Strange Brewings in the Badlands of Melbourne

“Now, I give you fair warning, either you or your head must be off, and that in about half no time! Take your choice!” ~ The Queen The global  media had whipped  up the hysteria to another level  in India, and Melb was a four-letter word.  A few years down,  I don’t think any of us four were scared to go there, but we knew Joe would have something interesting drawn up for us.  Sure enough,  filming in Melb was hectic, but interesting. We landed there and immediately got into the thick of things. It was so funny when Joe pulled out   the flak-jackets and helmets. We were fairly new to DDR, and this  seemed like a game.
The kit  reminded me of the army days.
We laughed as Joe handed them over to us, but  I remember Mahi and Gurmeet looking a bit nervous as they put them on.  Since the belts were all entangled and the front and back looked practically the same, we spent the next 10 mins figuring out what went where, and helped each other put them on. So much for smart soldiers ready to take on an assault!
Literally the next minute,  we encounterd  what Joe described later as a true picture of a  Melb street’s  bogan, Mr  “RippedasF***” with his mid-riff  exposed for the camera, all  ‘ripped’ and ‘ blood gang sign’ and ‘only one machete’. What we don’t see in the 3rd ep is his repeated invite to our producer to punch him in his “ripped.” Nice.
I learnt to say the word ‘Machete’  correctly that day, experienced first hand a self-professed Aussie gang member and his gang- sign, and the start of our experiences with the camera triggering a strange compulsion in people from both genders to either pull up their shirts, or pull their pants down. But more of that later.

What made it truly  interesting was walking into a  bar with the flak-jackets and helmets on, cameras and Trev’s boom stick in tow. Hahha.
The customers sitting there were polite and pretended that this was an everyday  occurance and  regular acceptable nice-bar dress code,  pretty much like Amer on  encountering the *White-pride motherF****** on Melb streets at midnight, when  Joe had to almost beg him to agree that the really angry drunk  man was making racist statements and clearly  had no intention to take up his  offer to hug him, or believe Amer when he  insisted- ” I love you man, I love  white people.”  Classic case of  cross-cultural unrequited love.
But three months later  with Mr White Pride’s  sweet apology  that the racist  rant was actually for another set  of  Indians ( I believe they are Sri lankans/ Bangladeshis ?) he  proves  Amer’s point of view that nothing can hold down love, nothing comes in the way of brotherhood-  of-  man and  no  racist chains are strong enough! Yeah.
Ahh, I love trans-continental love stories since the time I had a Swedish pen-friend  in elementary  school. It may have eventually  worked out if the post-man who delivered letters to my home ( the world hadn’t heard of the internet back then)  wasn’t a stamp collector who obviously didn’t have enough  Swedish stamps, and also a life. Sometimes I think it may have been my parents;  Indian parents at that time (and even now,  in most families from smaller towns) were not likely to be happy about their daughter interacting with a strange boy, so what if he lived a bazillion  miles away and was only about 12  years old.

 I admit that walking those Melb streets  close to midnight was scary.  I was glad for the police officers, but more for the ‘security’  that the production had thoughtfully arranged.     People ( the ones who weren’t just tottering around lost or  completely drunk, or mostly both )  came right up to the officers, screamed/ laughed/ made funny faces  at them, and basically showed  that they had no respect for the uniform. Indian police is infamous for its corruption and lack of ethics and are not on the top of any popularity charts, but I have never seen  such blatant disrespect for the uniform of the level I saw that night, and was amazed  that the officers were so accepting, genial  and almost blase’ about it.  On the other hand, the ‘security’ was polite yet  firm, and effective. Considering he worked two jobs (“I earn these extra dollars to give my kids some extra frills”) he was alert and on top of it.

It  had been an exhausting day. It was also windy and cold. Expecting to film till even later in the night,  Mahi and I were thrilled  to be able to  go back to our hotel around 12.30 am,  and  that is when I  started my love affair with Melb nights: Cold and acutely craving  for a cup of masala  chai since evening, I asked the Bosnian receptionist  if I could somehow get a cup of  authentic masala or ginger tea even though it was late; I had been without my daily fix  for days now!  I didn’t know that the sous chef  for the night shift was sitting in the foyer, and had heard my request.
That was the last time I would crave masala tea in Melb. I was invited into the kitchen, was allowed to brew my own cup of  long leaves, milk,  cardamom, ginger and cinnamon , and  sitting in the warm busy  kitchen, we exchanged recipes and stories over the most divine concoction  ever. Soon we were joined by a couple of others and then by the manager, all wanting mugs of the same brew.  It was a bit  other-worldly, or maybe I was exhausted, it’s hard to say, but it stays such a distinct  memory-  an orchestra of clanging pots and pans, unfamiliar accents, exchanges of lives spent doing this and that, curious looks, a shawl and cushions  being produced from nowhere, warm cookies  and the aroma of the never-ending cups of chai. I almost dozed off there but they just would not  let me go! In fact,  when the boys  and the crew returned later  into the night and Amer ordered his famous rounds of room-service, I was still there, and saw them put his order together.
Also who took it up there, and that she came back looking really pleased.  hahaha*.
It was really late when I got back to the room. Luckily for me,  Aaron  had given us a ‘late’ start  for the  next day- 9 am!  DDR heaven!!

We constantly seemed to be in and out of Melb, just enough to sleep a few hours before we were off again. I never went to bed without brewing my own tea  among  the lovely people in the kitchen who  showed so much genuine  love. When I pointed out at check-out  that I hadn’t been charged for it, the manager said,” We love that you want to do this yourself, and that you like drinking it  here with us even though you could order room- service. End of story.”

Thank you TS, AA & B. I hope you’re reading this because I have to say yet again that  you are wonderful and  the time we spent together was absolutely special!

*One person  who didn’t look too pleased with Amer the next morning, actually many mornings, during check-out was the owner of a hot-pink wallet, who we Indians loved intensely. When we said that to him,  he would point to the wallet and say, “Even without this?”  Strange that he just wouldn’t believe us when we chorused a “Yes!”   Why was he so doubtful  and why did we sense a lack of reciprocal  feelings of our love? That is another post altogether.

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9 thoughts on “Strange Brewings in the Badlands of Melbourne

  1. I find it interesting that they failed to leave out the information that the racist attacks on Indians in Melbourne were by “non whites”.

    Excuse my phrasing of “non whites” but I do not wish to state which race it was.

    I just feel if he is trying to state we are racist then the facts should be correct.

    1. Hi Perth Storm,
      I am sure Joe and the others will read this too. In fact I’ll forward it to him, and let you know what he says.
      Thanks for writing in.

      1. Thanks for the reply, just to clarify, I am not saying all the attacks were by “non whites” but at least 2 of the attacks were.

        I have been watching the show with some interest and will deliver my final opinion via my blog after the final episode airs.

  2. It is lovely to read some insights into what goes on behind the scenes on a show like this. I love the tea story.

    1. Thank you Sian. They should have made a doco on the behind the scenes. It was as interesting, if not more! 🙂
      I a happy to say that the lovely people from my tea story & I chat quite often on skype. Like I said, I made wonderful friends in Aus.

    1. Hi John,
      I am glad you’re loving the show.
      I can promise you on the Dumb- Not Dumb at all, Drunk- Watch the next ep. Racist- It’s like the fb suggested relationship status- Its complicated. There’s all kinds of people everywhere. Classic case, Mr “White pride motherF******
      But which country/ society isn’t? Look at the many many layers of it we have in India, we’re not proud of it… even though we are moving in the right direction.
      DDR is really about examining stereotypes, what we Indians feel is inconsequential.
      I hope you’ll watch the 4th ep tomorrow, it’s a big one.
      And thanks for the link. Reading this will be so interesting. 26 pages- there goes my lunch break! 🙂
      Best,
      Radhika

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