“I gotta go, Mom. We’re meeting a casting agent.”
“Are you serious?”

Yes, I was very serious. Tourists in Mumbai are regularly cast as extras in Bollywood films, usually to add foreign flavor into an otherwise homogeneous cast. Mimsie and I were determined to make it big in Bollywood. Since arriving in Bangalore last month, I’ve clocked significant hours in Indian theaters and can go on for a good half-hour about the latest Bollywood gossip. Being an extra was the natural next step, or so we thought.

Impressing me with her Internet detective skills, Mimsie tracked down an Mumbai agent who specializes in casting foreigners as extras. Polo, as his business card lists his name, met us last Saturday afternoon. We sat down with him and his friend Uzer to talk business. Finding work at the moment was more difficult, Polo said, because the fewer movies were being filmed in the (insufferable) summer heat. While he couldn’t promise us any acting gigs, he and Uzer were going to an exclusive Bollywood party that night, and did we want to go? Um, hell yes we did.

We arranged to meet them later that evening and headed back to the hotel, where I popped Ibuprofen to kill my throbbing headache (the beginning of a 24-hour bug, but more on that at a later date) and we showered and got ready.

By 11 p.m., I was on the back of Uzer’s motorbike, zipping through the best and worst of Mumbai as we headed to the club, located in the Juhu suburb. As we drove through the ritzier neighborhoods, Uzer pointed out celebrity homes and important landmarks. As we drove through the slums, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t have to. The slums spoke for themselves: burning heaps of garbage, kids in filthy clothes roaming the streets (at close to midnight, mind you!), dilapidated homes on top of dilapidated homes on top of dilapidated homes. But past the grime and poverty, you could see families and communities, formed around bonfires, chai stalls and snack shops. For all the fear that films like Slumdog Millionaire have instilled in us, I felt pretty safe.

That is, until another motorbike ran into us. When we headed out, I joked to Uzer, “You can’t crash–I’m not wearing a helmet.” He laughed and told me not to worry, he’d keep me safe. True to his word, he managed to keep our bike upright as another crashed into our left side, spilling the driver and his passenger onto the pavement. As the crash wasn’t Uzer’s fault and the bike wasn’t damaged, we only stopped for a moment to get over the shock before getting back on the road.

We made it to the club just before midnight, when the free entry for those not on the list (and we were so on the list) turned into a whopping 4,000-rupee (US$100) cover. The next few hours were spent getting Bollywood dance tutorials from the guys and showing our stuff on the dance floor. The mix of Hindi and English music (including my dear Taylor Swift and my less-dear Justin Bieber) kept the crowd going until the early hours of the morning. The whole thing couldn’t have been more like a Bollywood club video if it tried.

On our way back to the hotel, Uzer showed me some of the coolest sights around the city–Chowpatty Beach, the world’s largest house (set on the top half of a high-rise apartment) and most importantly, the home of Bollywood legend (and the current object of my affections) Shah Rukh Khan. It was nearly 4 a.m. by the time he dropped me off at my hotel. In the span of five hours, I had sped through the slums, gotten a whirlwind tour of Mumbai from the descendent of Delhi royalty, been in the Indian version of a fender-bender and learned to dance like a Bollywood star.

It is those nights — the late late ones that only seem to occur when you’re in a strange new city in a strange new country and have no idea what’s going on around you — that always end up being the ones people want to hear about. They’re the ones that give you the crazy stories to tell. (“Remember that time you got caught up in a street riot in Budapest? Or how about the night you and a stranger downed bottles of wine and chatted in the dim glow of a restaurant generator in Vietnam, oblivious to the typhoon raging outside?”) Every time I come home, it’s the same routine. “Tell me everything!” But then, the hours of sipping coffee at local cafes and people-watching pale in comparison to 30 seconds of being attacked by Thai monkeys. Last Saturday night was surely one of the highlights, but it shouldn’t overshadow my mornings sipping chai on a balcony overlooking the Ganges River or the thrill of cramming into a train overflowing with families and luggage and speeding through the North Indian countryside. For better or for worse, every step of this trip has been an adventure of some sort–it’s just a matter of taking note of the small things along the way as well as the extravagant ones.

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