Beer, Biryani & The Aussie Invasion

We’re in the festive part of the Indian  year.
This year’s celebrations of  Ganesha’s journey into our homes and  the farewell immersion parades  were  unique for the large number of  foreigners involved in playing the ‘Dhol-Tasha’.  While I was merely one spectator in the thousands all around, they marched along with the locals, danced, and picked up the  well-practiced crazy beat.
When the 3 white women waved wildly  at my direction  from a few hundred faces away I thought they were just expressing their happiness at being a part of the celebrations.

A little later they were standing just a few feet away from me. The decibel level of the songs & drums was deafening.
“Hey,  you’re  Dumb, Drunk & Racist?” (No one in India knows about DD&R so being  recognized from  it wasn’t even a remote possibility.)
” Umm no, but I was in it.”
“With Joe!!”
“Wow! You write the blog.. It’s really you.”
“I guess so.”
“I loved DD&R and we love  Joe….!”
“Yes, Yes, Yes”
“Can we see the dvd  if you have it, I missed an ep and I believe Joe did a.. “
However much I tried, it was tough listening to the women go on  about Joe right  in the middle of  dancing, drum-beats, cymbals &  deafening chants in praise of the elephant god. This is how it looked.

We exchanged numbers. That weekend my home was resounding with  Australian English- Uni students on an exchange program. Pune  is always abuzz with visiting students.

I was expecting three Aussies for lunch. There were eleven!
Luckily we can order ‘biryani’  in, and since the eleven Aussies were polite enough to say they’d love some, lunch wasn’t hard to organize. Besides, being Indian means there’s always food in the house- it’s like we’re always ready for any eventuality.

It was their 2nd week in India. They were fascinated with the colors, food, chaos, people, traffic, Indian clothes & jewelry,  festivities and the sea of humanity all around.

Conversation flowed… like strong Indian beer.
We ran out of beer  quickly  due to the unexpectedly large number of guests, but help was at hand in the form of  the ‘home-delivery’ from across the road. (I wonder if they do that in Aus.)

The students  insisted on watching the DD&R dvd.  For me, it  was the first time I actually watched the series at one go.
It was immensely  interesting to ‘see’ real-time Aussie reactions instead of read them on social media and mail. We kept pausing for loud discussions all through. They were appalled, embarrassed, moved, disgusted, surprised, taken aback, disbelieving, amused and  defensive. “This is not really us”/  “I see this  happen all the time” were thrown around all evening.

Some random learning :
Almost all of them had seen at least a few eps of the show (the ones who hadn’t said they never ever watch or will watch  ABC ),  all of whom had replayed the pre-airing  promos for 2 things-
Expected- The b*** flash.
Unexpected- To laugh at my “We don’t recommend ….too much  in the sense of  not at all.” I mentally  went back a few months  to the mail/ comments on various sites where people were “ha”- ing about it, and realized that it was a more common reaction than what I had thought.
I was just being myself- I guess I have an odd sense of humor.

Everyone who had watched the series followed this  blog. “What you did outside of  what we saw is  also so interesting! Season 2 should include this- Outside the Camera” felt good to hear.

Almost all of them- all the  women & one man- wanted to ask me a hundred questions about Joe & thought he  was one or the other- cute/ wanker/ smart/really  cute/ purposely controversial /needs a new coat and I should send him one from India/ totally crush-worthy/ what was he like in real life?/ were we friends ?/ did you meet his girlfriend?
The rest of the men just wanted to continue  drinking  beer without a break*/ thought he was a troll / didn’t know him before DD&R  (Joe, I know  that’s impossible! I know I shouldn’t say impolite things about my guests, but I think  the nice Aussie bloke  lied to me)/ tries too  hard to look either like Jesus or a tramp/ am curious: was he rude in real life  too?/am  curious: was it awkward spending all that time together even though you were  strangers?/ Did you all sleep in the van or  share rooms and was Joe a part of it?

One refrain: “You have to be extremely brave or really crazy to do this show! Were you all warned about how dangerous it could get? Almost every episode has something really uncomfortable or dangerous.”

Their questions  just didn’t end :
“Just curious, why did they choose you four? (Read the refrain. Maybe we were the only four who were crazy enough..)
“Which did you like more- Sydney or Melbourne?” ( Hard to say since we kept traveling in & out.)
“Which city seemed  more friendly ‘in the sense of’ the people there. ha!” ( Ha!)
“What caste are you, and do you have friends from other castes?” (Mixed. Personally, I don’t know anyone who makes friends based on that anymore. Not in the cities anyway.)
“Why didn’t they show you in your home  with your family?” ( Wish I knew. But my very- reluctant-to-be-interviewed  daughter is glad for that.)
“Did Mahima actually mean it when she said Indian girls  have to appear to be good girls?” (She meant it. All don’t though. There are enough give-aways I would think.)
“Did you have an arranged marriage? Mahima’s having one too? What about the boys?” ( Semi- arranged. I would think yes. Gurmeet- yes. Amer- No/Semi, maybe)
“Did Amer really breakdown at Cronulla.. Why exactly? He’s cute… Is he really? (Yes. It wasn’t an easy report to see. Yes, very.)
“How could you be so polite & sit with and calmly speak your mind to the Protectionist Party while they were so noxious?( I’m like that- I speak my mind, but calmly.)
“What was the scariest experience? Alice Springs attack?” ( A King’s Cross experience outside the camera/ Melbourne streets at night where we filmed. No)
“Why don’t you share experiences about Joe like you do about the other Aussies with you? Has he/they** asked you not to?” ( No particular reason really, I just write what comes to mind. No)
Are you still friends with the Aussie crew/ stay in touch? Are Joe and you friends/ do you read what he writes? Do you like it?( Yes, good friends/ All the time. Yes we are. I read everything he writes. I don’t understand a lot of the political stuff, but he’s smart & he’s funny!) [ The boys: “Aw come on sold out Radhika.”  Most girls: “Yeah”]
“Why haven’t you posted anything on Melbourne/ the Alice Springs attack/ Moree interactions/ Indigenous interactions & learnings?Have they** told you not to/ to stop posting? You should write about all of it- it’s an incomplete picture yet!” (I just assumed there’d be not much interest left in DDR recalls anymore. No. I will now.)
“You stayed in Kings cross? What was the Indians’ experience there? Did Joe take you all to some of the night  spots? What was Mahima’s/ Gurmeet’s reaction there? Amer must have had a great time.” ( The next post has it all.)
I promised I would get back to  DD&R blogging soon.

By the time they left, it was the next day. I doubt they’ll ever get to have ‘Mutton  Korma & Pau’ for breakfast at 4 am.

I’m sure they’d have loved to help clearing up, but Indian beer is no pushover.

Just as they were leaving I heard a few of them counting the beer  bottles I had  piled up for the re-cycling bin. It was a round figure- 110.

* They hadn’t yet found an opportunity to drink alcohol. Most Indian  homes where they stay would not be okay with them drinking there.
** They- It was just left unexplained. “The ABC ” is what I got when I pushed.
*** None of these pictures are mine. They took a lot of photographs, but I’m  not allowed to share them- they told me later that they weren’t supposed to be here and didn’t want their host families  to know.


12 thoughts on “Beer, Biryani & The Aussie Invasion

  1. The show just aired in Australia and I watched through two episodes which was so satisfying because the sensitive issue of Australia being racist was dealt in such a civil manner! I’m an immigrant myself in Australia and I remember the days when a stranger on a train would say ‘bless you’ when I sneezed. It’s quite sad to see the changes, but lots of people here still are beautiful.
    ps. I thoroughly enjoyed it when you said ”We don’t recommend ….too much in the sense of not at all.”!

    1. I’m glad you liked how it was dealt. We met a lot of lovely people too, and which country isn’t racist to some extent, including mine.
      “We don’t recommend..” hahha I don’t think I’ll hear the last of that one!
      Thank you for stopping by to read, and to write in.

  2. Your lyrics are a treasure trove of beautiful descriptions of exotic places, customs and cultures that we, the ordinary people who do not travel much, I do not know much. Thank you and I look forward to your any new text. 🙂

  3. Great post Radhika! Laughed aloud at several things, especially some of the questions and comments from the Aussie students. What’s really great is that the series is so well known, and that young Australians have shown so much interest. Their questions are really insightful, and it’s great to know that they were so curiou, and a little “starstruck” too by the sound of it! I hope Maki and I can share a biryani with you in Pune one day too. I want to see how much the city has changed since 1978! ❤ Jody

    1. Thanks Jody. So glad you liked it.
      Maki & you must re-visit. Pune’s not the same anymore, but you’ll still connect to it I’m sure.
      Biryani awaits!

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