The phone call
So the phone is ringing, the time was 8 am in Mexico City - 8 pm in Mumbai. Dad: Hi darling! I miss you! Where have you been? I called you at home but no answer for the last few days. Me: Hi Daddy! I’m great….guess where I am? Dad: Where cookie… Me: In Bombay, India. Dad: what?! Say it again… Me: Bombay, India…. Silence. Silence. Dad: But....................what? Silence. Dad: I don’t understand? Me: Well, Troy got that editing job. He’s editing a movie in India. And I came with him. It’s great! Silence… Dad: Jesus...you’re insane baby.....Indiaa.......I see.......well........ Silence. Me: I’m fine. It’s great here! You should see, there are cows on the streets.............blah blah blah............ Silence…….Sigh............. Well, that went a lot better than I had imagined. I made light of it and told him it was like Mexico City, only dirty and poor. He started laughing. I left home at the ripe old age of 17 and moved away from my single father household in Catholic Mexico City to perverted Los Angeles to pursue my acting career. Growing up it was just he and I, so he’s always been overprotective. He’s always had a map to know exactly where I am at all times. When I moved to New York City he made me buy him a city map and send it home so he could mark my exact location. Anyway, it was not as bad as I thought. I felt relieved. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt free for the first time. I made a choice and didn’t ask anyone their opinion. The next morning my cough had gotten a lot worse, I could hardly breathe. We had a few free days before flying out to New Delhi so we took a tour of the city and then took a ferry to a place called Elephanta. An Island off the coast of Mumbai in the Arabic sea. In Elephanta there is peace compared to Mumbai. There’s monkeys all around and of course cows. There’s a small village in the Island, it’s probably the prettiest village I’ve ever seen. They repaint every season so the place looks impeccable. The buildings are painted in bright pastel colors, green, blue, pink, salmon. It’s beautiful and peaceful. No cars are allowed on the island so there is no pollution and no noise. As soon as we stepped off the ferry a guide approached us, his name was Sandeep, like most Indian men. I guess it’s the equivalent of Juan in Mexico. So Sandeep offered to be our personal guide through the Island. He took us to eat something first, we were starved. On the way up the trail we stopped at a tea and curry house, it had a beautiful view of the ocean and was surrounded by enormous trees. We ate some curry had some chai and treated Sandeep our new friend to lunch, he could hardly believe we invited him to eat at the same table with us. He explained the cast system to us, which to this day confuses me. So we all sat together and told stories, he spoke English quite well actually. After lunch we walked all over the island, he took us to the village and we met all the schoolgirls that were coming out of class. They were beautiful and all wore red ribbons and all had the same hair do and gravitated to me like flies to sugar, played with my hair and smiled non-stop. I was amazed at the happy spirit these kids have in spite of having very little in western terms. Their homes are the size of our bedrooms and their living conditions extremely rustic yet their spirits are bright and calm. They don’t seem overly worried with “accomplishing” much of anything except but to live in peace and have food to eat. There is no television on that Island, no magazines to let them know what to compare themselves to. It’s just life, day in day out. Troy and I decided to buy all these kids some cookies and candies at the local store. We took pictures with them and gave them all their candies, they were in awe. It was beautiful. I loved how innocent and honest they were. After that, Sandeep invited us to his little house to have some tea and to show us some art he made himself. The little girls followed us all the way to Sandeep’s house. We walked in and his house was about the size of my bedroom divided into three rooms. He lived alone, no wife or kids to speak of. Just him in his small home with his art. I could not believe the austerity in which he lived and how happy he was all the time. His smile was permanently sewn to his face. He showed us some parchments he had painted, they were beautiful images of old Indian classics and of course we bought all of them. In the end he took a picture with me and gave me a necklace. He’s probably one of the cleanest spirits I’ve ever met. No malice, no agenda, just a man sharing his life with us. At the end of the day he walked us back to the dock where we could catch the ferry back to Mumbai, it was kind of sad leaving him there. Kind of sad returning to the real world. Knowing that we would probably never see the our friend Sandeep again. So we got back to the hotel and had a message that we would be transferred to an apartment belonging to the producers, we should be more comfortable there they said. We were also charged for our room as we left. “They are very hard to track down Sir, I prefer you pay and take it up with them” The hotel manager said to Troy. So Troy pulled out his credit card and paid. We moved yet again, a small Indonesian man greeted us outside the moldy building. The staircase was like one of those staircases in an old Mexican 18th century convent, very narrow and it’s walls plastered by the prevailing character in Mumbai, mold. I could hardly breathe as we went up those stairs, the small man carried one of our big bags on his head and went up the stairs swiftly. Once at the top of the staircase, there was a large dog that greeted us and barked non stop from the moment we arrived. The apartment was nice, but the mold problem was really bad. I could hardly be in there and not cough and nearly choke. I’m guessing I had an allergic reaction to the mold spores? Our bedroom was small and had a large bookcase that was stuck to the wall in front of the bed. I went to the bathroom and when I tried to get some water to splash on my face and flush down the bloody green gunk that came out of my esophagus, I noticed there was no running water! I turned around and the tub was filled to the top with stagnant water that had probably been sitting there for a little too long, since the place was uninhabited. A cloud of mosquitoes was enjoying the full bathtub. The dog was barking non stop driving Troy mad, and suddenly, a large crash came from our bedroom. I ran in there to find, the large bookcase had collapsed from the wall that held it, onto our bed. Troy picked up the phone to call the office but to his surprise the line was dead. It was already too late to call the office anyway and that was the only number we had. We looked at each other and started laughing. I started coughing again and ran as always to the bathroom to choke on my own phlegm. That night, trying to sleep was hell for both of us. The mold spores literally were invading my throat and I could not STOP COUGHING. It was insane! I moved out to the living room and tried to sleep on the couch. I coughed until the sun came out. I went into the other bathroom to get showered and ready, as Troy was using the one with the tub. I discovered the shower. It was a long hose connected to the wall over the toilet. You could take a shit and shower at the same time if you needed to, it was a novel idea. There was no curtain or retaining wall on the floor to contain the soapy water so when you finished showering, anything and everything in the small bathroom was soaked and the water was spilling out into the bedroom through the bottom of the door. It was awesome. Oh yeah, and there was no hot water. I showered standing on the toilet as fast as I could coughing and freezing my ass of! Laughing and coughing my way through; “It’s all good” I thought, just an experience. I guess we’re spoiled in the west with our shower curtains and our hot water. I also noticed there was always a bucket in the shower. I was never sure how to use it. Later I found out it was so that a helpy helper could bring you hot water and you could mix it with the cold water coming from the shower head, thus creating warm water with which you could shower. I ended up in a Bombay hospital that same day. Dr Atul felt my two pulses and determined I had a full blown upper respiratory infection or something close to death by choking in my own mucus, in my words. He gave me a variety of home remedies like a vaporizer and a mint solution, which I had to use every three hours and a few pills that smelled like vitamins of the worst kind. URI’s are viral so there is not much they can do for them. You just go through it and take it like a man, woman. A day after the hospital visit we realized we couldn’t stay in that apartment, the dog barking, the mold and the broken telephone proved to be more than we could take. Sadly we said goodbye to our Indonesian friend. He bowed endlessly holding back the barking insane dog as we left the apartment. Back at the hotel we were received with joy. The nice foreign couple that pays their bill was back! I was relieved to be in a room I where I could finally breathe. We were there for the remainder of the trip in Mumbai. One whole week!