Lunar Karma

     

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.

Now Uluru. 


   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.

                                 Mahima: “We have many rocks like this in Rajasthan.”
So, basically unimpressed.
Hmmmm, I was an oddity.

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.

We finally began the  Heritage Walking  Tour escorted  by the shy lovely  Aṉangu  Sarah, our indigenous guide into an ancient culture her people try hard to preserve.    

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.
Interesting.

As the sun began  its descent, the rock assumed a life of its own. The sand-stone lit- up  and emitted a glow, like dying embers in a forgotten fire. 
It  was  beautiful.

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.
Aaarghhhh.
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.


And that’s when  I saw the  full moon rising behind the rock.                                                                                                                                    End of all tiredness. The beginning of long sighs of a different kind.

 We gazed  at it  alongside other travelers who seemed  to have planned to be here for the full-moon. We, on the other hand,  just got lucky.
Mahi and I sat  happily at  the dead-end of the road and just enjoyed  the yellow grass, shadowy rock, the easy low chatter  and the full-moon rising. 
We  finally headed  back. It had  been a tiring few days. Early flights, late night shoots. We were driving back with Joe. It should  have taken us about 20 mins to get home, but that is if we hadn’t lost the way. We kept going around in circles. Google-maps and other modern  help, no use, nothing worked. We were hopelessly lost for a bit.  Would we end up like in the story of  The Lost Camel they had up behind the reception at the hotel?
However, the blueish desert dusk  spilling  into, and all around  the car made up for  time lost.
What did we do that day for dinner? Oh yes, exactly what we did for lunch at the exact same place. They served us what we ordered for and then locked up the fridge and disappeared into somewhere at 10 pm. Obviously NT isn’t for TV folk.
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?” 
Efficient guy with the menu card: Sure, no problem”
20 minutes he’s back holding a big salad, very  very  generously  doused with the dressing .
He- “I hope you enjoy this. Been really easy with the dressing just like you asked.”  
Me- “Ummm, ok, and  thank you so much!”
That night too, like every night while filming, our director  gave  us  the mike-up time  for the next morning. We were  exhausted and knew that there was  a mid-morning flight we had to take to Alice Springs. Most of us had that wary look we couldn’t  help  at that  particular time of day.
And then Aaron  gave us a choice, first time ever!
” I plan to go see Uluru at sunrise. I leave it to you if you want to join me at 5 am.”  
We were already close to midnight. The rest of the cast & crew  were  clear in their choice of bed over rock.                       
As for me- torn. The story of my life.  Badly required  sleep vs  Uluru at dawn- break.
Sometimes, I just  hate choices.
 
I met-up with Aaron  at 5 am. We walked to the car and drove in silence into the reserve. Beautiful  Silence. In silence we climbed  the stand and were met  with the most most memorable sight that I had ever experienced.   ‘Experienced’ is right, ‘seen’  falls too short. The full- moon setting behind the 36 rocks of Kata Tjuta. It was  an unreal psycho moon. Standing there in that almost dark vast emptiness with the surreal moon hanging like that was  like being in a sci-fi movie.  Aaron  found  his corner and  sets up the cameras, efficiently and quickly. 2 of them. One to film the moon set in front of us, the other behind us in anticipation of the sunrise.
It was  like there was nothing and no one else on this strange planet. Everything stood still as if to silently partake in this ancient  drama from time before beginning.
Yes, time stood still.
It was profoundly moving, this mystic  ceremony of  what  was beyond anything that  pictures could capture, or words could describe. 
Aaron  and I were fortunate  to have got those minutes there.  Out of the blue (literally),  we saw  travelers  piling up. They got off buses in scores, almost like troops inching towards  the battle- field. There was  a determination to them. They were mostly  destination checkers. The sound of click-click- click of cameras filled  the silence. Some had  already begun to upload pictures.  Uluru- Check.  Been there done that.  
They left as quickly as they arrived. 
And then the dawn broke.  So did that really special magic spell. 

  This was truly a sacred land. It wasn’t a religious experience. It was a  primal one.
Standing there in the empty silence was deeply meditative. Going back to the real world seemed so hard. Was  there any other world out there?
 On our way back,  Aaron and I were quiet. Words seemed unnecessary. 
I was glad it was just Aaron and I. Both of us  are comfortable with silence.
We shared a lunar karma.
Who was to know that  this experience would be jolted out of our memories very soon-
The Alice Springs attack happened just a few hours later. 

 

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25 thoughts on “Lunar Karma

  1. Namaste Radhika ji,
    Aap bahoot samajhdar `aurat hain aur bahoot hi khoobsurat bhi hain.Bad qismati sey lambey `arsey ke pehley aap ki shaadi ho chuki hai .Dil toh pagal hai …. iss ke `illavah Central Australia is in many way an extraordinary place..I am glad you found something ancient and primal that moved you in the red centre of Australia.
    I liked you the best for many reasons on the TV show “dumb , drunk and racist”.
    Come to Victoria one day and I will show you the Grampians Nat.Park , Wilson’s Promontory .Nat.Park and the Alpine National park. These are also amazing natural environments.Hum khoob batcheet karengey 🙂
    Namaste
    Taariq

    1. Bahut Shukriya Taariq Sahab- itni taariif ke liye, for your kind offer, and also for reading the blog.
      Inshallah I will visit Australia soon once again.
      Blog padhte rahiyega, and please continue to share your thoughts about it.
      Thank you very much for writing in.

  2. Hi Radhika,
    I was profoundly impressed with the grace, objectivity and openmindedness of all four of you in the final episode. Your closing comments were especially graceful and heartwarming. I believe that DDR has opened many minds and attitudes, of both Indians regarding Australia, but also Australians regarding India.

    But I definitely loved you in the cowboy hat! 🙂

    Best wishes,

    iain bullen

    1. Hi Iain, Thank you for watching DDR, and your kind words. What you say is true about the series opening many minds & attitudes, of both Indians & Australians. Personally, our immersive experiences and the people I have met both in front of and out of the camera have made me self-reflect deeply about my own reactions and inner attitudes.
      I like the cowboy hat look too 🙂
      Thanks for writing in!

  3. Hi Radhika, I was led to your blog from a post on the ABC2 facebook page, and I am very glad I have found it. Your writing style is lovely, and you come across as a deeply thoughtful and intelligent person.
    The series has been very interesting, my wife and me are big fans. Interestingly, my wife who is from India, is one of the most fervent defenders of Australia, and is always comparing the negatives in Australia to the negatives in India. I have to remind her (and others) that it’s not about how bad or good India or Indians are, it’s about how we see ourselves and how others see us. We can’t blame the mirror for who we are.
    I’m looking forward to the next instalment!

    1. Hi Andy, Greetings from your wife’s country! Thank you for your kind words, and I am glad you like my writing, and have enjoyed DDR.
      It’s not hard to see where your wife’s defense of Aus comes from…it is a wonderful country.
      I hope to put in my next installment tonight, and thanks so much for writing in!

  4. Hi! Thanks for replying! There’s plenty of info online about Mabo (I suppose basic links like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Mabo http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabo_v_Queensland_(No_2) and http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/612970 would be a good place to start). Interest in his role and legacy in Australia was probably reinvigorated recently with the movie of his life on ABC1 (of which DDR’s ABC2 is a sister channel!), so you could check out http://www.abc.net.au/tv/mabo/ as a good resource.

    Oh and I really like your style of writing! Perhaps “discursive” is a better word to use rather than “meandering”… in any case I think you capture the spirit of a traveller/explorer perfectly.

  5. Really enjoy your fluid writing style. It’s interesting the similarities you note in cooking tools/implements. I think there was some recent research that confirmed indigenous Australians are the sole descendants of the first wave of migration out of Africa 70,000 years ago, arriving via south Asia. You probably didn’t get the chance to see just how incredibly diverse indigenous Australians are, culturally and physically, across Australia. Also, though it might have been mentioned briefly in the show Eddie Mabo stands as an important figure in the contemporary history of Australia’s indigenous-non-indigenous relations, well worth learning about.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I really appreciate your perspectives. I think there’s something in your sort of meandering, dreaming narrative style which has an almost Australian sensibility!

    1. Hi John,

      I am glad you’re enjoying reading the ramblings and thank you very much for for writing back.
      You are so right about not getting the chance to see the diversity of indigenous Australians. As may have been evident from the 4th episode of DDR, I felt drawn to the culture, my encounters with them were my most memorable take-aways, and I felt an unexpected deep connection with them. I am reading and writing a lot about the history and culture since I am back, and am amazed at the similarities in our ancient traditions, thoughts, beliefs, prayers, connected-ness to nature, rituals, laws and way of life, and hopefully I will be able to put it together in a journal once I begin to understand it all a bit more. It is exciting, like a new discovery about my own ancestors and history!(The politics of it are beyond me, so I don’t even go into possible solutions, etc.)

      I will surely read about Eddie Mabo. Are there any specific links you would like to recommend?

      Sometimes I feel I meander off too much, like the one I am hoping to post today, so thank you for your patience!

      Best,

      Radhika

  6. Hi Radhika,
    As an Australian I was naturally a little uneasy about hearing what may be wrong with my country. It seemed to me that Indians have been present in large numbers in every country in the world that I have travelled to (about 30), with what appeared to be varied degrees of successful assimilation. So I wondered why a nation so disposed to spread its population so far and wide would look so critically at the nations they spread to, and often seek to hang a racist tag on it. Now having watched the episodes of DDR so far, I have felt so changed in my feelings. It is so not about where we are from, or what has occurred in our past, it is about what our future together holds. We so often fear the unknown, and have spent centuries fighting wars for no other reason than that stupid fear. Why do we see ourselves as so different? The truth is we are not, and DDR has proven that to me. How? Through the simple scenes of the four of you in your homes with your families. The interactions, the concern for their loved ones and simply what mattered to them is no different to us. Yes, this is something intuitively obvious, but so many of us don’t see it until it flashed before us in bold neon lights. Even then, most don’t, and that is what is wrong with the world.

    When I hear the comments the four of you make in analysing people and events in Australia, I have been so heartened by your objectivity and understanding, and your ability to relate these things to India, and the rest of the world. Yes we have some interesting people in Australia, with perspectives on life and the world we would all rather they didn’t have, but all countries have them, and that alone does not make us all bad. Most of all I have loved your warmth, compassionate insight, your objectivity to what may superficially seem an endemic problem in Australia, but is really a case of the squeaky wheel getting the oil!

    I think you are a wonderful and beautiful lady who has really made the show great, and opened my eyes so very much. Since watching DDR, I have sought out and embraced a number of Indian people in my community, and I have found them to be so warm, friendly and caring. It’s sad that a perception of what is really of an unknown origin stopped me doing it earlier.

    Thank you so very much and I do hope you can return to Australia some day to enjoy it for the wonderful place with truly wonderful people it really is. As no doubt India is also! 🙂

    Regards

    Iain

    1. Hi Iain,

      Thank you so much for writing in. I am so touched that you’ve shared your personal innermost thoughts on all of these issues.
      As you so wisely say, at the core we are all someone’s children, siblings, parents and loved ones… each of us wanting peace and happiness in all of our lives, whatever our back-grounds, color, race and other differences.
      Thank you for the fulsome praise, I don’t really deserve it all but I am so encouraged by it. I have to say that filming for DDR changed me in many ways too. I was able to look objectively at my own mind-sets, attitude towards the unknown and my fears, and wage an internal fight on a daily basis to be objective, open-minded and courageous; if you have perceived even an iota of any of that in me, I am deeply grateful.
      I made some wonderful friends, met warm generous people and came back with some beautiful memories of Australia and it’s people. Like you say, there will be all kinds in every country, and I know we have plenty of all kinds in my own country too. Having said that, I know that we both are lucky to live in democratic countries where diversity is allowed to be alive and kicking, however negative it may seem.

      I will surely be visiting again!

      Thank you once again Iain. I am so moved by all that you have taken the time to write. And thank you for reading my ramblings!

      Best,

      Radhika

    1. My spine needs the game- drives you talk about Amitabh. Maybe we can plan to go back to our old haunts in Bumthang, Central Bhutan, and that drive will help our spines too. Besides, the regular encounters with bears, leopards and ghosts would add to the experience!
      Thank you for reading and writing back!

  7. Hi Rahdika, I enjoyed reading your blog immensely and I think you have a lovely natural gift for writing. I hope you will not deprive the world of your talent and you’ll continue to keep sharing your insights with many other people, not just in India and Australia, but around the globe too. I only saw DDR once today and I thought you were eloquent and respectful. And I am so jealous that you got to swim with sharks and visit Uluru, activities I have yet to experience even in my own country!

    1. Hi Belinda, Thank you so much for encouraging me to write more. Also for the liking me in DDR.
      I was so lucky to get these opportunities. You live in such a wonderful country.
      Many thanks for writing in!
      Radhika

  8. Hi Radhika,
    Gee now I feel like I’m stalking you :-).

    Really like your writing and feeling that you have put into this blog. Your trip to Uluru looked fantastic and you have described it amazingly.

    Did you read your 26 pages yesterday, I was hoping you may have added to it to present your perspective as to what was filmed and what was finally shown on air, and then see what some of the naysayers have to say.

    I will be watching Ep 4 tonight.

    Cheers,
    John

    1. Hardly John 🙂
      I’m a bit unsure if I should get into the 26 pg debate right now, but once the series ends, I’ll add my perspective for sure.
      Thanks for reading and liking the blog. A lot of viewers write in to say they’d love to know what we did outside the camera, and since I am constantly writing on scraps of paper and taking pix through my travels, this seemed a great way to share some personal experiences with DDR.
      I’m looking forward to tonight’s ep too, haven’t seen it post-edit, so I can’t wait!
      Cheers & many thanks!
      R

    1. Thank you for making the time to read it Ashita. So glad you like it.
      Are you watching Dumb Drunk? Today’s should be good.

  9. Beautifully besutifully expressed Radhika. the picture gave me goosies along with ur narrative. There is something almost magnetic about the place

    1. Thank you Richa. It’s surreal. Odd to say it myself, but this picture I look does the same for me.
      Happy you liked it!

  10. What a beautiful read. Thank you for sharing your experiences, I am inspired the more I hear from the world 🙂

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