Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Visitors

The other day, I was visited by two new neighbors. I saw them the day they moved in, they arrived and kicked out the family living there and promptly made themselves at home. You can imagine how surprised and shocked I was, yet I was so fascinated I stood there on my terrace watching as this all unfolded just a few meters away. There was nothing I could do to intervene on behalf of the current occupants and in just a few short moments, it was over.

Since then, the couple has basically lived there alone and while I see him coming and going throughout the day, I almost only see her when she pokes her head out every one in a while before disappearing back inside. And in the last 2 months since they moved in, they never once stopped by for a visit. At least, until the other day. Suddenly, and without warning, they were just on my terrace, both of them, sitting in the sun and grooming themselves without a care in the world. They took a bit of a bath, bit their nails, adjusted a few things here and there and then sat there with the attitude of those who know they are beautiful.

And they are beautiful. My neighbors happen to be a pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets. Their home is a hole in the tree just of my terrace which they got when they kicked out a squirrel. She tends to stay inside, on her eggs or with the until now unseen babies while he goes hunting or stands guard on a branch. Lately, they have started hanging out on our terrace. We have a pair of lovebirds that tend to spend the day on the terrace and the nights inside and they will all sing back and forth to each other every morning and afternoon. If I sit still, they will come within a meter or so of me, close, yet just far enough to make a quick getaway if they feel threatened. Our lovebirds love the parrots a lot more than they liked the old but still forbidding looking hawk who spent a few hours on the terrace one evening. They didn’t utter a single peep the entire time. Even though they are domesticated, I think they realize when something higher up the food chain is looking at them and thinking “yummy”.

My new found fascination with birds is a bit of a surprise to me and something I wish I would have had many years ago. My grandparents were bird people. My grandmother had bird feeders all over the place and could tell you all about the various birds that would come to the yard. She could tell them apart by their chirping, and could tell the male from the female by some obscure marking. She knew the regular visitors and noticed the new ones. I found it boring. To me, a bird was a bird was a bird, and unless it could talk to ride a mini tricycle, I wasn’t interested. How many kids are? But now I find this common interest, this connection with them that I wish I would have had when they were living.

Monday, April 27, 2009


When I was younger, I had many dreams. Some were far-fetched, like living on the Starship Enterprise, journeying to the center of the earth or just flying like that kid in “The Boy Who Could Fly”. Not all of my dreams were so extreme, some were actually quite modest, like being king of my own country or becoming a celebrated and statuette winning star of the stage and screen.

While I am convinced that someday, if I can just find the right hat or oversized shirt collar, I will go the way of Sally Field in “The Flying Nun” and be put into flight by a dainty breeze, I have pretty much realized that my other dreams were just the fantasies of a cute and rosy cheeked child who had unreasonable parents who refused to let him move to New York when I was fifteen. Or were they?

Saturday night Manuel and I responded to a personal invitation from the fabulous Anjali herself for dinner at her place. No sooner had we arrived than the cocktail shaker was put into full abuse mode, being shaken into a frenzy while we invented new and exciting combinations. Don’t you just love the fact that vodka, like cashmere, goes with just about everything? But I am digressing. Where was I? Oh yes. It was during this cocktail infused dinner that my phone rang. I saw the name on the display and answered it immediately.

“There is a shoot tomorrow for new television series. Are you available?” were the first words that floated into my ear.
“Can you be at Le Meridien hotel at eight?”
“In the morning?”
“Yes, eight in the morning”
“Of course”

It was already after ten in the evening and I switched immediately to water. Then I realized that there was no time to get a haircut. My Bangkok version of the ryan Seacrest had grown out. The only work I had done recently was a bit or writing and some voice-over work, none of which require grooming at any level. The last time the casting director has seen me, I was rocking my Ryan Seacrest. Now I had a beard. I had unkempt hair. I was beyond the help of product. My only saving grace would be the make-up team.

Then I realized I had no idea what I role I would be playing. What should I wear? How should I look? And then panic hit. Would they be so cruel as to cast me in the role of someone’s father? Me, who barely looks out of high-school? My head was reeling with the possibilities.

I went home and immediately to bed for my three hours of sleep. Not even shooting yet and already the life of a star. I was awake at four and officially up at five. There was trimming and exfoliating to be done. Moisture masks and teeth whitening. And then there was the issue of what to wear. I had no idea what the show was about or what I would play. I didn’t think to ask. All I heard were the words “series” and “shoot” and suddenly it was time to decide what to wear and I didn’t have a clue. I took one of everything. Dress shirt, jacket, polo shirt, t-shirt, dress shoes and sneakers and threw them all in a bag, got into the taxi and forty minutes later I was in the make-up chair getting ready for my numerous close-ups. I still had no idea what the heck I was doing, but I didn’t care. I was too busy enjoying the make-up chair.

Then came time for the scripts. I can’t say much about it as it has not launched, but it is a dramatic series which plays out in the world of luxury. I played one of the top people of a major luxury empire. Not quite a king, but perhaps a prince or a duke. It was so difficult for me to relate to the character, to understand his motivation, but I feel I made it work and brought a certain Golden Globe quality to the role.

So now, the question is, will the pilot get picked up and when do I shoot my cover of Vanity Fair?

Don’t worry Annie, I won’t pull a Miley on you. Or maybe I will…

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Almost two weeks ago, on a Thursday afternoon, a small group of us piled into to minivan and hit the road for a weekend of hiking, fresh air and friends. The first half of the journey was fantastic and smooth, while the last six hours were filled with winds, rain, hail and lightening storms, exactly the kind of weather that gives one comfort when climbing steep winding roads with sheer drop offs. We hit the bad weather just before midnight and drove through until almost six in the morning when we got stuck in mud just as entering the village where we would be staying. I stepped out of the car into cold rain, mud and wind. It was an extreme change from the ever climbing temperatures in Delhi.

We were staying in a village called Naddi, which is at the dead end of a winding, steep and poorly paved mountain road. The village itself had no other foreigners and just a few dozen or so buildings around which ran scores of children and goats. As soon as the clouds cleared and the sun hit the ground, the air filled with tens of thousands of white butterflies. I have never seen anything like it. It looked like a snow flurry, white specks flying and floating in every direction. It was hypnotic.

Naddi is a little village in an area known as Dharamshala, which also includes the village of McLeodganj, the official home of the Dalai Lama since 1959 when he escaped Tibet. While Naddi is empty, sleepy and filled with nothing to do other than take long walks along the mountain paths or sit on a ridge and just be overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of it all, McLeodganj is filled with temples and people and cars and shops. It is a sleepy place when compared to almost anywhere except perhaps where we were staying. In contrast, McLeodganj seemed like a wild party place. In reality, while there are a few places to get beer and smoking hash is not unheard of, it is also filled with places for meditation, prayer, reiki, massage and all things spiritual. Prayer flags hang off anything and everything. Dreadlocks are everywhere and there is even a salon or two where one can get dreadlock hair extensions. At one point I had to hold myself back. I was tempted, but managed to maintain a small level of self control.

One of the main attractions, of course, is Tsuglag Khang, the temple and residence of the Dalai Lama and I found myself there a few days later on a Sunday morning. I had visited there a few days earlier, walking through the various little temples, spinning the prayer wheels and just being, well, spiritual… But Sunday morning something unusual happened as I was at the temple, the main gates opened up, Monks were lined up and very quickly news spread that His Holiness himself was on the way. It was nothing confirmed, but suddenly people started joining in the crowd in that “I don’t want to be left out” way people often join crowds or lines when they have no idea why they are crowding or lining up. So I too, decided to herd. If the Dalai Lama was coming by, I wanted a front row standing spot and that is when the German lady walked up to me.

“What is going on here?” she asked, using her best interrogation voice that suggested I might be waterboarded if I didn’t supply an acceptable answer.
“I think the Dalai Lama is on his way.”
“That’s not possible. He can’t just come here!”
I wasn’t really sure what to say and didn’t feel the residence of His Holiness was the best place to get into a heated argument.
“But he can’t just come here! He’s the Dalai Lama. It is not possible. How can he just come here?” she not so much asked, as accused.
“He does live here” I said, stretching out the word “live” for impact and effect.
“But it just isn’t possible! Where is the security? And what about all these people? And where is the security?” she demanded to know.
“There are two security guys over there.”
“This is ridiculous. Only in India is this possible. He can’t just come here!” And with that she walked off quite indignant.