I don’t know if I’m coming or I’m going. In fact, I’m not positive this is day 3. It may be the second. Seriously, I don’t know. 15 hours from LAX to Dubai, half of it, literally, standing with the crew in the galley joking and stretching. The aches and pain of a lifetime of physical abuse have taken their toll, and my body’s just not capable of sitdown of that duration.
A 3 hour layover in Dubai, at perhaps the nicest airport in the world and certainly its most “international.” Yet, I still cannot find a money exchange to take in the thousands of Guyanese dollars I unwittingly left South America with just recently. (That’s maybe $600 US, give or take) Then another 2 and a half hours to Mumbai. Clearing customs, waiting for luggage and the ride to the hotel adds another 3 hours.
Everything is dark on the drive in, so I’ve not yet seen anything of the India of my dreams. The hotel is 5 star, the service impeccable and incredibly deferential. Nothing of the impoverishment I expected.
Crashing at last at 5:30am on pristine white sheets and bolt upright just 20 minutes later. It’s a combination, I suppose of jetlag and exhilaration.
I’ve seen the world by the good graces of Pro Wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts. South Africa, Brazil, Estonia, Romania, Puerto Rico, the bowels of Mexico, the Democratic Republic of Congo (and it’s far from “democratic,” I assure you) and probably every small town in Japan, to name just a few. Travelling with my larger-than-life comrades –many of whom are the best friends I will ever make– and always on the buyers’/promoters’ dime, I’ve seen the best and the worst the world has to offer, and it’s all been a blessing of extraordinary proportions. But as those in the Wrestling and MMA communities will tell you, each trip is fraught with a sense of desperation, of an on-the-edge-of-your-wits peril that can come only with industries that are built largely on smile-to-your-face, stab-you-in-the-back manipulation, and a feeling that this job may be your last.
Things have changed for me, and have come full circle, and I’m back in the rock and roll business. One thing has led to another which had led to another, and I’m I charge now of buying all of the talent and developing special projects for MOOZ Entertainment, an offshoot of Indian production giant, Zoom Communications. In my 6 months spent with Zoom/MOOZ, all stateside, I’ve seen a concept develop into reality, which I’m certain will see MOOZ in short order become the dominant producer of live entertainment here in India, a country with the world’s largest English-speaking population (yes, even more so than in the US), and which, due in equal parts to the explosion here of mass media and a rapidly growing economy, is starved for world-class entertainment. It’s a perfect storm of confluent events in my life, at 50, which has led me to a classy, established company, coupled with an off-the-charts opportunity of excitement.
And here, for my first time, FOR BUSINESS, I’m taken with India. The unimaginable squalor in which the teeming masses live, one on top of the other on top of thousands, in the slums. Interspersed with some of the most glorious, and simultaneously corpulent, opulence I’ve ever seen. The cows and the oxen and the yaks, wandering aimlessly amidst the mind-boggling gridlock.
The cars will, seemingly, gladly ram one another, but give these mostly majestic animals a wide, respectful berth. The roadside stands explode with color. Whether pharmacy, or motorbike repaid or unidentified trinkets, each and every vendor draws. I want to stop and visit each. My impression tells me I would be welcome. By the heart and soul of the proprietors, and because, I sense, that the next small sale may be the one that allows each to keep his or her doors open. But we don’t have time to stop. Not yet. We are on a very serious agenda, visiting venues and production houses, plotting MOOZ’ first tour, which will see Korn visit Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore this September.
So, I can take in only what we crawl past in our air-condition vehicles. (although I ride with my passenger side window down, much to the consternation and continued sidelong glances of our hired driver). Looking out the windows and skyward, I curiously see cloud formations moving in opposite directions.
The state of wonder at something I’m sure I’ve never seen, screeches to a halt, as I note that nearly every building is in a state of haphazard construction or crumbling disrepair. It is Mexico on steroids. There are stray dogs everywhere. But I swear, each one smiles. The smiles. The people. Millions of people living crammed side-by-side. They yell. They blast their horns at one another. But not one clenched fist, no features pulled taut.
Not one little bit of malevolence. If this were America, and WE lived like this, we’d be killing one another, I’m sure. But here, despite the posturing, I feel an overwhelming outpouring of tolerance, even affection, between each being. Already, I’m rooting for India. To see its growing prosperity continue to grow, and to flourish. For its wealth, ultimately, to match the size of its peoples’ heart.
I’m sitting here at the lonely bar of the Adarsh Hamilton business hotel in Bangalore. I’m its only patron. After a raucous luncheon host by the gracious Mr. Felix, where we feasted upon local delicacies, I nurse a Scotch and try to take it all in.
I’ve slept maybe a total of 6 hours in the last 60, all of it in fitful snatches.
India is everywhere I’ve been, all rolled into one, and I beyond excited…grateful at the opportunity…to learn India and its people. The adventure has just begun.