Sergio- Sculpting a burqa-free world

“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.” The Duchess

We 4 Indians learnt really soon that the only constant on the Aussie road trip would be 

SURPRISE!

 At the beginning of the journey we made diabolical plans to get our hands on what we called ‘God’s master plan,” the DDR  schedule sheet,  to get a sense of some direction for what seemed to be the rest of our lives.
By the middle of the second week we were so conditioned to the ‘Secret Service’* that we couldn’t care less.
Personally, it was liberating: I  felt like Mary’s lamb- basically just follow. We could have been called Aaron’s** lambs- which sounds almost biblical!
Wake up ( mike-up 7am on the  really easy days ),  get out,  follow.
50 thousand km’s of  ‘follow’.
I hope the Aussie crew was suitably impressed.
Halfway through the journey ‘someone’ accidentally left that precious cargo in the car for a few minutes, and NONE OF US EVEN PEEKED INTO IT. It just lay there neglected like a faded super-star, just a bunch of  ordinary printed papers. The ‘following’ became our life as the bubble around us grew bigger by the hour.
Yes, one  of us four sometimes  ‘followed’ in a bit of a haze, that dreamlike Kublai-khanesque mind state, where the night before was such a blur- but that is another blog altogether.

This is about Sergio, the glass-sculptor. 

I like the  walk to Sergio’s wall of shame. It is  the 1st time in days that I have seen a shop, and here we are walking alongside a whole lot of them at touching distance. Ahhhhh.
Mahima & I emit one  excited squeak at some pieces of clothing that Joe would have  disdainfully  labelled as  ‘Hipster’, but we are gently herded away before the second one can find its way out.
I didn’t  know that this  would be my closest  brush with Aussie consumerism.

Sergio begins by telling us that story about his designer friend’s show getting disrupted because models wear a burqa & that leads to him painting the mural- or something to that effect.  We are in the midst of Sergio’s web of silken stories about how the mural is a starting point for debate and discussion, and  that’s when Muhammed joins us.
It is sudden.

His  F*** infested rant   throws us off completely.
In the first few seconds the  only words I can catch are F*** and wog.
Many times.
Incessantly.
I can smell fear/ anxiety. Only for 10 seconds maybe, but that is the reaction it elicits from us 4.
Our eyes meet and we  mirror each other’s  split second pupil-dilation.
Racial  riots in our country have started in a similar manner, and with an interaction like this, we sub-consciously go back to that.
I know I do. We grow up learning that an encounter  like this  is to be avoided. Like the plague. 

 Mahima instinctively moves a step closer to me,  Gurmeet  shifts closer into the group.  Amer and I look at each other and look away.
And then it passes.
We would sense this again in a few days,  this time in the Aussie crew, even though we all go through the same experience. Even though we are the travelers in an alien territory, and they belong there.

I can’t help thinking Muhammed needs those yoga lessons he was headed out for.
And that Joe, our host, hasn’t blinked an eyelid. He stays  cool & unflappable. It must be the coffee he guzzles. But doesn’t coffee result in just the opposite?
It must be the airport sandwiches.

It is interesting how we start of by siding with Sergio, but very soon see through his “I want to communicate” spiel. 
There is this  other older white person helping Sergio paint that mural who didn’t make it to the final cut. He  senses the shift in positions, slides up and whispers in my ear-
“The muslims are your enemies; they killed you Hindus in hundreds of thousands in 1947. Why are you supporting this muslim man?!”
I tell him we have tried hard to have those wounds heal up. We aren’t going there any more. It’s history, it’s over. He moves back and glares at me.

And then Sergio pulls out that red car. He reads out the words on it with pride.
That rankles.

While Amer is out for a ride he may never  forget, we wait it out  in Sergio’s home.
It looks interesting &  has that unruly  untidiness that every artist’s home must have. His sculptures are everywhere.
His wife is pretty, friendly and welcoming. 

Sergio hugs us when we leave. That is odd. Has he just not felt how intensely disgusted we are, or has he chosen to  become immune to this reaction ? It has been verbalized so clearly, so how does he continue to act  as if  everyone was in this together?
Or is he just a nice regular  guy who’s stuck in this awful persona of his own creation, and just keeps getting entrenched  in it worse because he enjoys the resultant (in)fame?

For once the de-briefing is quick because everyone has the same reaction to Sergio’s show of confused intellect & a sense of  righteousness in inciting a dangerous reaction . This may be a first.
We 4 are so completely different in our conditioning that quite often there are 4 different points of view. At least.

It is past lunch-time, and one of us says in Hindi- “Bas yaar. Bhuuk se mar rahe hain.” Roughly translated- “Enough spoken mate. Dying of hunger.”

The only advice we were offered by one fixer back home was “This  Aussie crew just  doesn’t eat. There is just no knowing when they will stop  filming to accommodate a meal, but their digestive  system is used to it.  If you want to survive the 3 weeks out there, say clearly that you are hungry. Right from day 1 insist on a  lunch & dinner break.”
Looking back I  remember never having to insist. I think our starved expressions made an impression. They stopped for lunch and dinner without us ever having to ask.  

But meal-times during DDR  were never  simple.

Will Mahima & Gurmeet (the vegetarians) find food they like?
Will Amer order something I will like so I can sample a tiny bit  of the huge meat-y servings  and offer him some tamer fare  in return?
Is today the day Amer will finally be able to end his quest to find the juiciest steak ever?
Will Gurmeet find a milk-shake, even in a tiny eatery near Meandarra?
What will I eat when I  think  a “fillet” in the menu is de-boned fish and it turns out to be a steak?
Will a strictly  vegetarian Mahima agree to eat vegetables today?(!)
Will Amer eat the fries on my plate so I don’t visualize my mom’s face from when I was 5  telling me about so many  kids going hungry while I waste food/ Why can’t they agree to not add the fries?
Such  profound questions that needed  serious attention every 2 times a day!

(*Everything was a secret so that our genuine first- reactions could be recorded)
(** Our immensely talented director, whose seriously gorgeous looks never ceased to surprise us… why hasn’t someone urged him to get in front of the camera??  I think he won our hearts completely when, in spite of staying up all night, he still came to the airport at 6 am to say good-bye. We were all exhausted, he perhaps most of all. He really didn’t need to.  We were surprised to see him, and when we said  that to him, he simply said, ” I wanted  to.” )

Next post- Mike-up & other important stuff



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