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! ;)