Travel-tales, Cyber-stalking & Vegemite


“That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose.” ~ The Duchess

We 4 Indians  were specially told not to carry our cell-phones to Australia- there was to be no contact with the family back home. The Aussie crew  started the DDR  journey  filming us  at our homes in India,* and  our families were given a number  they could get in touch with, should some emergency occur.
A planned ‘Lost’ ?

It wasn’t hard to not miss home. The agenda was packed really tight. Like our bags, which needed to be re-opened and re-packed every day, and even if there was nothing extra that went into them, they  mysteriously  became harder to shut. Except Gurmeet’ s, which was smaller than the Aussie crew’s personal bags. If  the size of your literal bag is the reflection of how much baggage you carry, Gurmeet would be  the Buddha himself!
Checking into airplanes was a massive exercise. Personal luggage and crew equipment totaled to an obscene amount  of extra baggage, and there was that little bit of stress every time I put mine up to weigh.. and relief when  it showed less than 20kg. I’ve learnt with personal experience  that  airlines  the world over are the same, and all of them  suffer from their own special  brand of confusion. Qantas’  was group check-in:  Surprisingly, they  didn’t have a set national  procedure to get through the whole exercise – it changed at every location.

One thing that stayed constant at every airport was Gurmeet having to hear this- “Sir, I’m gonna need you to step aside, please.” Pat- down each time, every time. Obviously, he was irresistible! The Turkish man at Sydney made that amply clear!
Amer was  next in  irresistiblity quotient, and got  the same treatment  multiple times too;  I think  a bearded non-white person gets a lot more pat-downs in today’s times than they did a decade back-  I guess they just metamorphed into more attractive.

But first…
An airport  hiccup occured even before we left India.
Amer and Gurmeet almost didn’t make it through the immigration check at  N.Delhi . Immigration is  often suspicious of  single men leaving the country, more so if they’re from Punjab and when there’s no previous history of travel stamped on the passport.  It took almost half an hour of anxious moments before they finally joined us past the customs. The Aussie crew looked cool- though their anxiety levels must have been higher than ours by far. Either they were not demonstrative  or they didn’t know how lucky it was that both the boys actually made it through once they’d been asked to wait it out-  our immigration check is  hard to get past unless they’re  convinced you’re not going on a one way route to disappearing into some country forever. Besides, we were  on a  perfectly bonafide but uncommonly  used visa, and thus it must have  created further  suspicion.

It was  close to midnight when we finally landed in Sydney.  Long flights.  Joe began the introductions to the city right away. We had no idea of what we were in for, or even what Joe’s role in all of this would be. Or, for that matter, even  ours.

I’m often asked by Aussie viewers – “How did your families allow you to come to Australia for  something like this !!?”
Mine  gave me 3 days to  make a presentation on everyone involved in the project.  They  had better be ‘respectable’, a word used quite often in India, and can have many connotations. Here it meant ‘not-dodgy’.
Back then DDR  had a working title, and was  called ‘The Aussie Roadtrip’, which by itself could mean anything. I think my family was secretly  hoping for some objectionable information to emerge- we had a Rio holiday planned at the same time as I would have to travel  to Aus if  I  decided to.
That is how I was introduced  to the world of cyber stalking. It was tedious, time consuming and as in the case of information about the director, frustrating.
ABC2- Simple- UK has BBC, Aus has ABC. Bonafide. Endofstory. Sorted.
Cordell- Simple- Tons on the net, and more. Looks good enough for the clan to calm down.
The Director- In India, (unlike Australia, where the focus appears to be  more on the visible people, ie the  presenter/ actors/ etc  ) the director is king- Who the director is lends the project respectability, or the lack of it.
My first discovery was that Aaron Smith is Australia’s favorite name. Or so it seemed. It took Google ages  to find adequate  information regarding him and his body of work. No one has been as thankful for ‘Hungry Beast’ as I was. YouTube, thank you.  Now  I could simply save the links or could download it and show the family- “He is a quirky young director, look at this  ‘Hungry Beast’  stuff that he has done….!”
Hmm,  Might not suffice. Also, even though personally  I  am a sucker for  ‘quirky’,  it may not go down well with the audience of my presentation.
And then I realized that  much to my dismay, some of  Hungry Beast wasn’t what I was particularly  dying for the family to see.  I sat up that whole night watching each one of the episodes (?), and finally had everything together- neatly sifted and all.
It still  didn’t seem enough to impress my slightly cynical audience.
More cyber stalking. Tedious and not fun when you don’t know anything about the man, but by now, everything about his work.
What sealed it was the ACS and Walkley awards Aaron’s work  had won.  I love whoever decided to give  him those  awards-  Indians are suckers for awards, and I knew if this couldn’t convince them, nothing could.
“Quirky and Awarded = Celebrated director.” would be my tag line.  I could make it work..

I  did!

It was interesting to find out later that Aaron  did some cyber-stalking of  his  own before we sealed the deal, and managed to find a picture of me at a party at home…waving a wine bottle at the photographer. For some reason he could not find it again the next day  to show it to the rest of the gang at Cordell. ha!

But I digress…
It was  close to midnight when we finally landed in Sydney. Really long flights. Joe began the introductions to the city right away. We had no idea of what we were in for, or even what Joe’s role in all of this would be. Or for that matter, ours.
Our conversation through polite nods and sounds to Joe’s commentary reflected our apprehensions (We Indians had the advantage of  speaking in a common 2nd and 3rd language )
Mahi: “Do you think we’ll be allowed to sleep tonight? I’m so tired!
G-man: He’s (Joe) talking so much, doesn’t seem like it. Maybe he’ll want to show us the city by night.”
Mahi: “No nonono, I cant move a single step.”
Amer: “That’ll be fun! I can’t sleep at night.”
Me: “We haven’t slept for practically 48 hours or more, but  the Ausssies look more exhausted than us. They’re not Superman, I doubt they’ll film. I’m sure they  filmed  in India through a massive jet-lag. Luke looks ready to drop.”
G-man: “But Joe keeps talking.  I need a bed.”
Me- ” A shower and a bed. It’s tough to look interested after almost two days  of travel, but  lets try and  nod a bit at least…. “
Mahi: “Achha” Okay. Makes those ‘Mahi-eyes and looks exhausted.

Finally we  stopped  in the basement  of a building, happy to have  reached the hotel. No more agenda. Happiness.
As soon as we had our luggage out of the van, Joe drew our attention to the  overflowing  trash bins all around.
In absolute seriousness and a dead-pan voice he announced- “This is where you four  will spend the night.”
Before we could react Joe pointed each one out and said- “Mahima, you there, next to that trash can, Gurmeet…Amer, you.. Radhika, that one there….you guys will have to spend the first night here. Welcome to Sydney, the biggest city in Australia.”
Silence.
We looked at each other. Seconds ticked by. I think we were just too exhausted to say anything.
Then An  burst out laughing and said, ” Come on Joe, enough. Lets  take  them their rooms before they get a heart attack. We can’t risk that!”
Ahhhhhhh!
Normal breathing. Smiles. A desire to kill Joe.

Jon’s welcome gift for us was waiting in our rooms-  A koala key chain, a rain cape, bug repellent, sunscreen, and  a jar  of Vegemite.

For all our plans to crash out on our beds, none of us 4 got much sleep that night. G-man was too  jet- lagged to sleep, Mahi spent most of the night at the reception desk  trying to call her parents, Amer can’t sleep at night anyway, and I had dared to spread  a small amount of the Vegemite on a cracker and eat it – in spite of  all the  stories I had heard about how vile it  is- and spent the night feeling sick and  trying desperately to wash  that  taste out of my mouth.

It wasn’t the best way to start the Aussie adventure.
Mike- up was 8 am the next day.

* To the many  viewers who write in to ask  that  the  other 3 were shown in their homes with their families, so why wasn’t I…. all I can say is- “I don’t know. Maybe  we’re  just  not  interesting enough  to have made it to the final cut!”

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28 thoughts on “Travel-tales, Cyber-stalking & Vegemite

  1. As an American I found this show just fantastic. I have learned we here in American have the same identical issues as Australia has just different names. All the 4 Indian travelers were amazing but Radhika stood out for me. Her intellenge, her spirt showed a beautiful soul. I am very happy she is a councler for today’s kids. She is a definite positive influence. Actually I think this woman need a TV show ton help people from all over the globe. This show was really a good look as an outsider. In had read someplace some aussies were upset and filed complaints. I find that strange, as an American I am proud but at times terribly embarrassed by some of my country men’s actions, such as the latest political climate. It’s embarrassing like nothing I ever felt, I like the fact Canada is opening it’s doors to the Americans that want to run away come January 17th.
    Bottom line Australia is NO different then the USA. RADHIKA is amazing, I was not happy to hear the strict family backgrounds and hate from the tall Indian male. That closed mindedness was hard to digest, watching that young lady get yelled at and share at by the angry aussies, and again NO DIFFERENT then the usa.
    Brilliant Show ABC AU!

    1. Thank you Keith for all the appreciation. It is high praise indeed.
      I hope someone is hearing you and is going to offer me my own TV show 🙂
      Thanks again for your time, for stopping by to share all of this. Good to know you enjoyed DDR.

  2. Hi Radhika, I am such a big fan! I waited every Wed for your show and now I wait every Wed for a new post.
    You’re beautiful, smart and just awesome.

    1. Thank you very much John.
      Is that every Wednesday.. Didn’t notice I was still keeping that schedule! Been running like a headless chook (pl notice my attempt Aussie slang :)) all this week, so I hope the next post makes it here by tomorrow!

  3. You’ve got to give Vegemite another try….its scrumptious,once you get the hang of it…..and that is the hard part!

    1. Hi Simply, I am giving it another try, now that an Aussie instructional video has been specially made for me. It’s called Vegemite for Dummies, is on You Tube and is inspirational, besides being hilarious. (I’ll try to upload it on the next post.)
      Do you think I’ll get the hang of it in the 2nd try?
      Thank you very much for reading the blog posts and for stopping to write.

    1. Hi Jane, My leaving for Aus meant the Rio holiday had to be postponed. I’m hoping to revive that plan soon, hopefully for December.
      Thank you very much for continuing to read and for stopping by to leave a comment.

  4. This is brilliant! I watched religiously, because I think that, as an Australian, we are racist. I cried and laughed and… just connected. Thanks so much for giving more of an insight. Vegemite is weird. Every now and then when we get white bread (which is only by accident in our multigrain family), I have to have a vegemite sandwich. It’s a little bit wrong. But my stepson has a vegemite and honey sandwich every day for school, so that’s probably wronger. I guess it’s just what you grow up with!

    1. Hi Rebbecca, It’s good to know you connected to the show, and you like the post. I’m getting my 1st ‘Vegemite for Dummies’ lesson in a couple of days- a video made by the lovely Julianne Hayes who says I should not have botched up this very important Aussie experience; I’ll upload it here for all the ‘dummies’ like me 🙂
      Thank you very much for stopping by to read and to write here.

  5. Smashing yet again…loved the part about the luggage besides others…now I know why back packers look so peaceful… 🙂 You have a way to connect to people…:-) Radhika!

    1. Ashita, Thank you! I love people. Sounds odd even when I write it, but there’s no other way to say it 🙂
      It’s lovely of you to specially put a comment here!

  6. LOL ..Radhika The comment about vegemite is funny because when we travelled to India recently, I did pack a jar of vegemite ,along with some yummy toasted muesli (and a few other treats) My family thought I was mad until one week into the trip when they were thoroughly sick of jam,cornflakes and eggs (done 4 different ways) for breakfast . They then wanted to know why I didn’t bring more!!! And why didn’t i bring peanut butter !.But the strange looks we got in the restaurant when we spread our toast with a thick black spread as opposed to SUPER sweet jam was priceless .We offered many waiters a taste but they all declined.
    But the fact is you didn’t eat the vegemite the right way .It needs to be consumed on thick bakery bread (preferably an uncut loaf in a wholemeal) ,toasted ,spread with lots of butter and a little vegemite while still hot ….then you will understand “The Vegemite Phenomenon” .

    1. Michelle, lol. I know!! I just ruined the Vegemite experience for myself 😦 . There’s are some really nice Aussies who just mailed to say they’re going to make me a video of how to enjoy the Vegemite experience, and I’m hoping to learn a lot from that.
      Oh, and in India if the hotel doesn’t serve you peanut butter and various museli, etc, you should just go out to the stores and buy them. All of that stuff is easily available. I realized recently that a store in my town keeps Vegemite! I guess i’ll summon up some courage after watching the video demos and do it right this time :). Or visit Aus really soon to get the real experience. I now think Joe wasn’t as good a host as I believed he was- all the mail I have recd today saying that it is really sad that I have missed “The Vegemite Phenomenon.”
      I’m going to let you know as soon as I am a born-again Vegemite devouring champ. Thanks for writing in!

    2. Ha ..Radhika .
      Obviously like me me you LOVE food !! One of the MANY MANY joys of travel and multiculturalism is trying new foods.However all the time we were in India the thought of a paneer (cottage cheese) curry just didn’t appeal ….yet just today at work friend (a lovely lady from Jodhpur) insisted I share her lunch ….yep you guessed ,it was a home made cheese curry ,and SO incredibly YUMMY.I really could not believe that I had been to India and had not actually tried this before .
      Just goes to show you need to be open minded and try new things …you never know you may just like it !
      Having said that everyone likes a little taste of home while travelling.I remember 22 years ago a little cafe in Jaiselmer where the owner wore the full bogan outfit (stubbies, thongs ,southern cross t shirt etc) and served things like vegemite on toast ,apple pie and ice cream and toasted meusli with yogurt and fruit .The cafe was always full and I’ll bet he is a rich man now !

      1. I love sampling food!And Paneer curry is my family’s staple- we eat more veg food than non-veg, and Paneer is a fav. Jaisalmer caters to tourists, it is geared up for tourists, and has been like that for 30ish years. That bogan outfit is our summer months’ national dress ha! That is why we couldn’t really understand the slightly superior/ condescending/ derogatory attitude many Aussies had towards the perceived bogans dressed like that 🙂 .
        Come back again and I’ll personally introduce you to some of our yummy food!

  7. lol. I love your reasoning for why bearded non-white men get extra attention from airport security.

    I also love hearing about how you tried to convince your family this traveling adventure was a fine idea. Adventures in internet stalking……

    Oh, and your experience with Vegemite. I love that too.

    1. Dina, That Vegemite is a dangerous weapon!
      Seriously!
      I’m always so happy to hear from you- and to know you’re enjoying reading about my Aussie adventure.
      Thanks!

    1. Mike, It’s good to know you loved DDR. Thank you very much for reading the blog and making time to write here.
      Cheers!

  8. Thanks for your blog. You guys were great in the show and it has been enjoyable to read your follow-up. I really look forward to visiting India one day.Blessings.

  9. I think you have to be given vegemite as a child to be able to enjoy it. I was the only one in my family that got to like it after we arrived from England. I was the youngest. I have just finished viewing the last episode. I was amazed at how all of you were all so tolerant of us and saying kind things about us after what you had experienced. I hope that you did get to experience the company of what I would call ” normal” Australians because we certainly are not all like I saw on the progam. It is sad that there are so many dumb, drunk and racist people here to give us a bad name around the world.

    1. Diane, I believe you! Everyone incl Aussie friends warned me about it-but I have to try everything once- and just timed it so bad. We met many wonderful Aussies there and forged bonds of friendship even after we’re back… there’s all kinds in every country.

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