Cricket and Bollywood in Bombay

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In Mumbai, I tasted another aspect of India, one of extreme wealth and dire poverty combined with Londonesque architecture, the World Cup, and Bollywood.

I arrived by overnight bus from Aurangabad into Mumbai in the early morning hours, unsure where I was in an immense city. Looking at my rudimentary map from the Rough Guide, I knew that the Salvation Army Hostel that Carmel had recommended was to the south. Wanting to stretch my legs and dig right into Mumbai, I began walking.

Hundreds of people were sleeping on the streets, next to the stalls they run during the day--the sugar cane juice men, the samosa folks, the newspaper families, the watch salesmen. Further down, the smell of fish, both old and fresh, marked the fish market. I continued through the heart of the city, past the Victoria Railway Station and down to the Gateway of India, a large archway near the largest port in India.

Before I even checked into the Salvation Army Hostel, a large man with a small braid dangling from his otherwise trim and stylish cut asked me to be an extra in Bollywood. "Sure, why not? But hold on a second, let me check in first." He was Kingsley, one of the casting coordinators for many productions in Bollywood. "So what is this film we're going to anyway?" "Indie," said Kingsley, responding as many Indians do--telling you what they think you want to hear.

We arrived at the set of the worst soap opera in India, Jeete Hain Jiske Liiye, meaning roughly "We Live for the One We Love." The characters were on vacation on a tropical island, so they had recruited several westerners as extras to walk behind the actors or to dance the Mambo, among other things. Most of the day, they just filmed clips of people coming and going, the powerful deceitful women, the party man, the businessman, the wise older man.

Later, I watched an episode on the Sony Channel. Hindi dialogue was sparse--probably a good thing--as the camera panned from passionate face to passionate face, frozen in time as people schemed on their cell phones. You didn't need to know Hindi to know the plot. I would guess that a Hindi speaker would feel the same way watching Days of Our Lives.

For me the most remarkable things about the day in Bollywood were the small things: the cross on Kingsley's SUV dashboard as we listened to Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie, " the women who dressed in brand names and flirted with men wearing cologne, and the buisness-like precision of the director. The India I had witnessed over the last few months was barely recognizable on the set.

This was a special time for India, one you couldn't see on the Bollywood set, but could witness in almost any house that had a television--The World Cup--cricket, that is. Unfortunately, as I was in Mumbai, India, with its Glamor Boy players, did not even make it to the Super Eight, losing to their smaller neighbors Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Tempers flared throughout the city, with women yelling at men, men yelling back "we suck, don't take it out on me" or something like that.

The newspapers tested their humor to defuse the situation...

"Here are 8 Super Endorsement Options Boys...
With India out of the Super 8, after a spineless performance in the World Cup, we are sure most players will lose their endorsements too. However, not all is lost for Team India. Here are eight products that the players can still model for. These Super Eight are:

Folding Furniture: India collapsed inexplicably against the Bangladesh bowlers and during fielding their shoulders were slumped throughout. The apocallapso shocked fans everywhere.

Bermuda shorts: India's world cup campain picked up very briefly against the extra large-sized Bermuda Players. Short and sweet it was, but all that post-Bermuda roaring came to nothing against Sri Lanka.

Eye care centers. The Indian batsmen need to visit and ophthamologist as soon as they return to India..."

Other endorsements the paper proposed were Fire Detartment, Butter, Save the Trees Foundation, Laundry Service, and Pain Relief Balm. Use your imagination.

I watched several games, on and off, learning cricket as I went. Throughout India, children played cricket in dirt fields or anywhere they could. Here, they had parks with green lawns just for cricket.

In essence, cricket is about scoring more points than the other team. One team bats, the other team bowls. The bowler throws a small ball towards a wicket, attempting to destroy it, bouncing it once on the dirt surface. The batter tries to defend it and at the same time tries to hit the ball strategically, perhaps all the way off the field for four points or perhaps a soft hit. Fielders try to catch the ball or throw the ball back at the wicket to get the batter out. If all the team is out or a certain number of balls are bowled, the teams switch positions. Its more complicated than this, but you'll have to watch it for yourselves, if you want.

There's more to Mumbai than Bollywood and Cricket, but for me they were the two defining things of my visit.
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Where I stayed
Salvation Army Hostel
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