Friday, June 01, 2012

For the Love of India

One of the activities I love most is going to the movies in the afternoon, or even morning. There are always fewer people in the theater and they are usually older than me. Which gives me the chance to participate in another favorite activity – changing seats in the movie theater. On Fridays, Marthena and I used have lunch and to go to a mid day movie. The scenario was always the same. We would sit down, and some “Alta Cockers” (older than dirt), would sit close to us and begin to chat. Even though it was before the movie began, we knew by the level and intensity of conversation, that these people would continue to talk throughout the film. We also knew if they would be quiet, and at some point during the film, shout out, “What did she say? I didn’t hear what she said”, directed at the screen but loud enough to be heard by everyone in that theater, the next theater, and all theaters within a mile or two. We would change seats. Then, even though the theater was empty, someone would come and sit right in front of us. We would change seats. A nanny might show up with a three year old who couldn’t read the theater’s suggestion to be quiet, and even if they could read, they would never be silent for the duration of the film. We would change seats. And of course, there was always someone who brought enough food to last the duration of the movie and they were not quiet or neat eaters. We would change seats. Until at last, we would find the perfect seat, in the perfect location, unencumbered by movie guests who thought that the movies were a participatory activity. But that is not what I wanted to blob about. At some point in my long and somewhat jaded career, I produced the World Premiere of the film “Gandhi”, in New Delhi. This required me to be on location in India for an extended period of time preceding the event. Over the course of four months, I made three trips to that exotic location – the last trip lasting a month. If not the best job I ever had, it was certainly the most colorful. Never mind, it was the best. No one should go to India for less than three weeks, because it takes at least two before you acclimate to the colors, sounds, smells, the pace, the language, the climate, food, and the culture, I should have had a clue when I arrived the first time to find there were four of us who were responsible to produce two press screenings, a series of press meetings, a dinner for Embassy personnel -- British, American, and Indian, logistics for all the VIP’s and celebrities, (it was a fundraising event for UNICEF and the Martin Luther King Foundation), and a variety of tasks I could not complete if this blob lasted for six pages. It was as cumbersome as it was exciting and there was no end to the surprises: Nothing mechanical ever worked, and at that time, there was no “new” technology to break down. (The American Embassy provided electricity for the opening), oh, and everyone in India must be employed – in some job – it’s a law. Keeping that information in mind, people do not mow the perfectly manicured gardens and lawns, they cut the grass by hand. And when something isn’t working, rather than change whatever, it is repaired – even if only temporarily. For example, the cushions on the sofa in my suite (which we used for press events) were so silky that if you sat forward on them, you would eventually find yourself sitting on the floor, with the cushion. Rather than change sofas, everyday the hotel manager would send someone to my room to sew the cushions on to the couch. It never worked, but it did provide work for the seamstress. Then there was the time…. I could write a book (oh, I did). Just adventure after adventure. This is all to say, I finally saw, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Yes, it was fabulous and yes, it did take me back to my time in India, all the good as well as the bad. There were two things that absolutely helped with the time travel. When one of the actors asks, “What is it about this place that you like?” and another actor talks about the color, sights, and smells. It reminded me of the first time I rode through the streets of Calcutta. You can see the dirt, crowds, life on the streets or the poverty (talk about a homeless problem) --or -- you can see the beauty and just say “If only they would tidy up a bit.” There was one line in the film that pretty much summarized all the things I knew to be true about that amazing place. “Everything will be fine in the end, And if they are not fine, it is not the end.” We’re just sayin’…. Iris

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