.... it's all Shish... all the time!

Shish tells me that the direct translation of the sign is "Here urine to do is prohibited"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

hallway girls

I get regular visits at the apartment from mysterious and beautiful women. The lights in the hall outside the door are often off (presumably dead for some reason)... so when I look through the peephole after the doorbell goes off, I see just small shapes of tiny female forms but I know what is coming. Often I'm not ready and have to run and get my robe on, running to the door to find these petite, brightly sareed girls with dark skin, shining fierce eyes and stern expressions all looking at me waiting to see what my reaction will be. I feel like a giant among them... all five-foot-two of me.

The first one who came puzzled me a lot but finally got the point across with lots of mimes and actions that she wanted to do my laundry or some cleaning. Sadly we have the super wonderful and efficient office boys from R&H come by for apartment cleaning, and I had taken my laundry across the road that day. A few nights later a whole contingent showed up for the same thing.... but they weren't in luck from me. This morning.... the girl was hoping for cleaning and this time offered cooking too. If she could have seen the Mother Hubbard bare cupboards in my kitchen she would not have bothered. It was very sweet though.

Part of me wishes I could try them out.... I would need some solid Hindi though. And I have heard so many stories of people being ripped off by their maids...and there are a lot of valuables here that I couldn't take a chance with. But it is such a lovely thing and they are so sweet and proud and ... the only word that seems to fit again is fierce .. in the most wonderful way. I admire them.

moroccan rooftops and airport goodbyes

The night after Guru, I met up with a friend I haven't seen in a while and headed to Bandra. For those of you not from these parts Bandra is where everything exciting seems to happen. It is the place where the restaurants, clubs and excitement of Mumbai all come together along with fabulous shopping, and streets that are alive with people and traffic, and wealth and the star's fancy houses to blow your mind. It's party central.... basically! About 45 minutes from my apartment on a busy night .... but less when things aren't crazy.... it's where we go for good food and fun. I'm happy to say I am really starting to get used to the late eating hours (10pm or so.... still need an early snack... but it's getting easier).

Anyhoo... we headed to a place I hadn't been too.... a very cool Moroccan style restaurant that was on top of the Shoppers Stop building in Bandra. Shoppers Stop is a fancy department store along the lines of Macys ... and this one is 6 storeys high. The lift was one of those bubble window ones you can look out onto the street chaos... much more fun with lots to see in India! I had no idea the restaurant (called Sheesha which means glass in Hindi) was going to be as gorgeous and exotic as it was. It was the whole rooftop... outdoors with dark and low tables/couches.... hookahs, and dim lighting to make it feel very exclusive and wonderful. We were led to a skinny metal spiral staircase up to a 2nd level of roof that had an even more spectacular view over the city... and were given such a show over dinner. Fireworks! Now I will see or hear them from my bedroom almost every night... but to have them like this from a rooftop restaurant felt like a personal display. I saw trains running by in the darkness and the little autos speeding around and all the activity far below felt like such a magical thing to watch. Definitely have to go back there! The food was not quite authentic Moroccan... more Indian kebab style.... but very tasty and enjoyable for sure.

Afterwards we headed down one floor to the nighclub - Seven. It was nearly empty at that point - still only about 10pm. But it had a great view with one wall of smoky glass looking across the cityscape. Ah.... does it get better than this? We had a tall table and drinks.... and waited for the place to fill up and get crazy. Amazingly we could leave our stuff on the table safely while we danced to the great eclectic mix of modern and bollywood music. I can't imagine ever feeling safe about leaving my bag alone at a club in LA... perhaps there are places but it seems unlikely. Here it is just fine.

The Sunday was a lazy day at home.. a very nice one. At 5pm I headed out to the airport to meet Arun as he flew back to LA. He was inbetween his flight from Coimbatore and the US.... so I met him at the International Terminal and we found a way for him to store his bags at the Left Luggage (quite a hike) and then we got an auto to the JW Marriott for one last fancy bash to send him off. It was so good to see him. My partner in crime :) We had a lot of catching up to do. Talked and talked and laughed. We got an Indian meal at the Marriott's Indian restaurant... very fancy. I had a mango lassi unlike any I've had before... made freshly and pretty freaking good! The meal was great... Arun had his favourite biryani and we got jumbo prawns that were the size of small lobsters! hehehe. Decadent.... we are so spoilt in this life. Dhanya-waadh (and I keep copying the hinglish spelling from websites that tell me things incorrectly... so to any of my Indian buddies... correct me if this is wrong... it looks wrong to me!)

Saying goodbye *again* to the guy was just as painful.... this time I knew he wasn't even going to be in the same continent dammit (does that mean he's now 'incontinent'?? hahaha) so.... I gulped back the lump in my throat and wandered away into the warm night air. It was after 10pm and I thought I could flag down an auto that had dropped someone off but no luck. It's a long and roundabout way to the lineup of autos near the Left Luggage and they certainly were different to me without Arun around. I realise now my mistake was, after telling the large group of them where I wanted to go and following one... that I climbed into the auto without knowing I had to negotiate a fare first. Suddenly the auto is surrounded by men all finding this pretty funny and saying 120 rupees for a journey that I paid 55 for earlier in busier traffic. Hmm.... I was a little blank at this point on how to proceed. I was very relaxed and joking around, but repeatedly demanding he turn the meter on which he wouldn't do - something about being in the line at the airport and a charge they pay.... Something clicked and I realised I better have my wits about me.... so I got serious and a little aggressive and also thought 'screw it, the money is very little for me and who cares if I get ripped off by a $1... it's better to just get going and leave the situation'..... so I got him to 100 rupees and we left. Just afterwards he turned the meter on in case a cop saw, as it's illegal for them to set a fee up front and not use the meter ... hmmph.... and sure enough.... the fare would have only been about 50 rupees. I wonder what kind of extra fee they pay for starting from the airport? Damn, I gotta learn more Hindi! ;)