“Curiouser and Curiouser”
Someone from Australia I was doing an interview with said to me this morning that they all thought the 4 Indians were great sports, and then asked me this question:
” Considering that many of the situations you were put into were dangerous, do you think you were exploited ?”
Interesting question. Logical one too. It got me thinking.
It never crossed my mind once while in Australia, and in the three months since I’ve been back, and I still haven’t figured that out, but I know for sure that I would do that again in a heart-beat.
I began the journey expecting that it would be simple enough- We four Indians would explore Australian stereotypes through a variety of experiences and interviews, and how hard can that be.. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Nothing about this journey was ‘simple.’ For one, we were living in this strange bubble- We had no idea about who we were to meet, where we were headed, or what to expect until the very end. Brief stays in one town after the other, travelling from one city to the next, one experience piling onto another and de-briefs through the journey became the only constant of our lives. However, the often interminably long road trips quickly helped bridge the cultural divide between us Indians and the awesome Australian crew, and everyone seemed like family. With very limited communication with our families in India, the bubble got bigger every day.
The close to 45 so- called interviews –each unique and thought- provoking, were encounters with peoples’ innermost lives, not journalistic questions that required standard, rehearsed answers. Sometimes it required a great deal of effort to be objective, and at other times it was tough not to become emotionally involved and affected. ( I often wished I had the option of recording my thoughts later in the night as well- some experiences evoked/triggered a delayed reaction.)
Many times the travel and lack of sleep were physically exhausting and many of the stories and experiences were emotionally trying, but the trade-off was worth it: It was exciting to expect the unexpected and I was surprised to discover new aspects of myself. There were times I wished I didn’t have to de-brief/ comment on an interaction/ experience, as assimilating so much together required time, the luxury of which we really didn’t have.
I believe that some interactions and stories don’t deserve to be commented on, and are best left alone to be a part of life’s experiences- however good bad or confrontational they may seem at the onset. This, I think, was my biggest issue on some days, and I had to push myself to not sit on the fence, but be as honest as possible without actually passing any judgments.
I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled extensively across 30 countries and this has pushed me to deeply appreciate cultural diversity. In fact, I train organizations to be sensitive to it, and so the expectation to constantly talk/ comment about whatever I experienced was really tough- many times it seemed to run counter to my innate conditioning to accept. These were the times I had to remind myself I had work to do and I had to toughen up and speak up.
At first, the cameras rolling at all times, (especially the three within the van) seemed overly intrusive, but within a few days we had almost learnt to ignore them. There was at least one time when we badly needed to take a break from the mental pile-up of intense interactions/ experiences and thought the camera’s were turned off, only to realize from Aaron’s expression that our attempts at Bollywood’ song and dance had actually been filmed.
Yes, there were moments we would have been happy to wish the camera’s away!
I was touched by the large- heartedness of so many Australians who allowed us into their homes and lives. It could not have been easy to let strangers see their insecurities, fears and personal details. Even though they had given their permission, it almost felt a breach of trust to talk about it later as a part of the filming. That was very hard for me.
The greatest take-away for me is the special friendship and bonds we five forged with each other and with the Australian crew. Each one of us is so different, and yet I feel deeply connected to them. I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of this journey, and in spite of many challenges that came in the way of it being a ‘comfortable’ experience- there wasn’t a single moment I didn’t feel that way .
In many ways it became a journey of self-discovery, and like I said before, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In retrospect I am amazed at the range of experiences we had, the diversity of Australians we met, and, irrespective of whichever way it is perceived by the viewers, and whatever is the end result, the sheer ambitiousness of the project.