The luckiest Mem in the world

is mostly likely ME. I need to finish this post and get the sad one off the top of the page, because despite the ensuing sorrow on my return home I really feel very blessed indeed and strengthened by my recent trip to India. I spent three glorious weeks there with my beloved Friend Greg: two weeks in Mumbai and one week in Shimla (joined by my friends Carla—Filmigeek—and her husband at the very beginning and end of the trip in Mumbai). We even managed to fit in Diwali celebrations in both places!

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As people who have been putting up with me for a while know, I take a lot of pictures of dogs and children, and on this trip I added monkeys, horses and a yak.

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Plus a couple of movie stars! We spent a day or two on the set of Raju Hirani’s next film starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma, and I managed to get photographic evidence this time (the pictures with Aamir you’ve seen already). Greg was thrilled to “run into” Anushka later in Shimla too, ha ha. Aamir got me to try paan, which I had avoided until now; it wasn’t bad although I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to find it again. He and Anushka were very charming and I think I can safely say that Anushka’s mother makes the best kheer I have ever had in my life, and I have had quite a lot of kheer. Many, many thanks are due Raju and his production team—they made us very welcome despite being incredibly busy, and needless to say this next film is going to be awesome.

I was also so very fortunate to see some old friends again and to meet “new” ones who didn’t feel new, since I’ve known them online now for some time. There were some I didn’t get to see, but that only gives me a reason to go back! I can’t even begin to acknowledge how cherished these talented and busy people made me feel. Banno invited us to see her new film Kaphal which was screening at the Mumbai Film Festival. What a lovely film it is—you must see it if you can, and check out this review by Madhu of DustedOff. And Karan (Upperstall’s redoubtable Third Man) had us over to his home for a screening of his new documentary about Ellis Dungan, an American director who made films in Tamil Nadu during the 30s and 40s. It is a fascinating look at a worthy subject, and I wish it and him every success. He also cooked dinner for us at my request, as I have drooled over his lunch and dinner plans via Facebook for years now. It did not disappoint! And they gave me CAKE.

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Also giving me cake were Raju and his right-hand man Dileep, with Roy and Friend Greg’s company over a wonderful dinner at China House in the Grand Hyatt. YUM!

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Roy was a wonderful host throughout my stay in his fair city, feeding me on several occasions. He generously gave me some of his grandfather’s (JBH Wadia) films on DVD along with a host of film booklets which I will try to scan and share (if I can do it without damaging them). I just absolutely love him; and he is trying to do the right thing by his family’s amazing cinema legacy despite having a LOT of other important things to do.

I got to know the environs of Bandra West better (and boosted the economy), and discovered the Pali Village Cafe which has the best sangria in the world. At least the best that I’ve tasted, which as with kheer, is a lot. In fact, I managed to drink quite a bit wherever we went. What are vacations for?! I was completely thrilled by the Paan Flip cocktail at the Taj which really did taste like paan, the Tower of (Kingfisher) Beer at Leopold’s, the apple-y Golden Eagle beer in Himachal Pradesh, and India’s own Sula Vineyards red wine (Cabernet/Shiraz blend, and the red zinfandel). As pitiful as it is, I think I never look so happy as I do with a cocktail in hand.

drink

We were given a wonderful tour of the by-lanes in a Bandra neighborhood by two talented writers and fellow film and music history buffs, Sidharth Bhatia and Naresh Fernandes. It was very Catholic in flavor with lots of bleeding-Jesus-on-the-cross statues (without fail I am reminded of an Italian ex-choirboy friend’s “I’m Nailed Right In” joke) punctuating every corner; and I loved the still incredible—if crumbling—architectural detail on many of the buildings.

Plus, Bollywood murals!

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And as for Shimla…ah Shimla. So beautiful, so relaxing. If ever I decide to live in India, I will live there. I love that you can walk and walk and walk (and climb!), with breathtaking scenery at every turn.

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No matter what the weather (we had mostly sun, but I loved the occasional misty mornings and evenings) it was gorgeous. We took a ride to see the snowcapped Himalayas from Kufri and the terraced apple orchards in Gunj.

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We climbed up to the Jakhoo Temple without dying of a stroke/heart attack, although I wasn’t sure how I felt about being lumped in with 70-year-olds on the fitness scale. We also managed to avoid being attacked by a gang of monkeys, maybe because I admired the pale Seventies-style blue eyeshadow on one of them. The giant Hanuman which looms over the town was even more impressive up close, and the forest surrounding the temple was beautiful.

jakhoo

I loved the cold weather clothing: the hand-spun local shawls which had distinctive designs very different from those seen elsewhere in India, and beautiful intricately cabled sweaters. I saw my first movie in a single-screen theater (despite its fancy name: Ritz Cineplex), complete with balcony and front-benchers and full audience participation (it was Krrish 3, which I quite enjoyed due to the surroundings and the fact that I’ve seen none of the superhero movies it apparently “borrows” from). I annoyed a yak which had been happily dozing in the sun until I came along, and Greg and I observed that the horses working on the Mall had feed bags which would have saved us a considerable amount of hand-to-mouth time and effort had we been similarly equipped.

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And everywhere, everywhere, preparations for Diwali. Greg had to drag me away from the shop in the photo below left; I basically wanted to own everything in it.

diwali

We stayed at Clarke’s Hotel and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It was charming and the staff is incredible, and its location perfect. We ate breakfast and dinner there practically every day, because the food was so good too. Luxury!

clarkes

But alas, all good things must come to an end. And for all the gorgeous places and things I saw, the best thing as always was the people. Raju, Dileep, Roy, Sidharth, Naresh, Ava, Karan, Batul, Vivek, Shelly and others…I mostly can’t wait to come back so that I can see you all again (or you come and see me!).

And for anyone who wishes to inflict upon themselves the other 1,300 photos I took there, here you go. Have fun! I sure did.

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45 Comments to “The luckiest Mem in the world”

  1. It was lovely to meet you in Chandigarh, Greta. I am glad you got around to writing about this.

    The pictures show that you had a lot of fun.

    Shimla is my favorite place as well. :)

    Next time you are here (or I am in US) I hope we meet again, as Greg said, maybe in San Antonio!

  2. Very glad you had a wonderful time in India, Greta. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to Mumbai/Bombay. But I did see your 1000+ pics – yes, each one of them – and it was like being there myself. You capture the sights and sounds of a place so well!

    You need to visit India more often. You could single-handedly revive the economy – or at least, some industries. :-)

    Am also very happy that you’ve finally written a happy blogpost again. Hope this is a sign that you will return to blogging more regularly? You write SO well, it’s such a waste of your talent not to share your writing with us. :-)

    • It took ages to crank this one out…but as you know I kept getting interrupted. I’m hoping to watch some of the fantastic films Roy gave me soon (including Lal-e-Yaman!!!! Have wanted to see that forever) and write them up. Hopefully life will be more peaceful in 2014.

  3. So happy that u r back and active! :) Pictures proves how much fun you had during your trip. B’day celebration with your friend in INDIA is really a treat and then Diwali at both the places…. So lucky, you are!!! As Raja ji has said, U NEED TO MAKE FREQUENT TRIPS TO INDIA, not to improve the economy or to to revive the travel industry ;) but to rejuvenate :)
    Hope you are feeling better after the losses in just few weeks. (Nimish just told me)

    • Thanks Khyati…yes in addition to losing Callie I lost one of my oldest and dearest friends two weeks later. I need to reschedule with Nimish, but probably can’t until after the New Year. I do get rejuvenated in India though. Am never bored there for a moment :)

  4. Looks like you had fun! (And yes, I looked at all the pics on your link. Now, I’m feeling totally homesick!!

  5. Greta, lovely, lovely post and pictures. How I wish I had been able to spend more time with you. And had lots and lots more chatter. But we will meet again soon. Have a great holiday. And may you have the best 2014.

    • I haven’t forgotten Vivek’s suggestion that we go to Garhwal together! Would love that. I really loved seeing Kaphal (looking forward to having THAT DVD as well) and had such a lovely time with you, limited though it was. That birthday cake was fabulous :)

  6. Lovely pictures, Greta – especially that one of the Madhubala mural, which I simply loved. The next time I go to Bombay, I’m probably going to pester Sidharth to take me on that walk!

    • I’m sad I didn’t get to Delhi to see you again, but next time! And the Madhubala mural was right next to one of Anarkali with Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai. Just lovely, both of them.

  7. you are really lucky memsaab. Congrats.
    i live in india but still never met stars. But you though citizen of a foreign country and love our Hindi films, still in touch with people from Hindi film industry.how did u manage to have connect with actors and people from hindi film industry? i always followed your blog due to your reviews. I actually regard Sivaji Ganesan, Sanjeev Kumar, MGR, MR Radha, Rajesh Khanna, Pran, Balraj Sahni and Kamal Hasan to be greatest actors. They are above the hyped Bachchans, Dilip-Raj Kapoor and Khans or any other actor from India.From Kapoor khandaan only Shashi was the greatest actor.

    I look forward to you also getting to know films of all these stars i mentioned above.But still i do like the some 45% work of hyped Bachchans, Dilip-Raj Kapoor and Khans or any other actor from India.Only difference being i know – why Sivaji Ganesan, Sanjeev Kumar, MGR, MR Radha, Rajesh Khanna, Pran, Balraj Sahni and Kamal Hasan are greater than all others.I want you to know that as well. Followers of your blog will then realise how there are some actors above Bachchan and Khans.

    But now I woud like to know how did u estabish your links with film stars?

    • Just by chance I met someone through work who is a friend of Raju’s. He thought Raju would find it funny that an American girl loved his MBBS film so much (it was the only one he’d made at that time), and put us in touch with each other. We became friends ourselves, and that is basically my only connection (but it’s a good one). He is a great guy, Raju.

  8. Dear Memsaab,
    Thanks for this wonderful post and for displaying so many pictures! I looked at every one of them.
    I now must see that Madhubala mural.
    Happy Holidays,

    Karen D

  9. Gorgeous photos, Greta! You, and really everyone, looks so happy in them. I’m so glad you had a good time in India. And I totally want to go to Shimla now and stay at Clarke’s Hotel – maybe someday. Here’s hoping 2014 brings you more adventure (filmi and otherwise) and happiness.

  10. Hey memsahab if you can read urdu or find english translation of this book name “ganjay farishtey” (bald angels) then please read it, its highly recomnded for you, it will be treat ,this book is compilation of character sketch of writers and famous hindi film personalities of old, written by famous story and film script writer sadaat hassan manto. Personalites include are naseem bano, ashok kumar, nargis and lastbutnot the least babu rao patel :) and many more Here is the link in urdu language http://www.scribd.com/doc/101672143/Ganjay-Farishtay-by-Saadat-Hasan-Mantto. Also found one excerpt of his english translation sketch on noor jehan here is the link http://wordswithoutborders.org/article/noor-jehan

  11. Hi,
    Your wonderful snap shots and all the descriptive comments really show that you had a great time. I bet you are a good company too. We hope to see you in a (small?) role in Raju Hirani’s next film starring Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma (what a great surprise it will be for everyone eh!)

    Thank you

  12. Merry belated Christmas and a happy, healthy, wealthy new year filled with love :)

    Thank you for sharing the pics. I wanted to be beamed to Shimla right away.

  13. Finally this much awaited post is here ! And to imagine that I am commenting on it 12 days later ! We are extremely happy to know that you enjoyed yourself thoroughly in India. I will go through all the photographs later today, when I finally find myself freed up from my personal and official engagements and then I will comment in detail.

    It is the first post in nearly one year in this blog and hopefully it will lead to a revival in the blog activity just like your visits to India leads to revival in our economy. :)

    • Just when I was beginning to feel in the mood to watch Indian movies again…my DVD player broke down. When it’s warmer I’ll go out and get a new one :)))) I did enjoy myself thoroughly, although I wish I could have met you in person Atul. Next time!

  14. Dear Greta,

    Wishing you and your beloved ones a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year ! (We are already into 2014 in Calcutta ! Hic…..:D) )

  15. Hi Greta,
    Thanks for a lovely post and hard work going through the 3000 pics! It’s a pity we can’t enlarge them though, I think I’d have put your “yak” one on my computer desk for a few days! And, yes, you DO know how you felt about being lumped along with the 70 somethings!

  16. sorry hadn’t seen all the photos are on the separate Flickr pages! You’re on my desk (I didn’t know one rode a yak like a motorbike)

    • There were many things I didn’t know about yaks that I do now…although I feel sure I would have a whole lot to learn still if I were lucky enough to own one :D

  17. Shimla is my favorite place as well. :)

  18. Sorry for asking a serious question. But India is very hostile to women, especially to women from US or Europe. Do you move out in the open alone or do you take someone with you always. Anyway, wish you all the best and a safe trip when you visit India the next time.

    • I don’t find that to be true, actually. I think India is more hostile to its own women than to foreign ones. I just use common sense and have never really felt threatened, although I have had to kick some hotel workers out of my hotel room when they didn’t want to go! But I raised a small fuss and they went. I have sometimes been alone, and sometimes with other people but even alone I feel as safe as I ever do :)

  19. Wow. Have been visiting your blog off and on – last 3-4 years, and this is my first comment.

    I am one of those desis (living in the US since 96). As a kid, I loved Indian films (cos it didn’t take a brain to follow it, those damn electric power cuts ensured that the movie shown on DD had to be watched in brief snippets – and wonder of wonder, even if one watched 20% of the film, one never really missed anything – take that Italian or French Cinema !!!), but as I grew older, watching em felt like a total waste of time (oh well, a Dickens work felt much more stimulating, now, when I look back, India in the 70s was a very Dickensian place – and probably still is that way).

    I have gained a lot of respect for Indian Cinema – some of it is because of your blog, some of it is part of my growth and growth in Indian film making.

    Indian cinema worked because it was a product of our society, it meandered much like life in India, it evolved, it was idiotic, frustrating, ridiculous at times – it was funny, it had gravitas and profundity (in bits, sometimes subtle) – most important, it was a living, breathing thing that is alive and thriving.

    Your blog is an amazing labor of love. I doff my hat to you- it is some ‘tapasya’ you have done – I am sure there is some OCD streak in you.

    Thank God for you – as it has given me a fresh outlook on Indian cinema.

    • Wow, what a lovely comment to wake up to this morning Manish :) Love the Dickensian reference—my mother once called Seeta Aur Geeta “Shakespearean” and she wasn’t wrong! It does work for me exactly for the reasons you pinpoint…and I haven’t stopped watching it just because I have stopped writing as much, never will. I love it.

  20. HELLO MEMSAAB!
    LONG TIME NO SEE BUT MISSED YOU ALWAYS. SO TOOK THE FIRST CHANCE TO RECONNECT. HOW IRONIC IT SEEMS NOW THAT I WAS THE ONE WHO VAINLY ACCUSED YOU TO HAVE BECOME ENAMORED OF YOUR FB FRIENDS THAT YOU HAVE LEFT OTHERS LIKE MYSELF IN THE LURCH BY ADDING NO POSTS FOR A LONNNNNNNNNG TIME( ACTUALLY 3 WEEKS) AND NOW I AM THE ONE WHO HAS DEVOTED HIMSELF TO FB NIGHT AND DAY, TILL I COULD SPARE NO TIME FOR OUR DEAR “MEMSAAB”. BUT NOW THAT I AM BACK, LETS BEGIN THE BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP AGAIN.
    MEMSAAB, FIRSTLY YOU MUST ADD ME AS FRIEND IN YOUR FB ACCOUNT. SECONDLY, CAN YOU PLEASE POST ME THE LINKS TO “TEESRI MANZIL(the complete version)” AND “JAY VIJAY(1977)”? IT HAS BEEN LONG SINCE I WATCHED THOSE GOLDEN BOLLY MOVIES AND WOULD LIKE TO BEGIN WITH THESE TWO.
    WITH ENDLESS LOVE & RESPECT

  21. The monkey really does look like he’s wearing pale blue eyeshadow. ROFL.

  22. Where ar thou? I hope you are well…

    • I am well…just have not felt like writing. Have watched some films but they have been mostly kind of uninspiring, at least to me. Thank you for asking!

      • I know about the losses you have gone through and just wanted you to know there are many anons like me whose life you’ve touched in some way through the power of your words and who wish you happiness.

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