The shitting hour; or, my bowels go up to 11

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I used to have a weight problem. I tried everything: diet, exercise, pills, even surgery… but nothing worked. I was at my wit’s end.

But then I discovered amoebic dysentery. Now I can eat whatever I want – even chocolate! – and just spray it all over the porcelain half an hour later. And the best part is: I don’t feel deprived! I eat as much as I like – I’m just never hungry. My friends don’t recognise me, what with my sunken eyes, gaunt cheekbones and zombielike expression. Wow, they say, you look just like a supermodel!

I’m exaggerating slightly. It’s hard to find decent chocolate around here. BOOM BOOM! I’m here all week, try the veal. But seriously folks, my extended stay in the shared bathroom of our salubrious Mumbai hotel had some highlights. When you want hot water in the bathroom, you switch on the heater and wait a few minutes. Note the bare wire above the switch. Hot water … or instant death?  YOU decide.

water heater of death

I also liked the sink, which drains onto your feet:

the drain to nowhere
Harry has observed a disturbing phenomenon on his travels, which he has dubbed “the shitting hour.” If you look out a train window early in the morning, as you pass a river you’ll often see large numbers of people shitting communally into the river. Then they’ll head downstream for work, where people are collecting their drinking and cooking water. Mmmm.

On Tuesday we took the overnight train to Bhuj, the location for the shoot. Fortunately we didn’t get blown to smithereens by Islamic militants. In Bhuj, things got very weird. Find out how in the next thrilling installment.

Mumbai sausage party: or, how not to travel overseas

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Last year my nefarious half-brother Harry moved to India and got an acting job in Bollywood. I’ve pestered him ever since to line something up for me. His first film never got finished, but he recently lined up another, playing an evil British army officer. I emailed some pictures, he showed them to the producers, and they decided I looked evil enough. They actually gave me a small speaking role! White men are always the baddies, needless to say. I would have to be in Mumbai in under three weeks, and the shoot would last a month.

So I asked my boss for a month off work to shoot a dodgy film in India. I was expecting him to be at least slightly bemused, but he didn’t blink. So I mailed off my visa application, started growing a beard and set about tying up loose ends at work. Those of you who know the story of my move to America will know how chronically last-minute I am, but this frolic is a new personal best.

I didn’t want to book my ticket until my passport came back with the visa. This happened five days before my intended departure. I bought the plane ticket two days out. The travel agent laughed incredulously and said “wow, that’s crazy.”

I bought my camera for the trip at B&H photo video superstore in New York. This is surely the most mind-blowing camera shop on earth. Vast, ridiculously cheap, run with military efficiency. Staffed by orthodox Jews with skullcaps and long curly sideburns. Chatting to a girl in the queue who worked in fashion photography, she said it’s hell getting photographic supplies on Rosh Hashanah, because B&H is shut. And you know when it’s closing time on Friday because someone blows a shabbat horn. That’s a ram’s horn to you and me. And yet the place is the slickest hi-tech operation I’ve ever seen.

I got my vaccinations at 7.30 pm the night before departure, rather than weeks before like you’re supposed to. I’d lost my old record, so I wasn’t sure which shots I needed. I bought the medicines my life was about to depend on at a quarter to midnight from a 24-hour pharmacy and took my first antimalaria pill 36 hours before arrival, not a week as required for effectiveness. As a side note, the doctor had warned me that this drug (mefloquine) could cause weird psychedelic dreams. She seemed to think that was a negative.

On arrival in Mumbai, Harry and his girlfriend Laura picked me up and we went for a costume fitting. Turns out the film is set in WWII, not the 1850s as I told some of you. But I will get to wear a pith helmet. Jolly good, what ho? Wait a minute, pith helmets in WWII? Hmmm…
Harry will also be sporting Ray-bans and a zippo lighter. Dude! That is, like, so totally British. With the emphasis on the ish.

That night we went out for drinks. Mumbai nightlife is one big sausage party.Local women are not allowed to go out drinking, and foreign women who expose their (gasp) shoulders get ogled and groped. So not many show up. But no-one wants to look at a bunch of men, so here’s a picture featuring some hot blondes. But believe me, this was not representative. Who’s that reprobate with the beard?
Mumbai sausage party
Apparently Harry and I were not the only people around who drank too much. Next morning, someone’s abandoned car was looking very much the worse for wear.
smashed car
Next day I trimmed the beard into my best attempt at a matinee villain’s moustache. Harry stuck with a beard.
Me and Harry with facial hair
For the sentimental types, here’s a gratuitous shot of a cute kid who took my water bottle. Every day, thousands of kids like just like him die of thirst after taking empty water bottles. Please, give generously so that his next bottle contains water. The pain is real. The hurt is real. But the hope is also real.

Cute kid with water bottle

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