Chak De Andrea!

Follow the exciting and not so exciting adventures of Andrea in Mumbai...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And so now that the memories are a little less vivid, I can finally tell you all about my flat hunting experience. I won’t say that before now the memories were too painful, because it wouldn’t be true, but I definitely do not want to remember those days at all.

And so how many flats did I look at? At least fifteen to twenty, I don’t remember. How many brokers did I go through? Probably around eight or so…

The first day of flat hunting I went with Snehal. We only saw two flats. Neither of us wanted to go and see any more ever again.

The first flat was tiny, in the middle of nowhere (well… quite far from Goregaon station) and had nothing in it at all. It would’ve cost 6000 a month so I was quite tempted but thought I should wait to see something else. The second one also cost 6000 a month, was bigger and would’ve included a wardrobe. The problem was that the surrounding area was a bit too traditional and I wouldn’t have fit in very well.

So the flat hunt continued… sometimes I found ones that I liked only to be rejected. Twice I was rejected for being a foreigner, including from a flat that I really, really liked. The second time was even worse because the guy’s mother lived in Australia. That time I was thoroughly tempted to say something VERY rude to him.

Then I thought that I had found a flatmate. Then she didn’t want to share with me. Then she did want to share with me. Then she again didn’t want to share with me. At this point I gave up and decided that it was much better to live on my own.

Finally after almost settling on a horrible flat simply because I was desperate and about to give up, I changed my mind at the last moment and told them I didn’t want it. I lost some money of course but in the end I’m glad I didn’t take it.

So finally, finally I found a flat that I actually liked. Once again it was in the middle of nowhere, at a place called Mahakali Caves in Andheri East. But the flat was an okay size (a studio apartment), clean and in a nice neighbourhood, the rent was in my budget and the deposit required was small. They even agreed to let me keep the gas stove that was there and install a geyser for me.

And so after a slight delay… as there must always be one… I moved in. The first day the only thing that I had was a mattress I bought and a pillow, both without covers, and a refrigerator. Partially because I was too tired to go and buy some. The second day I went and bought sheets and a pillow cover, the day after I went and bought myself a second hand wardrobe. I’ve got a toaster and some pots and pans as well so the place is coming along. Hayley is going to donate a table to me, so I’ll buy a couple of chairs and finally have somewhere to sit besides my mattress!

Besides that I finally evicted my unwanted tenants… two pigeons who were living beside my water tank. It took a great deal of effort to lure them down, catch them, and then put them out the window. They’re now living on the ledge outside looking at me rather pitifully as if to ask why I chucked them out. Poor pigeons.

I haven’t really started decorating yet and the place is still a bit of a mess but if you’d like to see some pictures you can see them here:

Next blog coming up… my Bollywood adventures.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I had thought that I would give you all my first blog post on the joys of flat hunting… but then the joys of flat hunting turned into the horrors of flat hunting and I stubbornly refuse to write anything about it until I have the keys to my flat in my hand.

Which could be tomorrow or the next day.

Or it could be never.

Anyway, the less said about the whole affair the better, let’s focus on happier things like my happening social life!

As many of you know I’m staying with my friend Snehal and her family. Snehal’s father is the director of a hospital here and so their flat is actually upstairs from the hospital. Living here in the flat is Snehal, her husband Tarun, her father and her younger sister Sourabhi, and now me of course!

Snehal has completed her masters in public health and although Tarun is a doctor, he has always wanted to become an actor. So currently he’s taking classes at Anupam Kher’s academy and trying for roles, thus leading to some of my social adventures!

On my first day of flat hunting (which I’m definitely not talking about) Tarun and has friends had been planning a party at one of their houses and he told Snehal and I to come along before we left to look at the flats. Thank goodness I changed my kurti because the guy’s place was extremely posh. The friend whose flat it was at is actually the son of a famous Punjabi singer, Hans Raj Hans, and the moment we pulled up outside, Snehal and I were thinking ‘what the hell are we doing here’. The other cars pulled up at the same time and everybody that got out looked exactly as if they belonged there, model and actor types that were mainly gorgeous and buff. Snehal and I stuck out like sore thumbs.

We actually tried to give some excuses about the flat hunting and just leave Tarun there but there was a lot of insistence that we come in and we couldn’t escape. Luckily we had both overreacted, leading to my first lesson that filmi type people can actually be very welcoming and down to earth.

It also taught me that I’ll never be able to afford that type of flat…

Well onto the next social adventure.

Due to Tarun’s friend Karan, we all managed to get tickets to the Gladrags Model Hunt Final (or whatever it’s actually called). Basically every year they have a model hunt for both males and females at their joint modelling academy/aviation institute. Do not ask me how those two things are connected because quite frankly I have no idea except I think they push the less successful ones to become air hostesses/stewards instead.

So dressed to the nines we all set out merrily, managing to scam ourselves seats quite close to the front, and sat down to watch the show. There were quite a few famous judges including Mahima Chaudhary, Koena Mitra and Arjun Rampal who turned up late and blamed it on traffic. Oh and there was an Aussie cricketer too, will have to check the name but I think it was Simon Cadditch or something, not sure exactly what he’s supposed to know about fashion or modelling.

So the guys and girls came out and strutted their stuff through the casual wear section and then the eliminations occurred and it was swimsuit time. For both sexes. Frankly this section disturbed me a little bit, not only because of the stripperish coordinated moves that the girls did but also because of the guys swimwear section.

They came out in sarongs and started doing their coordinated dance, and then lo and behold, one of them stepped on his sarong and it came off… and I think I let out a yelp or a shriek. Because he was wearing a speedo. In fact when the sarongs came off they were all wearing speedos and I never like those things at the best of times. Apart from that, they all did poses/danced which sometimes looked a bit funny.

To sum it up in Arjun Rampal’s words afterwards “I don’t really like looking at men in chaddis (undies), it’s embarrassing”.

After that there was a lingerie round but just for women. I thought it was a bit unnecessary frankly, and the guys in the audience taking photos/videos on their mobile phones were creepy.

Apart from this, Maureen Wadia, the owner of Gladrags was wearing a dress that really would’ve been better on a younger woman. I don’t know why on earth she thought it looked good on her because it didn’t, it looked like she thought she was about twenty years younger than she actually is and it was not flattering.

Then there was another elimination and the formal wear round, followed by dum dum dum…. The question round!

Most of the answers were boring/usual. However my favourite was this one:

Judge: In your opinion, what’s the best way to solve the problem of global warming?

Girl: I think we need more love and universal brotherhood in the world.

There you go, the answer to global warming is love and universal brotherhood, who would’ve thought?

But all in all it was a fun night, we ended up on the big screen and will probably be in the telecast (it’s not until the 27th) and there were some acts to watch on stage, like Amir and Sanjeeda from Nach Baliye 3 performing, Jal from Pakistan performing (lip synching… but still), and Amrita Arora… although I wasn’t too excited about her.

You can expect more blog entries from me soon because I’m quite behind on typing them up but have lots to tell.

Am missing you all!


Thursday, November 22, 2007

A big sorry for not having updated my blog for so long, but work has been so busy that it's been very difficult! Now... on to my first experience of fame in the movies...

And so after being in Mumbai for five months already (having been volunteering with an NGO here) I decided that it was finally time for me to become a movie extra. My first experience was with an American film called The Other End of the Line, which has Jesse Metcalfe and Shreya and that was the most boring experience I’ve ever had… numerous rehearsals… numerous retakes… not enough places to sit and very pushy people.

But when the same coordinator asked me if I would like to be an extra in an Abhishek Bachchan film, I accepted gladly, having no idea what film it even was or what my role would be. Having been told that I had to get to Film City by 7am, I took an auto from the nearest station (Goregaon) and then tried to find the set. Film City is huge, and my auto got seriously lost, not helped by the fact that I didn’t know the film’s name. Eventually after we had stopped at the wrong location due to a mix up, I saw another guy in an auto asking for directions to the same set and decided to travel up with him to reach there, so after asking, I climbed into the auto with him and we set off!

Turns out he was one of the supporting actors, his name is Gaurav and he’s worked in tv serials until now (Remix, and some Balaji ones), and it was his first movie. So despite me being a junior artist (difference of status between us!) he was very friendly and happy to tell me about the film and his role in it.

And so Drona is a mythological/fantasy film wherein Abhishek is the guardian of some magic water (although he doesn’t know that he’s the guardian), and of course there are bad guys trying to get it etc.So our auto got part of the way there… and got stuck getting up a hill. It simply wouldn’t go. So we were forced to get out and walk. Then no other auto would take us. Finally one of the assistant stylists for the film spotted us and we climbed into her auto…. Then that got stuck on the next hill.

And so we all finally arrived at the set by walking up the last hill….

Once I got there it was to find that almost none of the other junior artists had arrived yet, and so I was given my wardrobe, which consisted of a sweater, and a red poncho with a hood, and a picture of Kay Kay on the back (we were his fans…). Basically we were doing some pick up scenes from what they had shot in the Czech Republic so I think we had to look cold for it.

The rest of the extras eventually arrived, consisting of British, Australian, East European, Russian, Uzbek, Irani, Afghani and probably many more nationalities.So wearing our ponchos we went to the shooting location where we were supposed to be watching a magic performance conducted by Kay Kay’s character (who is the villain), it was far more fun than the last shoot I went to as we had some actions to perform such as running forward, shaking some barricades etc.

Unfortunately Kay Kay wasn’t there, Priyanka wasn’t either. However Abhishek was, and we had a scene with him at one point. His hair is still longish and he was dressed as if for the cold. I didn’t get an opportunity to get a picture with him, but took a couple of him on the sly. As soon as I get them uploaded I’ll post some links!

I met his stand in as well, a guy called Ramesh who is equally as tall, and had a similar hair cut! Apparently he also stands in for Arjun Rampal, and has done some tv series in the past.We packed up fairly early, by 3pm, which left me with the impression that Indian films are far quicker and more organised than American productions...All in all, a fun experience.

Drona looks like it’s going to be a paisa vasool type film, don’t expect anything deep and meaningful but it should be lots of fun!

Being a film extra can be boring, tiring and underpaid. Most extras receive only 400 rupees per day, however me being smart, I receive 800. I'm not quite sure how I managed this, maybe it's because my coordinator is a friend of a friend or maybe it's because I speak hindi...

Anyways, I have learnt that there is always an alternate career open for me in the movies!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

And so what shall I discuss today? Especially when it’s been such a long time since my last update.

Well first I would like to tell you about a terrible disease I’ve come down with, one which can’t be easily cured.

That’s right, I’ve become addicted.

Addicted to train shopping.

No, that’s not a typo. Train shopping, shopping on a train.

You see, on every train except those that are really, really packed, and I mean really, really packed, because otherwise nothing will stop them, there are people selling things.

Just about everything really.

Hair clips and bands, earrings, bracelets and necklaces, household items such as earbuds, sponges and dusters, notebooks, bindis, handkerchiefs, towels, clothes… the list goes on and on.

And so I have found myself train shopping to pass the time, because let’s face it, there’s nothing more interesting to do, besides talk to complete strangers, which I sometimes also do. So far these are my purchases off trains: earbuds, 2 notebooks, a pen which is also a torch (only 5 rupees! Bargain!), Some bracelets and some earrings.

Somebody help me stop this addiction before it’s too late.

In other news in the exciting life of Andrea, I went to lunch at somebody’s house the other day that I met at a mall! Sounds dodgy, but it wasn’t really. You see I had gone to this mall so that I could use the wireless internet there and I was running to get a table in the food court which was absolutely packed. Without realizing it I cut off another couple with a small child, and then felt really bad.

But the guy was like, “No, no, that was amazing. Real Mumbai technique, you must have been here for awhile.”

And I invited them to share my table.

And so I met Anand and Simone and their daughter Paloma. Anand is Indian and Simone is German and their daughter is sooooo cute. So we had a good chat, exchanged numbers and I never thought I’d hear from them again!

But they called up and invited me to lunch along with some other friends of theirs, and realizing that I should get out more and mix with people, I agreed to go. And so I made my way to their flat in Santa Cruz which had a great ocean view, and had a great afternoon there!

Their friends turned out to be from Egypt, two girls and a guy who are currently over here doing an IT training program with Anand’s company, so it was wonderful to meet them too. They’re having a hard time though, because they’re not used to eating such spicy food and are missing their own food from home.

I know that this is a short update, but hopefully I will soon be back with more exciting tales of my adventures, and this time you get some bonus things, which you might not even appreciate!

Thumbs down of the week goes to: Shahrukh Khan.

Yes indeed, King Khan has gone down in my esteem. Because he advertises fairness cream for men!!!!! Don’t you have any shame, SRK??? Do you want to make dark young men feel completely worthless? Thumbs down for you!

Funniest ad on tv for the week:

Well this is much funnier if you’ve ever watched Indian Idol/Indian soaps. Basically the host of Indian Idol and a soapie actor, is Hussein (can’t remember his last name). And so Hussein is advertising a washing detergent.

And he turns up to this woman’s house with his washing detergent and she’s like:

“Hussein??? Aap Yahaan???” (Hussein??? What are you doing here???”

And I’m like, “What do you think he’s doing here you silly woman?? He’s come to help you wash your dishes!!! That’s what he loves to do in his spare time while not shooting for tv shows!!”

And it really was very funny…

Although maybe not if you haven’t seen it…

Anyway, I shall try and update the blog much sooner next time!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mumbai is… star struck.

So I know it’s been quite long since my last blog update, however I have more than enough excuses! I was sick for awhile with a fever/cold in fact I still have a bit of a cough. Nothing to worry about, it’s just the rainy weather in action!

So ‘Andrea’s typical day’ part 2 will have to wait, as there were two special events this week!

The first was an outing with some of the kids from the centres which was really fantastic. Nita, one of our Directors, has managed to initiate a working relationship with some of the tv channels here, so Star TV invited us to come along to an event held for “Star Voice of India”, a singing competition. It was a mall appearance by the four remaining contestants, Sumitra, Abhilasha, Abhas and Irfan. Honestly I had no idea what I was turning up to beforehand, I thought it might be the actual shooting of the show, but I took a train to Mulund, (changing lines once at Dadar!), and was there quite early since I hadn’t had any idea how long it would take to arrive.

Since I was wearing my best salwar kameez I was absolutely paranoid about getting mud on it. So I took rickshaws absolutely everywhere rather than walking! So I arrived early, let the contact guy know I was there and took a walk around the mall to kill some time until the kids arrived, having a coffee and managing to buy two kurtis in the mean time (Not a very hard task…).

So finally 25 of our kids arrived, all dressed in their best clothes along with two teachers. They took us to a special cordoned off section right in front of the stage where we sat down and waited.

The performances were actually quite good, they all sang at least four songs from what I remembered. Sumitra was the crowd favourite since she’s a Maharastrian and from Mumbai, but I quite liked Irfan in terms of voice and attitude. The wonderful thing was that they got our kids involved, getting them up on stage to dance with them and mentioning them to the crowd. So it was wonderful for the kids who had a rocking time, and good for me, as I enjoyed the music, and met ‘sort of’ famous people.

And then afterwards the funniest thing happened.

The singers disappeared and I was waiting around to get our banner back when these people came up and asked me to sign an autograph, and I’m like… “Ahhh I’m not famous at all, you know.” And the guy replied, “That’s okay, if we couldn’t get their signatures then we should at least get somebody’s!” So I signed for him…. Well, it’s probably the only time in my life I’ll ever be asked for an autograph.

Then I took the train and an auto home (I would generally walk home from the station), and arrived back without a spot of mud on me! Mission successful!


Second exciting happening of the week, is that I finally went ‘out of station’, which is what going out of town is referred to here. My new room mate Anita was scheduled to move in on Saturday, so she called me Saturday morning to say she would arrive in the afternoon and then said “Immediately afterwards I’ll be going to Mahableshwar with some friends, do you want to come?”

And I of course said yes. After all I’ve been in India for a month and didn’t manage to leave Mumbai even once in that time, so how could I pass up the opportunity now?

And so I ended up going to Mahableshwar with Anita and five of her friends from work, as we all piled into two cars and set off. Unlike the rest of us in the house who are NGO workers, Anita works for a very fancy consultancy firm called Mackenzie, so I was in for a weekend with finance/business type people. All of them were very nice and we had a great time, but some of the work related conversations definitely went over my head.

So it took us almost as long to get out of Mumbai as the actual trip took, partially because neither of the people driving had any idea which road or exit we should be taking. However after buying a map and asking various taxi drivers we eventually found our way, while in the process losing the other car, and only caught up with them much further down the highway.

So in the end while we had left properly at about 4pm we only arrived in Mahableshwar a little before 1am, then we had to find a hotel. The drive was made more difficult by the fact that there was a heavy fog as soon as we reached the area.

So the next morning we all got up, had our breakfast, hired a guide and went off to see the sights of Mahableshwar. Mahableshwar is a hill station about 200 km from Mumbai. It has these beautiful green hills and fields, with waterfalls cascading down every so often and a lovely lake (go and see the photos that I posted on my Flickr page!).

So we went to several lookout points, went boating on the lake and visited a temple. We also had lunch where I had this frozen strawberry and fresh cream dessert, sooooo yummy. Mahableshwar is really famed for its strawberries so I felt that I couldn’t refuse to try some of them!

We arrived back in Mumbai late Sunday night. It might have been a short trip, but it was definitely nice to just get out of the city for awhile and enjoy some clean, fresh air and see somewhere that is actually beautifully, gloriously green.

So enjoy the photos that I’ve posted up and you’ll hear from me again soon!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mumbai is... wet

Hmm did I do that one already? I don't think I did. When it rains really hard, all of the entrances to Almeida Park flood. You see the park is in the middle with a ring road around it, and then about four roads leading out to the main roads. So if I want to go out at this point (which sometimes I need to) I have to wade through quite deep water in order to do so!! Rain has been off and on, but we had a huge lot earlier today and I could see all the rickshaws splashing through the very deep water from my window. I'm not at work today as I woke up with a very bad cold, but am here in a cafe updating as I needed to go out and get some lunch anyway.

So today I shall answer the question you've all been asking yourselves (You know that you have!) What does Andrea do on a typical day in Mumbai?

Well here is a short sum up in a typical day in the life of Andrea McLeod.

I have two types of days during the week, one is when I'm heading into the office and the other is when I'm heading out to a site.

Both of them will start pretty much the same. I wake up, shower, choose my clothes for the day (I usually have to iron them because I've stuffed them in the cupboard and they're all wrinkly), then have my breakfast of bread with peanut butter. I would like to mention here that peanut butter is very expensive. It cost me 120 rupees for a bottle!!! That's like $4!!! And there were even more expensive types there! Cheese is expensive too, and not that great quality. I have sworn never to buy cheese again after being very disappointed with the one I got at the big supermarket I went to.

So, ahem, back to the story.

This done, I walk done the road to Bandra Station, and then comes the difficult bit, actually getting on a train.

This doesn't take technique so much as it takes stubbornness, force, and the ability to push other women out of the way or to resist being pushed out of the way yourself. There are always three ladies carriages for each train, one at the front, one in the middle and one at the end. So you must position yourself correctlly (just look for where all the other women are) and then wait, preferably as close to the front as possible.

The real trick to getting on a train, is to not actually wait for anybody to get off it. That's right, just push straight on because otherwise you won't get a seat. Unfortunately I think that growing up in Australia has made me far too polite, so I don't tend to follow this advice. As a result I sometimes have to wait for the next train. Or travel in the baggage compartment with the women who are carrying the veges and fish they plan to sell somewhere.

So if I'm going to the office I take the train down to Churchgate which is the furthest station to the south. I'll buy myself a little take away chai and then walk to the office, which takes over 20 minutes, but I just can't be bothered working out which bus to get on and it's a nice walk. The only difficulty is avoiding the tourist touts.

Unfortunately as a white person, I am automatically classed as a tourist. Therefore I am fair game for anyone wanting to see scarves, drums, sandles, kashmiri shawls and HUGE balloons, which quite frankly I'm not sure why anybody would ever have a use for them. Usually I just ignore everybody, which is much easier when you have an ipod, but if somebody is particularly persistant, I will tell them to bugger off (in hindi of course).

Then I will spend the rest of the day at the office before doing the whole thing in reverse.

Well this blog has been quite long enough so next one will be describing how a typical day at a construction site creche is!



Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bombay is… patriotic.

15th August was Independence Day, the day that the whole of India celebrates the British finally leaving in 1947. This year was the 60th Anniversary of Independence and everywhere people were celebrating.

There were flags and badges for sale, decorations up and people were dressed in their best. I have no idea about any official programs but my program was set. I was going to attend a flag raising ceremony at one of the Mobile Crèches centers. I had been seeing the children practice for Independence Day at every centre I had been to so far, so there was no way I was going to miss out.

I chose to go to the Godrej Construction site at Mahalaxmi for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s one of the easiest to get to from my house, and secondly because it was the first centre that I had ever visited. I arrived by 9am to find most children already there and dressed in their best clothes. Some of the little girls in saris with jasmine in their hair, and there were boys in kurta pajama or jeans.

It took awhile for everybody to arrive and get settled, including some of the children’s parents.

Following that, everybody stood to attention and saluted while the flag was unfurled and the children sung patriotic songs, did a dance, and there was a short speech about the meaning of Independence Day. It really was a beautiful event to see them all so excited and proud, and I got a little bit emotional while they were singing the national anthem.

The whole thing was over by ten thirty and I headed home to find that my room mates were only just getting up. I decided that since I had a day off work I might as well go for an adventure, and so, very unpatriotically, I headed for a mall.

I know what you’re all thinking, but honestly I was dying to see what an Indian mall was like… and it was hot… and there was a Crosswords book store there!! So I spent a couple of hours there and then came home and collapsed. Make sure you check my flickr account for my Independence Day photos, which should be uploaded soon!