I had seen a 3-D picture of Uluru when I was around 8 years old. My parents had an Australian friend visiting, and he gifted me a book called Australian Wonders. Uluru was on page 4. One huge rock that seemed to have fallen out of the sky. The book had the typical slightly garish colors that souvenirs tend to have, but I didn’t know that then. While my siblings loved the kangaroos, I was mesmerized by this magic rock which seemed to radiate all kinds of incredible colors. Looking at that picture I took (Up there), I can’t but help wonder if the colors in that book were real after all.
Before we made the journey into DDR, the producers asked us 4 to tell them something we’d like to do while in Aus. For me, it was simple- Diving with the fish and visiting Uluru, the 2 things I had to cut short on my previous visit there.
Those were my 2 wishes, and to my amazement, the 1st one came true on the 1st day itself. How they mis -read ‘fish’ for ‘sharks’ though, I don’t know!
That dive was a lasting experience:
After confronting our worst fears under-water among the scary creatures of the deep, Amer & I no longer cared about any other dangers awaiting us Down Under.
We both began our fight with an ear-ache and mild-deafness in one ear that came and went, (generally choosing to visit at the most inopportune moments) and just refused to go away for the next month.
My hair turned a color I had not thought existed. Since I wanted to somehow live through it until I found a 45 minute ‘re- color’ break somewhere through filming, I tried to fool myself saying it was the beautiful shades of Autumn leaves. On the impossible- to- fool- myself days I began to put it up.
Gurmeet and I were constantly buying and stocking up on fruit through the journey. We loved the fruit in Australia. A lot of times we were filming until late, and it made sense to make do with that, rather than order dinner.
The 1st disappointment on reaching Uluru was having to dump all the fruit before entering the airport.
It seemed such a colossal waste!
And then the heat! It was overwhelming.
We were used to heat in India, where temperatures above 40*C are normal in the summers, but this heat was something else. And of course, we started filming in the afternoon.
The rock drew 3 kinds of reactions from us Indians:
The boys were un-impacted (for lack of a word) for most part. Boys will be boys.
I was awe-struck at the sight of that rock. A huge presence in the middle of nowhere, It seemed easy to understand why it has been sacred to the aborigines for hundreds of years.
It was a bit hard to look at it- The rock shimmered in the afternoon sun.
Through the DDR Journey each of us four had our own brand of peculiarities. Uluru brought Mahima’s to the fore- her absolute refusal to drink water.
Aaron, the director – “Okaaay Indians (Yes, that was the most-used friendly reference by the Aussies, just in case we began to forget our identities!) Everyone has to carry their jumbo bottle of water and I need it finished by the time we are done with the walking tour”
3 obedient and slightly already-beginning-to-feel-dehydrated Indians begin to gulp some down. All eyes on Mahima.
Mahima- ‘But I don’t like water. I just can’t drink water. Even at home I don’t drink water. I feel unwell if I drink…”
Aaron- ” I don’t care Mahima, today you will HAVE to drink it!”
Mahima- ” But , actually y’know….”
Aaron (In that voice)- ‘Okay Mahima. No water, no going ahead with us for you. That’s final.”
Mahima- (Looking slightly scared) ” Ok, I’ll ‘carry’ the water.”
Aaron- (Looking relieved) ” Great Mahima. Okaay Lets go.”
Mahima- ” Ok , can I get a juice instead?”
Chris produces a bottle of Gatorade from somewhere. Aaron shakes his head in disbelief. Mahima looks pleased and oblivious to the collective sighs all around. The other 3 Indians look away.
It brought us closer to seeing the lost world of aboriginal culture. We felt immersed in it despite the terrible heat and the stillness in the air.
What made it even more interesting was that our Indian villages/ most of our kitchens in India, and the traditional aboriginal cooking-ware tools / implements have many things in common.
I couldn’t help going back to something I had read a few months back: Genetic research indicates that Australian Aborigines initially arrived via south Asia. Researchers have found telltale mutations in modern-day Indian populations that are exclusively shared by Aborigines.
We began filming us in the moving car with Joe at the wheel.
1st take– Fast & Furious over the breaker and into the sunset.
Not good enough.
2nd take– Even more F & F, sharp U turn.
Not good again.
3rd take– Joe, now raising Heat & Dust. Breaker- bumps and camera rolling.
Not good enough.
Thoughts running across my brain yet once again: “Why can’t we seem to do the simple things correct…like just open the car door and shut it again. Like walking towards the car. How hard can that be? Is there something so technical about these seemingly simple things that just eludes us? Is this what people go to ‘acting schools’ to learn? Are we living up to the 1st adjective of the show’s title?”
While Joe does the endless rounds of the short stretch, we sit back exhausted, ready to head back to our rooms. Finally Aaron looks happy. A collective sigh of relief goes up in the car. We stop and troop out without a smile.
I also realized once again that my English wasn’t all there. At least not in Australia. Asking for a salad I made a request,
Me: “…… and could you please go easy on the dressing?”
And then Aaron gave us a choice, first time ever!
Sometimes, I just hate choices.
It was profoundly moving, this mystic ceremony of what was beyond anything that pictures could capture, or words could describe.
We shared a lunar karma.
The Alice Springs attack happened just a few hours later.