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! ;)

gurus and peking toms

The previous week and more has brought about more change for R&H India. We have had a new arrival from Los Angeles and just this morning a departure. Going back to over a week ago, however, we got Audie, who is here to help with the Animation apprenticeship that my new roommate Shish had been running. Audie had never been to India but he has jumped in with both feet and a cast iron stomach :) His initial arrival must have felt pretty weird though... it was a Thursday night, and the very next evening a big group of us headed to a nearby theatre for the opening night of Guru. The event was organised by my Indian brother Pavan... who I must explain seems to be the social lifeblood of the office - I hate to think how many numbers are stored in his cell phone ;) Guru is a big new Bollywood movie with the stars of the moment (or of the decade!).. Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan. The news of their real-life engagement just days ago has swept the land or rather the world. I actually read it on the BBC news website.. this is B-I-G people ... the most beautiful woman in the world is taken ...and the timing is perfect for selling a movie.

We pack into the theatre to take up our allocated seats (Indian cinemas have set seating which can be good or bad depending on the size of your party and if you wanted to sit next to someone!) I have to say I really enjoyed the movie... even though of course it was in another language (or, as I found out later, several languages... Hindi, Gujurati and to Serkan and Burcin's delight some Turkish for the early part filmed in Istanbul). It's interesting the rhythms and flows you fall into when you watch a movie not understanding the dialogue. You look at the body language, you listen to all the musical cues (which Bollywood does really well) and you find you are reading the 'language' of cinema which speaks clearly in and of itself.

So.... I may have missed a lot of subtle dialogue, but I came out feeling I'd seen something powerful and dramatic... now I just need to see it again to get the smaller details. It was beautifully filmed and the soundtrack by my idol A.R. Rahman was so great I had to buy it right afterwards. I still think about that magical concert of his at the Hollywood Bowl last year.

I could understand that it was a bit much to expect Audie to last through the whole thing.... the combo of jetlag, hunger and the shock of sitting though his first Indian movie (and without subtitles!) all within a few hours of landing was enough to send him on the search for dinner and a bed at the intermission. Oh yes peeps! these movies are long and there is always an intermission... just watch yourself... as there is no warning to get back to your seat before the 2nd half starts! ;)

A bunch of us headed round the corner afterwards to the standard place for LA R&H crowd - Pop Tates (Danny.. JP? memories for you I'm sure!).... but they were full, so we went next door to a chinese place called The Peking Tom (dontcha love these names!) A lot of food and many cocktails later and we were a bouncy happy crowd. It was an interesting night. I had a little too much to drink, but I ended up with a ride home on a motorbike and that is always my favourite favourite thing to do in India... so I couldn't ask for more!


Hello... did you think I'd forgotten you? :) I'm still here... and my mother India is wrapping her arms around me tightly and sinking her roots into my skin more and more deeply every day. I may never leave ;) Instead of a giant long diatribe... I'm going to break this into little snippets to cover my mind's ramblings.... nothing is very well constructed anyway... so you're getting it as it pours out of my brain, take it or leave it...hahaha!

Whahooo.. we finally got water back in the apartment! It did take about 10 days or something... might have been more. It's all about perspective though. I mean... how can I really complain as I watch the men constructing the high rise apartment next door... I look out from my luxurious 17th floor 'crib' onto a dirtball that is their 24-hour a day existance. They have makeshift tin shacks on site where they live with their children... who play right on the work site. In the mornings I see the men meticulously bathing at the building that has running water (only cold)... while cooking fires are going beside their shacks. Already... at 7am there is a man in the giant crane moving building materials around... he has climbed all the way up and will stay in there, baking in the heat, all day. They will work on these structures all day, with no safety harness and no fear of the heights that they clamber around on with a marvelous ease that takes my breath away. It is all hand labour with no machines that we are used to seeing for building construction in the west...and the high rises will take many many months to go up. All the while they live in the dirt on site a few feet away. So.... I had no shower or toilet for a few days. BIG DEAL! I am the luckiest person in the world and may I remember this every minute of every day. The feel of pouring a jug of water over your shoulders is pleasant and refreshing and we should all try it. :)

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

moments of thought

I wake at 6am with soft sounds of beauty... in the distance I can hear an imam calling the muslim people to prayers. It is low and constant and exotic... and my mind wanders in and out of sleep as I hear these wonderful sounds. This morning I was already awake and not able to sleep, so I called my parents in Canada to tell them about what I was hearing and how special it was. My lovely surprise in return was two haiku poems my Mum had written. The first one was particularly touching... it was one for me.

In one brief moment
life can spin out of orbit
from joy or sorrow

Nothing need more be said, I think. :)

The second... I leave for you to ponder on...

Waves upon the shore
sing sad songs from distant lands -
listen carefully

Thankyou Mum..... xxx

Sunday, January 7, 2007

water, water everywhere and not a drop to shower with

So, a few days ago I received an SMS message on my cell phone from the city commissioner warning of a 20% reduction in water availability that was supposed to last from the 3rd to the 7th of January. I didn’t think much of it… we had had a day not long ago where water was completely turned off for around 48 hours city-wide (it made world-wide news) and we coped just fine. There was one tap in a bathroom we could use to fill up buckets and my bathroom had some water flowing so it wasn’t that enormous a deal. Ok… so… things never quite go as you think here in India ;) 20% is … well, in this case…. let’s say…about 100%… and now it’s been for 3 days … a little trying. We do have the kitchen sink tap working so we can fill up a bucket to pour down the loo for flushing purposes… but taking a shower is not easy from cold buckets of water, and I just feel a bit tired of it all at this point.

The word is today between 12-1pm we might have water. Yeah…. I’ll believe it when I see it. Meanwhile… I’m ready to heat up some water on the stove and add it to the bucket to cut the chill. It’s going to feel nice to have the shower again soon. Small things mean a lot. I still know I live in luxury having these things compared to the building workers families living in tin shacks at the base of my building though. It is all relative.

NOTE: there was no water between 12-1pm..... but the Indian method of a bucket and pail is pretty efficient and pleasant so I made do. Anyway, it'll make that moment of the water coming out of the shower head even more special when it happens.

daze and nights

[pics to come when I'm not on dial-up]

So much time has passed.... and life has passed and I can't capture it all. Last time I was without the Net I was diligent and had it all written as separate posts ready to put online when I could. But things have been so busy and I am sorry to say it’s one giant rant this time. It's 2007... how did that happen?! Last post was on Christmas day and that already seems eons ago. At that point Arun had some time left here and the apprenticeship was still in its formal training. So.... I better backtrack to that point.

I spent a very mellow Christmas day, which was good after the craziness of the day before. The last few years in LA I have ignored the holidays, but still felt a little low at Christmas, and it was good to be here in such a different place and able to ignore it easily. It was a pretty hot day and the plan was for Serkan, Burcin and I to go for a sushi run! We had recommendations for a fancy place at the Taj Hotel downtown... a restaurant called Wasabi with a chef who had trained with the famous Nobu in Malibu. Good pedigree if nothing else! I had made reservations several days in advance.... so I met them at the Infinity Mall and we hopped in an auto and headed for Bandra to change over to a taxi. The point to note here is that autos can not go further into the city than Bandra, so you have to change to a cab there. Man.... it really was a stinker... reminiscent of summer Aussie Christmas days with no a/c. The traffic was really heavy... I guess we imagined it might be better, but it was *bad* - and when we changed to a cab we were in a heat trap inside that Ambassador. By the time we reached Churchgate we were all very bedraggled little rats feeling not that great.... 2 hours later! Yup.... the quest for sushi is a serious one!

We wandered around the incredible Taj ... with plans of a drink and then sightseeing. But I think our exhaustion with the drive and heat just made us really hungry and we decided to see if we could push our 8pm reservation forward to when they opened at 7pm. We had a drink in the very old fashioned and lovely ‘gentlemans bar’ below Wasabi (oldest bar in Mumbai) and headed up the spiral staircase to the classy and gorgeous Japanese restaurant. Really amazing place with views straight onto the Gateway and harbour…. world class in everyway. We drooled over the menu – chose appetizers of carparccio and miso, followed by chef’s plates of nigiri and rolls. The sake we ordered, recommended by the waiter as very smooth was delicious… smooth like the one I have in my fridge back home :)

OK…. so sushi at Wasabi is not something you could do often here. I have all sorts of conflicting feelings about it. The food was great… but it came out to about $120 a person. Now I really know I am truly one of the lucky few in the world and can do that sometimes…. as I do in LA with friends occasionally. My favourite sushi place that I go to every few weeks is a $70 meal right there. But once you come to India… and see how little you need to spend to get a wonderful meal… and more importantly – *much more importantly*, how little most people around you have – if you are any kind of reasonable human being, you have to feel a certain sense of sickness in your insides at spending that on yourself for a meal and stepping outside with little children coming up and begging for money. I’m not sure where exactly to put it all in my head and heart… but it’s something you have to come to grips with. We all have to figure our way through this world… and how we can make it better from being in it. Conflict is everywhere internally and externally and that will always be my challenge to move peacefully through it and try to not add more conflict to the world. Best I can do I think.

Oops.. enough of my philosophizing there! Anyway…. the week after Christmas, Arun was back from visiting his family in Coimbatore in the south, and we had our last week of classes for the apprentices. It wasn’t very structured… overviews and some pipeline tools. We tried to cover things they might not have understood.

Friday was a special day in several ways. It was officially the last day of formal teaching… also Arun’s last day, and the release day of Night at the Musuem in India . R&H had worked on the movie as the principal VFX house, with the India office doing a great amount of work. The office had bought tickets for everyone to go late in the day so the excitement was high.

We planned to take the apprentices out for lunch to celebrate the end of their training, and as a surprise for Arun. We went in Prashant’s car the few minutes drive from work to a place called Pop Tates… infamous from Danny Speck and others who had been here from LA. They had a long table set up for us. Arun and I made the mistake of offering to buy everyone a cocktail but were quickly told that there is no drinking during office hours, and that that is not just an R&H India policy….but an LA one too. Hehehehe… ok…. now I don’t know if that is in the employee handbook in LA but I can assure you it is SO not adhered to…. hahaha. The barfridges at people’s desks alone make a mockery of it ;) Anyway…. they provided us with a tasty lunch and lots of nibbles. And at the end two big pink cakes were brought out for Arun. Fun for all.

I have to say my favourite moment was the ride back to work though. As we left, I saw Imran getting onto his motorbike and I called out asking if I could ride back with him. What a thrill. Now probably 40% or more of the traffic in Bombay are bikes and they are just so cool. I have been dying to get on the back of one. Some are scooters but most are various kinds of motorbikes (including the gorgeous Royal Enfields… still made here) that can hold the entire family bundled onto the back seemingly without effort! Impressive :)

It was such an adrenalin rush… zipping in and out of the traffic. You never get to go fast, but you get to really move around – which you don’t in a car, or much in an auto. The air is flowing through your hair (ok, so you’re left with the windblown look) and you feel sooo free! I know the passenger has the advantage since the driver is having to deal with all the stress of the life and death traffic.. while I just sit back and laugh and hoot and enjoy it all… but it is truly the way to travel! Sigh… I am a-d-d-i-c-t-e-d!!

It felt like a transitional day for some reason… a moment where I was cementing new friendships that will be with me for a long time. As we headed out for the movie and mingled in the lobby waiting for everyone to assemble, and I was exchanging mobile numbers and organizing to ride on the bike again… I could suddenly see a picture of my future life here. I have been so accepted … welcomed and blended into worlds. It took years for that to happen in LA… but here it was the blink of an eye.

Of course a great bike ride to the cinema … a new one I haven’t been to near Infinity Mall by my apartment. We all milled about outside talking for a long time… then moved inside where it was HOT… no a/c in the lobby. The movie started very late but the amazing thing was the seating! There are all levels of seat types… as you move back in the theatre they get fancier… I was in a big fake-leather thing like an armchair.. incredible… you can actually curl up in this thing. So comfortable. No more expensive either. At the back they have ones that fully recline and you can sleep in them… hehehe… the make-out chairs. ;)

So… the very very different thing is that Museum was the first English movie released in India only in hindi! ("Museum Ke Andar Phas Gaya Sikandar") Haha… I was pretty excited about this. I can’t say it had looked to me like a great contribution to cinema… in English anyway… but perhaps in Hindi it might be a little more interesting! Seeing it with the group that worked on it though…. now THAT is an experience not to be missed. They screamed and hooted all the way through… for every shot they worked on. Just great! A real sense of pride and enjoyment. I could pick up the story mostly… lots of English words always creep into Hindi, plus this wasn’t rocket science! It was a thrill when I caught a Hindi word here and there I knew. By coincidence the day before I had learnt that when kids need to pee the word is ‘su su’ and there is a scene with the monkey peeing with Ben Stiller clearly saying su su which made me laugh because I knew it! I’m learning all the important stuff here, people!

Afterwards, lots of chatting outside…. everyone was buzzing from seeing their names in the credits! A big moment as I think this may have been the first time folks from the India office got credits… though don’t quote me on that. I felt really happy for them :) Their work looked wonderful. I met up with 3 of the senior lighters – Imran, Kunal and Kiran and we headed off for dinner. Still weren’t sure where to go so we rode around and finally settled on a place in the Lokhandwala market called the Food Inn. I had a tasty biryani and a sweet lime soda and tasted everyone else’s food.

A little note… the sharing of food here! … it is INCREDIBLE…. In the pantry (the lunchroom at work) everyone is eating from each other’s plates. Those who have brought in home cooking are sharing… calling people in to share their breakfasts… it is much more than just having the taste of food from each other’s plates that we do in the west. So giving and blindly generous without a thought. One friend always brings me packages of his mother’s incredible halwa dessert… made from carrots. I had liked it when I tasted it at Indian restaurants in LA but the homemade version will blow your mind. And now I get these foil packages of it to carry home and nuke for my late night pleasures! Very spoilt!

Ugh… the Saturday morning after the movie fun did not start nicely. I knew how it would begin and hadn’t been looking forward to it. Arun was leaving… my new little brother, partner in crime, advisor in all things Indian and male and romantic, and general buddy for all seasons… not to mention the best roommate I could have ever had! Who would have known that we would become the closest of friends.. sharing everything with each other? As I said to him, though I was losing him I had gained him in my life and that was a bigger thing than this physical loss… and we shall be buddies for a mighty long time I know it. Once again… India provides…. But that bastard…. he made me cry ;) Noone makes me cry dammit! And I have been missing him a lot. What a good time we had… laughing just so much.

I spent the afternoon in at work as I felt a little lost without Arun. Plus I needed to make a plan of action for the mock production we were going to run for the apprentices. Two shots in 3 weeks… as if they were in real production having dailies and making changes presenting to their supervisor. It needed to be as real as possible. It turned out a couple of friends were in at work as well… and we all sat in the training room with the a/c on and hindi pop radio on listening to a bunch of my favourite songs. Very good! :) It did turn into a nice day. You are never alone for friends in India.

Next day I went to the InOrbit mall by work to try and find some things to wear for our New Years eve party that night. It’s a slightly different experience shopping here. The shop assistants are very attentive..almost to the point of being pushy. But they are all sweet and gorgeous to look at…. which helps. I went to lots of places. Got everything except actual clothes. I guess I wasn’t really sure what I wanted… hard to shop without an Indian advisor! I did get a couple of pairs of the neat leather shoes Vani had. They are so unusual… hard to describe too. They don’t have a left and right (!), and are stitched together quite roughly, with a leather sole as well. I was pretty hesitant about them, but they have been so surprising – wearing in quickly, shaping to your feet… no blisters, comfy and fun. I will have to find more.

A CoolCab (the rental vehicles you can get for a day – driver and car that will wait diligently for you everywhere) arrived to pick me up and get Serkan and Burcin… to then head out to Prash and Vani’s place. I hadn’t driven right up to the other apartment before… it is certainly fancy at the entrance level! We piled in and took the drive out to Mudh Island where the Buyyala’s live. Although not really far from the office as the crow flies it is a long circular drive around marshland and into real country roads. It felt like we were so far away. Very pretty and lush and through village areas. I couldn’t believe they travel that far to work every day. But, it’s all relative. If you were going past urban areas it wouldn’t feel so far… it’s 45 minutes really… an average LA commute! But the countryside made it feel sooo far. Very pretty though. And once we arrived at their palacial buildings which look like a giant resort of Oberoi standards we were just blown away. Burcin fell in love with it and is determined that they will find a flat there to rent for their year in India. My fingers are crossed for them. Prash took us for a details tour of the grounds. I can’t really put it into words except that it would look at home in Dubai or Saudi Arabia or any of the exotic MTV videos you see shot in locales like that. Quite stunning and gorgeous. And the view from their balcony is straight across to work… over the marshlands to the city skyline. Dramatic and beautiful and peaceful. You’d never need to leave it!

We went for a drive to the local village. The fish market was underway. There was no mistaking that for sure…. my nose was tickled in every little pocket. It was a little .. shall we say .. rich.. at times! Though the fish is all fresh, it’s just sitting in the open on slabs of plywood and being cut on treestumps… so it can’t be that clean when those are washed at the end of the day for the next catch to come in – I can’t help thinking. The variety of fish was phenomenal! So many…. in all shapes and sizes. Right down to tiny little bonsai sharks, flat flounder-like fish, the local pomfret, catfish, big tuna, tiny shrimp, and so many many more. It was dark so worth visiting another time with a camera when the light is up. Really fascinating. Vani bought fish and shrimp for our dinner and we headed back. She effortlessly put together a meal of many courses… what a talent – one I am in awe of since I can boil an egg and that’s about it ;)

After Vani had dressed us gals up in her cool clothes, we headed out at around 11pm for the New Year’s Eve Goan Grind not too far from them near The Resort. We got their to find a lot of people, food, alcohol, the usual party stuff. It wasn’t really anything Goan but a nice atmosphere. Full of really young people… I guess because it was one of the cheaper New Year’s events… plus all the booze you could drink for free! We got something wet and headed towards to throng of people dancing. It wasn’t a huge crush of people and we found a spot and started to have fun. At one point my arse got grabbed which was a little disconcerting, but I was lucky as both Burcin and Vani had one aggressive guy grab a breast and they had to really hit him to get him off. Not nice!

We danced and danced and there was a lot of fun Hindi music, including my current favourite ‘Beedi’ from the movie Omkara. When midnight struck people went crazy with their drinks and sprayed them all over the crowd and we were totally drenched in beer, Bacardi, scotch and god knows what else. Sticky and oogy! My hair felt matted and awful! It got more packed and we were getting pushed around so we decided to move on. Found a nice patch of grass with speakers near the port-a-loos so we set up there and danced away for the rest of the night. Much nicer!

The party was advertised to go from sunset to sunrise… but in the middle of a loud song the music suddenly died as we saw a line of Mumbai’s finest march in to put a stop to things. The organizers had obviously not ‘done the needful’ and paid the necessary bribes to the cops to make sure the party could go on past 1:30am. Noone was surprised.. it’s a very normal occurrence with nightclubs getting the treatment all the time… so we all sat around waiting to see if bribes would be paid and the music would start up. We eventually saw them leave with bottles of alcohol (hey, I guess they wanted to live it up on New Year’s too!) but obviously no money changed paws and the party was pretty much over. We gradually made our way to the car and met up with the CoolCab driver who had patiently waited all that time (ji, they are truly an amazing group these drivers!) and Serkan, Burcin and I were driven all the way back to our apartments. There was barely any traffic on the roads…. a sight to see in Bombay. By the time I got it in was actually 3:30am and I was still awake. I made some calls to LA and crawled into bed around 5am.

The week flew by. The mock production started with some pipeline issues but the apprentices were all patient and are now working away on their shots and dealing well with the marathon daily sessions! It takes a long time to go through each shot as we have to get them used to presenting their shot as if they were having a video conference with the LA office…. quite a discipline in itself and very different to dailies I’m used to. I am impressed at how well they are adapting and trying to do it as well as they can…. especially with the challenge of another language.

Yesterday was a wild and funny day. It was the end of a busy week and my energy levels were very low…. I was yawning all day, but somehow I got my second wind and ended up having a lot of fun by the end of it. We managed to get dailies finished just in time for the notorious monthly company meeting which I had heard about and been dreading! It initially echoes the LA version with Prashant going over all the company news…. what we are bidding on, job news etc. We don’t look at financials though.. which is kinda nice since they are always so depressing… haha… and then the various coordinators give reports of each department – how many shots there are on each show, and how many are finalled etc. I think they would normally show shots as entertainment, but LA had a blackout and there was no access to the system there so we couldn’t show anything. Good thing too… the meeting was over 2 hours as it was! It's very lively too - people are very vocal through the whole thing… lots of laughter and cat calls.

So now to the real guts of the meeting…. where it gets interesting and freaky! The introductions of new people! each person has to get up…say a little about themselves, answer questions… and then… sing or dance! If they don’t…. someone.. usually Vani… will invent something more embarrassing for them to do! It is a hoot and gets everyone going. They call it ragging, and it's a tradition from college that really breaks down barriers and gets people into the group…. It works because the group is not intimidating and is very sweet and teases kindly. Not the kind of meanness that you’d get in Australia, for example. I got up as the 3rd person and it was initially a lot of fun just talking. Everyone was really into it… my comments on hating the Aussie cricket team got cheers, and when I said a line in Hindi the place erupted in thunderous applause. I will never experience that in my life again…. so for that one moment in time… I lapped it up, dude!! Haha! But…. it all fell apart when I had to sing. I had decided to sing Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly” but I was soooo nervous … never sang cold in front of 150 people … and no music or anything… and I started in a much higher key than I should have. My voice was wavering, my face went red…. and I had to muddle through as quickly as I could. That moment when you realize you’re singing it too high and there’s nothing you can do... is - an - ugly - one!! Blegh. Oh well…. what can you do! Haha. Afterwards I realized I should have sung a Maori song from New Zealand… that would have been so much more interesting for them! So we had to go through a lot of peoples' ragging…. all the apprentices and some new animators and coordinators as well as us from LA. It took a LONG time. We finished about 7:15 and there was cake and food for all the anniversaries and birthdays.

The night’s fun and hilarity really began when I headed out with Imran, Kunal and 5 others :) Of course it also indulged my favourite new addiction…. riding on the back of bikes. And the fact that there were 8 of us on 4 bikes made it like a great little gang… zipping in and out of traffic together, calling out… playing games of catch… it was really fun. We headed over past the apartment to a fun parlour.. and I did something I have avoided doing since I was 15… bowling! There were about 4 lanes… we took up two with two teams of 4 and proceeded to laugh our arses off. I can truly say that this is not my calling in life… I will not be a bowling hustler any time soon …hehehe. I could win the prize for coming last however! It was fun though :)

After the bowling, we rode over to one guy’s house for table tennis. It was set up in the garage-type area of the apartment building… and we wiped the dust off, tied up the broken old net and then played very loose versions of table tennis. Really fun… also something I have not played in a long time. I am so impressed at how well these guys are able to enjoy themselves and let people of any level take part. It’s all very encouraging, uncompetitive and in-the-spirit-of-fun. Not the do-or-die kind of thing I see in the US all the time. We had ordered Chinese food and while we waited we played the most fun and silly game using a table tennis table I've ever seen! Imagine this if you can…. all 8 of us in a circle around the table. The two people at either end have the two bats and start to hit the ball to one another. As soon as the ball is in play, the one who hit it hands the bat to the next person who has to hit the next returned ball and hand the bat on again. Everyone is running around the table in a big circle and if anyone doesn’t hit the ball in time, or hits it out, doesn’t grab the bat or something, they’re out! This means the group gets reduced fairly quickly and people have to run faster and faster to get from one end of the table to the other in time to hit the returned ball. It is really fun and just has the whole group laughing and yelling.

Food arrived to our famished group and we went upstairs and sat on the floor and devoured the tasty noodles and chicken and rice. I was so impressed at the communal clean-up effort… guys sweeping the floor and everything! Afterwards… it seemed the night was over …but no! We got on the bikes (midnight now) and although it was really chilly we decided to go to the beach. I hadn’t yet been so it was a great idea to me. They rode past my nemesis – Rice Boat – the restaurant that made me so sick in my first week… hehehe.

We turned down a side alley… with the roads empty and this cool gang of Easy Rider’s yelling out to each other from the backs of their metal steeds, I couldn’t help but feel like I was actually in the Wild West for a moment. It was quite magical. We parked at the end of a cul-de-sac and walked down some sandy steps to the water. It was the beach alright! The tide was high and the waves were angry. Big surf rolling in and crashing on the sand right in front of us… as if in a challenge. I dared them to a skinny dip…. no takers! On each side of us were giant jagged rocks so we couldn’t walk anywhere, but standing there and just watching the waves was really mesmerizing. Every 4th or 5th one would actually crash from one end of the beach to the other - chopping in a violent way, and with your eyes closed you could hear the sound move from one ear to the other most dramatically. It was really something. Everyone enjoyed it. We stood for quite a while… especially as it was much warmer at the beach than inland.

Got home around 1am or later I think. It was a great evening. Such fun people… able to make really enjoyment from simple things. It’s hard to put it into words.

So…. another monster post… but I think we’re up to date now. For the most part. I just need access to the Net to be able to actually post this… hehehe.

Friday, January 5, 2007


Please excuse the long silence... the internet at the company apartment is not working (Mac's are not the standard in India and it has been very difficult for the ISP to figure out how to get my laptop to work) ... so until that is up and running my blog is sitting idle. I will be back as soon as possible. Sigh......