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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.