Ek Kali Ek Ghori, Bandra Chai.

* Ek Kali, Ek Gori, translates to One Black, One White

Ek Kali Ek Ghori, Bandra Chai
(Cafe Delight on Hill Road)

sit myself in a green outdoor patio of a Bandra coffee shop and stare up at the chalkboard menu. All I could read was a rubric of exotic coffees and their carmalized mochaed latt├ęd frapped iced versions. A few minutes later, a black coffee arrives. As the liquid eats through my mouth acrimoniously, I long for the smell of over pasteurized milk, a slice of ginger, a savory of cardamom dust, the crackle of a rusty stick of cinnamon all concocted and alchemized into something else.

Yes, I'm talking about Chai.

Chai to be slurped greedily in chipped glasses. And so I went looking for the perfect cup in Bandra.

Cafe Goodluck

Ek Kali Ek Ghori, Bandra Chai

The ceiling fan rattles, clicks and sways as it cools the chai in the chipped porcelain cups that lie below. A boy, a torn banyan walks up to our table and slides two glasses of water across the marble top. Smoke from an entire barrage of cigarettes spirals up to the ceiling as people drink their chai an accompanying glass of cold water, reading newspapers while eating kheema (mince) samosas and buttering their bun muskas. The Cafe permeates much Bombay talk, a bright hum insulated by its vaulted ceilings from the noise of the street outside.

Ek Kali Ek Ghori, Bandra Chai

These are the musty, yet strangely comfortable confines of one of the many Irani establishments in Bombay.

The boy slides across briskly to my table and looks at me with accusatory smile.

"Ek Kali chai doosri doodh walli", I tell him thinking about chai.
[t: One Black the second one with milk.]

"Ek Kali, Ek Gori", he repeats as his yellow smile widens.
[t: One Black, One White]

Chai Wallah, Chandoli Gaon (Village), Alwar District

I laugh to myself as he walks away to the kitchen.

The chai arrives shortly only to prove to me yet again that the best cup of chai is served by a yellow smile with missing teeth belonging to a heat drenched body appearing from nowhere only to serve only more amounts of chai.

Morning Chai

Bollywood's Eastern Promises.

Notes from a story I shot for a french publication on young girls from Russia and Eastern Europe, who make a living dancing in Bollywood dance sequences.

Several Cans of Hair Spray and Bad Costumes

Everybody deserves 15 minutes of fame, but nobody deserves to have to spend nine hours in a crumbling, sweltering suburb of Bombay to get it. Nevertheless, that is what many girls from mostly eastern European countries choose to do, some lured by the garish glamor of Bollywood others by the money, these girls are tagged as dancers and masqueraded as eye candy on many a dance number.

The day starts with hair and make-up. Several cans of hairspray and too much blue eye shadow later, the cameras were ready to roll. The girls take their places as we were shepherded over to the lounge to watch and wait. An expressionless Indian actress took her place in the center of this sprawling set. They where shooting a tea commercial and the star Saif Ali Khan was running late.

Lunchtime came and filming stopped for an hour so the girls could chow down on something. I met a few of the other extras, including a Parsi priest dressed in leather pants and silver skull rings. There were also cameramen, sound and lighting specialists, catering staff, runners, friends of runners and everyone in between. It seems long, idle days on set do little to diminish the allure of Bollywood.

Ciggarette break

30 Minutes for Lunch - Yash Raj Studios, Mumbai

Filming resumed and several more hours passed, but we were still waiting. Eventually the shoes came off as the make-up began fading. The infectious excitement from the beginning of the day was quickly losing its lustre.

The girls continued to make mistakes and the cameras continued to roll. The monotony broke when one of the Russian dancers hit her head on the bar during her routine and her dance partner blamed the director for positioning them too far left of shot. The assistant director searched for ice, you realize this is the life of Ukrainian dancer in bollywood.