A Passage to India

Mumbai, India
March 24, 2003

My local sound guy Ajay is picking me up at the airport. He had worked for my friend and client Cyrus and is the cousin of Cheuk’s Toronto South Asian friends. The world is getting way too small. As he shakes and swags his head from side to side, he tells me he was spotting for some dude who looks like Jackie Chan. But he managed to spot me in the crowd anyways… there aren’t many Asian dudes in cowboy hats in Mumbai. On the way in from the airport, we pass by a hand painted larger than life Jackie Chan billboard for some Western that I’ve never seen… now I get the joke.

Ajay shooting at billboard
Ajay shooting at billboard

Cheuk is held up by the crossfire in the Middle East as the outbreak of Iraqi War messes up flight routes. He’s taking the long route over Russia to Delhi and will be a day late. Ajay and I made good use of the day shooting ambient around town and picked up the audio rentals in Mumbai. We finish up shooting around Juhu Beach with the magic hour sun falling behind the Arabian Sea. If all goes well, Cheuk should make it here in time for morning breakfast.

After Ajay went home, I hung out that night on Juhu Beach behind the Holiday Inn where I was staying. My neurosis was calming down although I was still uncertain about dropping by SARS-infested Hong Kong at the end of this shoot for the world premiere of “Song Of The Exile”. It’s supposed to be a big deal… kinda like “homecoming for prodigal sons”. We are apparently even invited to some propaganda dinner thing with the Chief Executive, Mr. Tung.

As I sat watching the lapping waves from the Arabian Sea, I was confident that I’d live through the world calamities of the week and see Fai again. Something in my heart was telling me she’s gonna be the ONE, and I don’t think it was heartburn from my spicy Punjabi meal.

Ajay shows up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for breakfast at the hotel coffee shop. Cheuk finally shows up with blood-shot eyes after breakfast. Looks like KLM did a good job dodging the American fighter jets after all. We go back to my room to sort out and check gear before we face the scorching taxi ride through the Mumbai smog.

It takes us over an hour of tortuous detours to get to Ling’s Pavilion. But Check tells me that it’s worth the haul because the food is exquisite. We arrive in Ling’s oasis and it’s not what I expected from the chaos and hustle of the surrounding neighbourhood outside. It’s near the Gateway of India in an area reminding me of a 60’s Tsimshatsui in Kowloon. It’s full of souvenir shops and street hawkers. The sidewalk traffic is worse than the road.

A street hustler stuck his hand out in front of my lens and ruins my shot when I was tracking Cheuk towards Ling’s through shoulder-to-shoulder traffic. That’s the worst thing you can do to a camera, dude. It’s like worse than walking in on him during orgasm. I could have killed him.

Cheuk and I have travelled halfway around a SARS-infested world in the middle of a war, and through the horror that is Bombay rush-hour traffic. We finally made it to Ling’s Pavilion.