Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bollywood, Elephanta, Goodbye India

From now on, I'm afraid, I shall have to get an agent of sorts to write this up for me, or a ghost writer, or something, for I am now a Bollywood star. What the hell am I on about? Read on, dear friend...

It all began late the other evening, when there was a knock on the door of our hotel room. It was the hotel proprietor, not normally a man we'd want to see (in case there's some rule of the hotel we've broken or he wants more money for something or other). But the place we've been staying doesn't seem to have rules posted up, besides which we'd been very good. So what did he want? He wanted to know if we could swim. Er... yes. Why? Because he'd just had a casting agency on the phone looking for honkies who could swim to act as extras in an Indian series tomorrow. We'd be paid 500 Rupees for a day's work, and we'd get all our food and water for free. Oh, but they only wanted one of us. Though the other could come and watch. Were we interested?

Is the Pope still Catholic (I assume he is - I've been away for some time, but I presume the Vatican status quo is still more or less in place)?

The next morning, we left bright and early at 8 o'clock, picked up by our studio contact Ali, and proceeded on foot to another hotel, where we picked up the co-star honky extra, a German hippy girl who'd spent a year in Australia and looked like Lleyton Hewitt. Only with dreadlocks. She was friendly enough, but dull and earnest in the way only hippies can be - absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever, even for a German girl. Oh, and her name was Wibke. And she claimed not to be able to understand us because of our accents. Which coming from a teutonic hippy who spoke English with a German/Aussie twang was somewhat hard to stomach.

Wibke in tow, we headed to the shoot. In line with the style and glamour befitting such stars as ourselves, we travelled by train, and then by rickshaw. Jetset here I come...

The series was called 'Hotel Kingston', and was being shot at a five star beach resort complete with swimming pool and various other sports amenities. We didn't get much of a chance to look around, unfortunately, but we did get a chance to steal four toilet rolls. Well, they're very very rarely provided in Asia, and every penny counts. Besides, five star resort toilet paper doesn't grow on trees, you know.

So we spent the day hanging around on set, watching the (pisspoor) recording taking place, and being called on to act in the background as hotel guests. The continuity of the shots of the same scene from different angles was at best rubbish. In one scene, I was lounging by the pool. A conversation took place between some of the main characters. When shot from one angle, the tete-a-tete took place to my left, when re-shot from another angle, it took place to my right. After the final editing process, I'm going to be teleporting around in the background! Mind you, Trev, Wibke and a couple of Indian extras were playing around with a volleyball in the pool during the shooting of that scene. Goodness knows how they're going to have any continuity whatsoever. Maybe Indian series don't worry about that sort of thing.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and was generally good fun, when we weren't getting contradictory instructions from actors (this happened rather a lot). And the 500 rupees paid for a posh dinner we had that night - I had a very nice Bombay Duck, which is actually fish, and tastes like salty battered cod. Unfortunately, we did have to hang around with Wibke until the end of the day.

Old Jokes' Home
Q: What do you get if you cross an elephant with a rhino?
A: Elephino (Hell if I know, you see. Actually, this doesn't really work in print).

Working jokes or no, the lead tourist attraction of Mumbai is the similarly-named (ish) Elephanta Island. This is a forested lump of rock in Mumbai harbour, some hour and a bit of dull boat trip away from the famous Gateway of India, right near our hotel. On said island are some cave temples. Yay. I haven't seen enough cave temples. These were supposed to be the primo sight of Mumbai, however, so we went to have a look, stumping up the exorbitant fee of Rs110 for the boat, an incredibly cheeky Rs5 "tourist tax" on reaching Elephanta island, and Rs250 to enter the caves.

Was it worth it? Does the Pope crap in the woods? (Again, here, I'm assuming his condition hasn't degenerated to the extent of the head of the Roman Catholic Church running wild). Even if I'd not been over-caved of late, I still would have felt ripped off by this particular set-up. The only thing worth seeing in the caves that you couldn't see much cheaper in other caves elsewhere in India (speaking as a layman here - perhaps the caves are of special historical value and thus important to the cave carving expert) is a giant triple-headed bust of Shiva. That aside, it's pretty much same old. The main difference was that here, when we were sitting down quietly at the edge of one of the caves, a security guard came over and told us we were only allowed to sit down outside. The fact that I've been sitting on and in UNESCO World Heritage Monuments for months now, not to mention having to put up with frustratingly arbitrary and nonsensical Indian bureaucracy, was bad enough. But what really stuck in the craw was that the very same security guard then went and sat down himself! Not even a cheeky "excuse me aren't you only allowed to sit down outside" prompted a response from him - I don't think he understood our point.

All in all, Elephanta Island being it's main attraction is really going to hurt Mumbai's chances of winning "Best City" award at the end of this trip...

Anyway, that's it from India. The next time you hear from me I shall be in Thailand. So long, subcontinent. It's been frequently confusing, frustrating, tiring, bizarre, educational, and occasionally fun...

Sorry to The Muppet Show, Popbitch, the Roman Catholic Church and any and all aligned forces and/or deities.


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