“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.
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..
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.”
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!”
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!”