Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Delhi- Nothing Like 'Aladdin', But Still An Absolut Riot

Well, I'm finding it hard to remember details of bootcamp without it sounding like some boring point-by-point account of what went on. At the time, since everything was so hush-hush we couldn't really blog about it lest we give away any Big Secrets- but now that almost two weeks have passed since Delhi itself, I reckon I'm safe. To be honest, I think I'm still recovering...

The few days between the end of bootcamp and leaving for Delhi didn't leave much time for a rest. I had to pack, but leave room for my costume, and giveneverything I'd read about monsoons and such, I had NO idea what to take. Plus there was all the documents, passport, Disclosure ceritifcates, money, flight information, rehydration sachets, anti-diarrhoea tablets (whoever said the jet-setting life was glamorous?)... Then it was time for a fitful sleep before having to meet in town at 7:45am. Which meant getting up about 6-ish to mentally repack everything... not the best start, you'll agree.

What followed can only be described as some sort of sadistic test of endurance. We touched down in Heathrow and I managed to sneak 2 last crafty fags before we had to wait in Terminal 4 (it still gives me the shudders) for 7 hours. SEVEN. HOURS. And beyond check-in, there was nowhere to go for a cigarette. I was climbing the walls, I tell ye. Eventually we boarded the plane, all ready for eight hours of flying over potentially shaky ground. I mean, I don't want to generalise or anything, but I felt more than a little uncomfortable knowing we were going to be flying over Afghanistan. Still, a well-timed angry shake of my fist threw off any potential attempts at taking down our plane and we touched down in Delhi airport at around 1ish on Wednesday afternoon, well over 24 hours after we'd left Glasgow. URGH.

As you can imagine, all this travel had taken its toll. Unfortunately, volunteers from the Games (I can only imagine they were, that or they were all randomers dressed exactly the same) decided they wanted to take as many pictures of us as possible. Immediately regretting my decision to dye my hair pink, and get tattooed, while cursing my genetics for making me the whitest person who ever set foot in India, I gritted my teeth and prayed we could go outside soon so I could finally smoke... I mean, uh, get to the hotel.
Yup. We were staying HERE. Aaw yeaahh...

We'd been booked into the 5-star Claridge's Hotel, about an hour or so from the airport. They'd booked it, supposedly, because we couldn't go anywhere ourselves and the place had a pool, gym, sauna, bar, pretty much everything we'd need for a nice break and some quality down-time. What we didn't realise was, travel wise, we'd definitely drawn the short straw. As soon as we checked in we had to change, get lunch and get back on the bus to visit the stadium. My biggest regret was eating instead of making a beeline for the pool- I only managed to get 10 minutes of swinging on a hammock in the midday sun before we were whisked away. After all I'd read about the stadium, athlete's village and other hastily built constructions, I was a wee bit worried. I was right to be...

The stadium- or the parts that we saw anyway- were HORRIFIC. The toilets were so bad I could hear people gagging. There were insects scuttling everywhere and we were shuffled into an overheated holding room barely capable of holding the 350-odd of us. Which, we found out, was where we were meant to be spending most of the day when we weren't needed. That's fine, I thought, we'll be running about like dafties all day tomorrow. We'll never have to spend any time in here... WRONG.

Apparently we were at the whim of the Delhi police, and our scheduled all-day rehearsals fell through. We had two run throughs in between the India cast practising their flame-throwing, sword-fighting, baton-twirling closing piece... I'm not gonna lie, I was a teensy bit worried our running about with fabric and inflatables was gonna be somewhat less than impressive. The Delhi cast had something like 6000 participants and had been working on their routine for 6 months... we had 350 and we'd only been rehearsing- and, y'know, LEARNING-our routine for 3 weeks.

The day of the performance was a total drag; the holding room was crowded and sticky, and the only other place we were allowed to sit was a dirty corridor. Mmm... Thankfully, I received a tip-off and managed to sneak behind the lost & found for a fly cigarette. Never say smokers aren't inventive... We were FINALLY called to get changed into our costumes, which thanks to the sweltering heat and unwillingness to use the..uh... facilities, were a little on the tight side. Also, the heat and excessive sweat had made my recently-dyed hair leak onto my forehead and my skin was tainted a lovely patchy shade of pink. The only thing I had to cover this up with was the lovely cheap orange foundation they'd supplied us with, which had to keep getting re-applied because it kept sweating off. MMMM. Hot. By this point I was desperate to just get it over with- which I think everyone else felt. We were all knackered, hungry, had been awake since 5:30am and really just wanted to get out there, do our thing, and get back on the bus.

As soon as we got the call on our in-ears though, the atmosphere changed. We shuffled into the vom, and for the first time saw the stadium at full capacity. Yup, that's 60,000 cheering fans. And we were about to go on and perform for them. Every rehearsal, every aching muscle and every early morning had led up to this and all I could think was "DO. NOT. TRIP. DON'T. EVER. TRIP". I hadn't fallen over at a single rehearsal, and I was having a mid-level panic that the performance itself was gonna be the Big One. The one where I'd land on my arse in front of a worldwide audience of 1 billion people. I didn't even know how many zero's that was, but it sounded like ALOT. As we marched onto the field of play you could practically feel the excitement and nerves in the air. Thankfully, half an hour or so of unexpected speeches meant we had some time to calm down and eventually we just wanted to get MOVING. Then Jonathan the piper marched onto the pitch, the music started and we were ready to go...

...The next ten minutes or so were something of a blur. I honestly don't remember anything apart from feeling like my heart was going to burst and I reeeeaaallly wished I'dlifted that last bottle of water. Even the crowd seemed to disappear as it was all about us, the performance and making sure every step was carried out with military precision. When the music ended and we marched off to The Proclaimers, I was waving and celeidh-ing my wee heart out, desparate that at least one camera would pick me up... There was barely enough time to take it all in as we had to be escorted onto the bus (by our friendly armed guard toting an AK-47... by the end of the 3 days I was pretty jaded by this) before the traffic let out, before we could get back to our promised shower/buffet/free drinks/PERTYYYYY.

The next thing I remember was getting off the bus at Delhi airport. I couldn't believe less than 72 hours ago, we were just arriving... No more being asked to pose for pictures with the Indian army like some kind of Goth Vera Lynn, no more 40-degree heat, no more dancing and guilt-free Snickers... it was back to normality from here.

So what did I learn from the whole thing then? I hate cheesy "it really opened my eyes" summative statements, plus I don't feel I saw enough of India to have some kind of life-altering experience. I was horrified by the shanty towns covered up by Commonwealth billboards, which lined the streets up to our opulent luxury hotel. We saw nothing but fleeting snapshots of India, where the laws of the road don't seem to apply and a man can carry a sofa or family of 5 on the back of a bike if he wants to. Indian men are the most openly leery I have ever encountered, but the people are also among the most polite. Free vodka is good, free Absolut poured without the hindrance of a measure is even better. Travel broadens the mind, the eyes and the stomach. Flick and I should never write comedies together, because we'll be the only ones laughing.
And I am far more capable than I originally thought. It was one of the biggest challenges I've ever undertaken, and for someone whose co-ordination is on a par with Helen Keller, I think I actually did well. That, and my mum said it made her feel "proud to be a Glaswegian"... and you can't really ask for much more than that!


  1. Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye, this has brought back all the memories! Ah Delhi, what a bizarre experience.

    (Psst, I like that photo of the hotel because you can see the fountain :p)

  2. I went through a good few pictures before I found a good fountain one especially for your benefit Flick! :D legends... that is what we are!