“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 encountered 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 episode 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.