“Begin at the beginning,” the king said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop”
Into Sydney- Episode 1 (part 1 )
It moves so fast in the 1st episode I just saw!
The tightest editing possible. 50k miles of experiences and footage condensed into a few minutes- the edit suite must be full of really determined talented scissor-hands.
I’ve been to Sydney before but this time around is different. Anticipation, 3 strangers as fellow travelers, a crew, cameras and a brain exploding with questions. 3 Strangers and Joe Hildebrand. So it’s actually 4 strangers I’m traveling with on the Aussie road trip for the next three weeks.
The four of us meet for the 1st time on a roof-top of a typical old-Delhi house with the famous Jama Masjid in the background. The flight is just a few hours later.
First impressions: Amer- Young, smart, confident, out to have a great time.
Mahima- First time out of her home, excited.
.Gurmeet- Politically suave, worldly naive, nice guy.
We connect instantaneously. It may be the result of the collective apprehension of the unknown and safety in numbers, because ordinarily, we are as different as they come.
Until that evening of the day we leave for Aus, none of us know what kind of people the other 3 are, and have no idea about the host of the series, except that he is famous.
I have been hoping he is not a cricketer ( am so un-Indian in my disinterest in the game), and the mental check-list reads a bit like this- Okay, Russell Crowe? Heath Ledger- Not possible. Hugh Jackman? Steve Irwin- Sadly, again not possible, Mel Gibson- Cordell did say “He is famous”, Eric Bana- YES! YES! You get the drift? Basically a very stereotypical list of famous Australians . And somewhere on the plane to Sydney I ask Amer-“Tell me the host’s name again..”
Amer: “JOE HILDEBRAND” The man in question looks up from the seat in front.
Me: “Shushhh, but can you spell it for me, can’t get that second part..”
I have absolutely no idea who he is, in fact none of us Indians do. All that is about to change of course, many Indians across the world will know his name after the show. Who knows, there may soon be a temple built in his name- Some Indians, a small minority, like to deify people, and I can visualize that uniquely Indian perception- “This really white* man has taken care of our 4 fellow Indians while in his country, and even though we can’t understand a word of that accent, we can see he is one of us.” hahah.
Joe you chose well- a show with Indian travelers. Can Q & A, Sunrise …, (and all those hard to count Australian shows you pop up in) get you your own temple? I sense a dejected “no.”
White*- A color of skin many people in the sub-continent (not only India) would want. Just as any white person would want a tan. A growing population in the sub-continent is wont to using fairness creams, just as a growing population of white people take tan-showers. Is there any difference? Not really. Although fading and on the decline, the colonial hang-over still exists in some pockets, and that has added somewhat to the desire for white*. But a new crop of dusky Bolly heroines have changed perceptions towards the color bias. Caste system dictates Fair/ Dark color- No longer applies in India. We have moved on a few steps from that stereotype. Slowly, but surely.
Day 1: Joe leads us through the touristy bits around the harbor, and everything seems nice and simple. We pose with the painted aboriginal (faux?) person playing music, there’s that boat ( is that too low- down a noun for that vessel?) ride and basically it is all fun and games.
Calm before the storm? Joe Hildebrand has this look in his eyes, and I haven’t found out yet that it is his favorite look. I think he cultivates it.
As I sit in the shade (while Amer goes chasing waves at Bondi ) on the curb alongside an older couple resting there, we start talking , pretty much what I love best- talking to strangers (ma, you thought you did such a good job with all those warnings, but..), and the lady goes-
“Lovely here isn’t it? You from ?”
Me: ” Guess ?
Husband: “Middle East?”
She: “No! You speak normal English. And you’re wearing Davidoff Cool Waters! My favorite perfume” hahhahhaahhhhh. Indian not wearing a perfume called ‘Curry’- inconceivable? Racist?
I don’t think so; just speaking her mind.
There’s a fine line between this and racism. Is it about the attitude behind the words, the intent?
But it is just the first few hours into Dumb Drunk…, and many of the namby-pamby ideas I have about the R of the DDR are yet to crumble. “White pride motherf*****” from the promo’s is still an encounter away. So is the Hitler salute. There’s a name for it from all those books I read in my teens, but it just won’t come when I need it for the 1st time ever since.
And then Amer and I go for that thrilling Shark-Dive. How could the DDR editors cut out the best part of the show??? I am so disappointed. I wanted my friends to see how brave I was. Thankfully I have that cd. I can still post all those scary- sharks- just- an-inch- away- from- me pictures.
My grand-dad thinks I posed with wax-replicas. He says to me “Better to pose with them than those actors. Only tourists pose with actors.” Basically we all love wild-life more than actors, so these words are no surprise to me. I wish it was you Steve Irwin ( but Joe I love you too!)
I still wonder why those humongous creatures didn’t chew us down. They have to be vegetarian like Mahima and Gurmeet who ironically opted out of the shark dive. Well, too bad these sharks don’t live in a tank in India; they’d