the spice of life, Singapore Sluggish, bali-nale film fest, and India reaches for the moon!!

Spice is the pulse of life in Cochin, and it is certainly the orientation that Eveready marketing people here have seemed to cottoned on to…img_0374.jpgBimg_0358.jpgbut seriously, if you are looking for spices in Cochin, and a proper shopping experience you can forget about Jew-town. The Jewish quarter is exotic, and fun to see, but if it’s shopping you want it is trap. It is worth the trip into hot and muggy Ernakulam to Broadway (“a very narrow street” our taxi driver dryly quipped) – people are more real, the prices are pretty much realistic, surprisingly enough even the locals claim that prices are pretty fixed, and it is altogether a more pleasant and fruitful shopping experience. img_0365.jpgFrom Cochin we catch the red eye to Singapore. It is pretty impossible to sleep: I have my AudioTechnica noise cancellation earphones in, but when I gallantly offer them to Monica I discover the nightmare that has kept her tossing and turning. The gentlemen next to her, behind us and in front of us seem to have sinus problems, sniffling and snorting literally every 5 minutes. It is an amazing concert, and think a great opportunity for Kleenex, to er, um, clean up. The poor stewardesses on this wretched Silk Air flight do a turnaround from Singapore: something like 11 hours on deck – mildly wild, but imagine doing it every other day. Anyway Singapore airport at six am offers little more than Starbucks. Monica heads off to her Bangkok flight, I head into town. Already my main meeting has been cancelled but I figure I can get my lens fixed and a new power supply for my Mac. In the long wait at the check in counter at the Orchard Hotel’s reception desk I run into Paul Ropp, who has just blown (no typo) in from Delhi. We have breakfast, and he tells me that he is town for a gall bladder operation. Never had an operation before and a tad nervous. I must sympathize. But funny how everyone in my sphere is getting gall bladder problems lately! I finally get my room, and I have to say its just like a little cupboard with amenities, many of which end up getting charged to your bill. A nice relaxing dinner with friends takes the edge off my travel discombulation. The next day I discover that Nikon can’t fix my lens in less than 4 weeks (how’s that for service) and I decide to blow the joint (Singapore). I spend more than an hour trying to get thru to a human being at Singapore airlines (“for english press 1, for reservartions press 2, for… etc etc, then finally please hold”) after 8 minutes of computer sprach I am told to ring again (yes by the computer). I am ready to wring alright, and it wouldn’t be a computer’s neck. World’s worst Buddhist I am at that moment. Then last minute lunch appointment with old pal Peter Schoppert gets cancelled as it has been raining and the traffic in Singapore gets totally glutinous at the slightest drop.. I can’t wait to get to the airport: what has become of that efficient Singapore of legend? BALI: Galleria the next evening is the venue for the opening night of Balinale, an international film festival which is the brainchild of Debbie Gabenatti (seen her with volunteer Kelly Marciano on the left)img_0384.jpg and there is a full crowd in attendance. My old favorites Rima Melati and Christine Hakim, two jewels of the Indonesian film industry and who are warm inside out, are there, and it gladdens the heart. It turns out that the people I shared a row with on the plane are there, and Kate is from the Chaplin films outfit – what a small world. Debbie and her team have been working hard, there are 50 odd films to be seen, many are award winners. The opener is a bit of an insider’s film, it is a doco about Pierre Rissient which is a tad long, and there are a few walkouts, but I am glued to my seat . It is a fascinating look at a man, a kingmaker behind the scenes, who helped to shape the careers of many in the west and in the east – Clint Eastwood, Sydney Pollack, King Hu, etc, and of course Christine too. She introduces the film along with Pierre’s assistant, as Pierre is in hospital in Paris with a broken ankle. I am intrigued to see my photograph being used at every opportunity by the festival, even as the projected backdrop in the theatre. Fame at last…img_0395.jpg There are some great films on, and if you are in Bali at least check out the program here: Meanwhile, from Andra Pradesh not so very far from where I was lazing on a house boat last week drifting through backwaters where most people live a pretty basic life without plumbing (they have the whole river…), India has just launched it’s first moon (unmanned) mission. This is supposed to make it less of a third world country, despite it’s impoverished millions. There is a huge pro and contra debate going on but one thing is for sure is that there is a huge amount of nationalist pride going on. img_0400.jpg

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