Monday, 14 December 2009

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I've been under pressure from my manager to write something more 'positive' about India. She masquerades as the communications manager but I'm pretty sure she's really a censor for the Indian Ministry of Tourism. I'm constantly being told that my blog will not entice people to come to India and visit. We also disagreed on the museums charging extra for people who don't look like they're Indian (around ten times the price!). I said it was discrimination, she said that they've got to make money from tourism some way. I think we've agreed to disagree.

Today, at any rate, I've decided to talk about how exciting it is here, especially getting to work. I know that the traffic has been mentioned quite a lot, but with a commute each day of over four hours it does form a large part of what I do.

So, without further ado, leaping onto moving trains and buses is great, great fun. I'm serious. Only this morning I travelled several hundred yards down the road literally hanging out of a bus. No-one can say that the journey to work is boring. And journey it is. Expedition even. You've got to have your wits about you or it could all go pear-shaped. At any rate it makes travelling in the U.K. positively pedestrian. One thing I shall take back with me is how sterile and dull day-to-day life can be in Britain. Maybe it's the rise of blame culture and suing, but the infamous Nanny State does seem very restrictive. Sure, some 10 people a day die on the trains, but considering they carry six million passengers a day (and we are just talking about Bombay) that's quite reasonable surely? I couldn't find any similar statistics for the U.K., although I did see a link saying that 30 people a day die in the U.K. from passive smoking (link).

So there we go, I'm safer travelling on the trains here than I am breathing in Britain. Now that, surely, is a reason to visit India if there ever was one. Come to think of it, what's the air like over here...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Andrew Goes to Bollywood

When I came to India I had a modest number of things that I particularly wanted to see or try. The first two were dal and chapattis. I have tried them both now; they're certainly edible but not that exciting. The third was Kerala; I've yet to go. And my fourth and final ambition was accomplished last night; I watched a Hindi language film. Good old Bollywood, enjoyed by 14 million Indians daily according to this website.

The film in question was called De Dana Dan. My limited prior knowledge of Bollywood films led me to believe that there was to be much singing and dancing involved; I was not disappointed. At the drop of a hat the cast would break into a spontaneous dance routine with much fun had by all. Not really understanding Hindi I am afraid to say that most of the film went over my head. The guy sitting next to me told me that it was a comedy; however I found that I did not laugh when everyone else did, and I laughed heavily when no-one else did. Maybe it's just our different senses of humour but there is something to be said when you are laughing at odds with an entire cinema.

The other Bollywood film that I have seen was called Tum Mile. It was a love story of some sorts and was set in a bizarre location. The couple met in Cape Town. This was, however, a Cape Town where the only inhabitants were either Indians or white, blonde-haired people with British accents. I let this peculiarity slip in the name of artistic licence. The worst part of Tum Mile was actually at the end. Having escaped about 10 disasters within the space of five minutes or so, the couple announce their rekindled love to the lead’s best friend. In his excitement he slips and falls into some flood-water where he is elaborately electrocuted. The film then ends. What, I asked myself, was the point of this man's death? How did it further the plot in any way? The answer: it didn't.

I mentioned at the start that my ambition to see a Bollywood film is now complete (I'm not sure that I'd rank Tum Mile as a Bollywood film as there was a distinct lack of singing and dancing). It is, but I have a new ambition that has developed out of it. Bollywood films have a liberal sprinkling of white people that the film-makers pick up, generally in Colaba – in the south of the city. At weekends I can now be found skulking around the Gate of India waiting for my chance of fame (but not fortune)!