I have not seen my clean-shaven face for over two years now. Today I went to a hair stylist shop for men and received a shave and a face massage. I did it not because numerous friends have asked me to; I did it not because of the heat; I did it because upon my arrival at the Salvation Army Hostel in Mumbai I was asked to be in a Bollywood film. The man tells me, I need your face cleanly shaven. You will be a businessman from the USA and you need to look professional. Fine. Cool. I get to be in a Bollywood film!
I did not plan on coming here. A little over a week ago I was telling a friend that I made some contacts in Mumbai, and without hesitation she tells me, “Go. Go now. Why wait? You have no work in Hyderabad. Go to where the work is.” I guess I sometimes tend to just sit and wait for things to happen. I was planning on waiting till august or September to come to Mumbai. My friend was right, I have no reason not to go, and go right now. The next day I booked train tickets to Mumbai. I did not have a full schedule of meetings or even numerous contacts, but I booked the tickets because of a much-needed kick in the pants.
Lets back track even more. On the past Tuesday I met with an advertising firm in Hyderabad. The creative director asked me two amazingly humbling questions: How will we legally pay you? Do you have a leave-behind of some sort for me? To answer the first, I have no idea. I have found no legal rules for my business visa. I do not know how their tax system works and what my responsibilities are surrounding that. I very badly need to speak with a lawyer or an accountant familiar with foreigners doing business.
Addressing the second question, I feel both naïve and big headed all at the same time. I cannot believe that I thought for a second I could just show up at these very impressing marketing firms brandishing only a thumb drive and business card thinking they would take notice of me. I already was kicking myself for what I see as major deficiencies in my portfolio, so this new quandary was doubly impactful. Sunday night I stayed up till 2 finishing designing a leave-behind to take with me to Mumbai. Monday I struggled to find a place that could print the two-sided piece. I had conceded to printing 2 single sided pieces on regular photo paper when I got a lead about a printer around 2pm across town. I called and the man said it would take 2-3 hours. Gah…I didn’t have 2-3 hours because I had to catch my train, but I found an auto and got to the printer. Within half an hour I had 20 double sided, full color cards in my hand. Thank God. Not amazing quality but for one day’s investment would have to do.
I catch my train, the Hyderabad Mumbai express, around 9pm, and find my seat in the crowded Sleeper No AC car. Across from me is a couple, the Evan from Ireland, and his girlfriend from outside of Lyon, France. Evan works for the French Government’s English Teacher Assistantship Program that I applied for and was denied. By 11 everyone is ready to sleep, so we convert the seats into the sleeping bays. With my sleeping mask and ear plugs I got a pretty respectable sleep, despite what I found out later the ear plugs leaving a disgusting amount of wax in my ears, waking up at 7am the next morning. We pass by incredible views of green mountains laden with waterfalls peaking out through the fog and lush valleys strewn amongst the attentive peaks. These awe inspiring natural views greatly contrast the man-made filth and disarray of the cities. Rubbish mindlessly tossed among the railroad track, overflowing from holes in barrier walls.
Once we arrive in Mumbai sixteen hours after departing Evan invites me to go with them to their hostel, the Salvation Army, just at the back of the infamous Taj Mahal hotel. The hotel is still closed after last fall’s terrorist attacks. I had not planned on coming here; in fact I did not know it existed. In my limited research I found and planned on staying at the YMCA, which is significantly more expensive. I love traveling this way open to anything that comes.
The hostel is full of interesting people. Charlotte, a girl from Frankfurt, Germany ending her three-month solo voyage tomorrow night. Kristen, from Paris, France traveling alone after attending a friend’s wedding. A group from Taiwan doing a dance and music presentation at a university here in Mumbai for some International Volunteer Association. A team of YWAMers beginning their DTS here in Mumbai. I love love love meeting people from all over the world.
So far, my only confirmed meeting is with my contact’s magazine editor on Thursday, but from there I will be contacting more ad firms and photographers for meetings the rest of my time there. Now…bed. I’ve got to look well rested for my film career debut!