Bollywood calling?

Trip Start Jan 27, 2008
Trip End Apr 06, 2009

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Flag of India  ,
Sunday, March 9, 2008

First I'll tell a bit about the ride from Chandigarh. . .
No real problems with Rocinante on the highway; leaving Chandigarh at about 8:30 I knew it would be a fairly easy 250k to Delhi, so no rush. The "national highway" is mostly 2 lanes where it is not diverted over some bumpy and potholed track through another nameless town. Punjab is farmland, so there were numerous tractors and funny little ramshackle trucks to pass loaded with everything from manure to sand to sacks of some unknown substance, perhaps grain piled high and looking for all the world like the unbalanced load would flop the truck over onto its side. Indeed, there were those not so lucky who stood by their overturned haulers, a vacant expression on their faces as they pondered the next move, perhaps waiting for a fortuitous crane to amble up and lend a hand (or a hook, as the case may be).
The morning dawned smoky. Everything is burned at this time of year, and the air is thick with black smoke and dust, coating and choking everything in its path, and causing the eyes to tear up. One must wear a cloth over the mouth and nose to keep from getting instant emphysema from the choking fumes. Visibility was just about 500 meters and beyond that was just a wall of gray.
This wasn't just one area, this is the whole of Punjab from my origin all the way to and including Delhi, already famous for its pollution.
Add to this the trucks that belch out clouds into your face as you overtake on the highway, dust rising from the numerous dirt-paved diversions and construction, and a general humidity and it is as if you are riding through some toxic soup, necessary but unhealthy. So much for the vigor attained from a few weeks of clean Manali mountain air.

I have a map for Delhi, a good one, the one made for truckers, but when hardly any of the streets are marked or even really named, and only an occasional landmark is pointed out by way of sign, one must rely on instinct and possibly a compass. Riding towards Lal Kila, the red fort, I knew I was going the right direction to Paharganj, or "Pagal-Ganj" as I have newly coined it ("pagal" means "crazy" in hindi, the lads at the chai shop think this is the funniest).
Of course, the best intentions sometimes fail, and I found myself finally way past it to the south near the India gate. Twice around the circular road with a check of the map, and finally I was on my way back north toward Conneaught place, from which I could find my way.
Strange thing about Indian city roads, they take you one way, and then suddenly you find yourself heading in a completely opposing direction. I have seen this in other cities, London, and my own Boston being no exception, but somehow it is impossible to tell in what direction you are actually headed. Getting to Conneaught place was not so bad, only had to turn around once and almost killed a pedestrian while passing a rickshaw in rush-hour traffic who they were crossing in the middle of the speeding chaos of the motorway.
At last I knew exactly where I was. Rocinante however, had a different idea. Her clutch becoming impossible to work at a stop and then finally giving out altogether was not, to put it mildly, a welcome situation. By then I had been riding around on my little tour of the city for an hour and a half, it was going on five, and traffic was at it's absolute worst. I had to pull over and wait a bit for it to cool and see if I was to proceed or push. Both ended up happening. I managed to get about halfway to the 'ganj, and then had to push the last 2km in the humid heat of the waning day. To add insult to injury, though I knew exactly where I was bringing the bike (the Bullet Wallas shop), in my efforts to push a heavy chunk of iron through thronging crows and speeding vehicles and still keep my life, I managed to pass the turnoff, adding another unnecessary 1/2 km to my herculean task. Winded and sweating, I stepped into the shop, took off my shoes and went upstairs to be greeted by Laura, who actually put my bike past the backlog to rush the repairs.
A bucket shower, change of clothes and a cold beer later and I was feeling human again, though with a grand headache. Ibuprofen and dinner cured that one with giant glass of Jonnie walker red, 150 rupees courtesy of the waiters at Green Chile's restaurant after I told them that the bullet wallas had sent me. Nice to have connections.

This morning as I stepped out for coffee, a man in the lobby of my cheap and clean hotel stopped me. Dressed as many metropolitan Indian men are, this looked to me like a city man. He explained that they were shooting a film in Delhi, in english/hindi, and were looking for someone to be a double for the lead actor. The man in question looked a bit like me, except he had a fully grown beard. Too bad I shaved mine in Manali a couple of weeks prior. Still, with a couple of days' growth on my chin, he said there was a possibility I could fit the bill. I thought "yeah, whatever, I've been offered these things before," and taking my leave thought not much more about it. It was only after my first chai at one of the little shops on the Pagal-ganj that another man, looking businesslike asked to sit down. "We are shooting a movie here in Delhi. . . " I finished his sentence for him. He explained that I possibly had the look they needed, though I may be a little too tall at 6 feet. I got his card, and thought it over.
I decided after some deliberation that this chance might be something different than dusty roads and long haul riding. At the very least I might just get a peek at the goings-on of a bollywood production, at the most I would be the one of three selected to play the part, and make 2000 rupees a day (about 50 dollars, four times the going rate for extras), and have four days work, to be freed up on the 19th of march with a week and a half to ride to Goa for some days on the beach and store Rocinante. All could be possible.
Back at the Wallas to check on the bike, I showed Laura his card, and she confirmed that he is always doing casting for westerners here in this backpacker haven, and so is at least on the level.
We shall see what tomorrow brings--whether it is a new experience and a change of plans, or a new experience with no change of plans remains to be seen. I get picked up at 8:30 at my hotel. I wonder which Hindu deity is the patron saint of Bollywood auditions.
Should be interesting, at the very least and if unsuccessful will only cost a few hours' time.
See you in the movies. Well, probably not, but not for lack of trying.

I'll try to get some pictures, and if I ever find a working USB in this town again, I'll even post them.
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nightfly on

Pagalgang indeed!
Jebus, just wait until Bollywood gets a load of Mr. Christian! Pedestrian bowling, bucket showers, and a stubborn machine. First 12 are on me when you wrap things up mang.


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