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Playwright, Author, Screenwriter Tom DeTitta      

INDIA

For the book, "Tourist Volume One"

The Place:

India is the place that prepared my wife for marrying me. She lived there by herself for three years, and as a woman alone in this great land, she experienced daily the many challenges and frustrations that shorten the trips of many unprepared visitors to this country. Susie and I met soon after she had returned. Certainly, when compared to all the senseless bureaucracies she endured and the all the street hustlers; all the taxi cab rip-offs, and the overnight train rides with eight people and their animals packed into a compartment built for four, I may have appeared to be a better catch than I was.

My own experience with the country came about quicker than I had expected. A few years after we were married, Susie returned to the town that had almost killed her in a hundred different ways –Hyderabad. Her job required her to set up a meeting that was to take place there.

Shortly after she arrived, she called me to complain of stomach problems, which is not a terribly unusual occurrence when one travels to a developing country, but still, somewhat odd for my wife who never feels pain or complains about anything. Her next call was to tell me that the hotel doctor said she had appendicitis and was taking her to the hospital.

Fortunately, I was in Washington D.C. at the time and I was able to secure an emergency visa at the Indian Embassy. Attempts to medic-vac Susie out of the country were unsuccessful, because as it turned out, the problem was her gall bladder, which had become the size of a softball, and was about to rupture at any moment. By the time I made the two-day, three-plane journey, the surgery was completed, and fortunately Susie was under the competent watchful eye of her good friend Padma, who she had known while living in India.

We stayed at the Hotel Viceroy for about a week while waiting for her to heal sufficiently to travel. In Indian, I was amazed at the adventure that awaited even a simple trip to the corner store. As a foreigner, you are a target for the men with bears on a leash that will do a dance for money or the ones who will make a cobra rise with the enchanting sounds of flute-like instrument. Beggars will try to steal your heart with their very own rendition of "Jingle Bells," and everywhere, everybody is selling anything and everything for, ‘Best price! No, really –best price!'

I don't think I have ever seen a country that works so hard at maximizing such little opportunity. The cities are overwhelmingly crowded, and there simply does not seem to be enough space or enough resources to go around. Yet, if it were possible to bottle the degree of effort a taxi-driver at the airport will exert to get you into his cab, or the indefatigable persistence of the young man outside of the Taj Mahal hell-bent on making sure that you buy his Coca-cola, it seems there would be enough energy to take over all the world economies and then some. If the government can ever level the playing field so that these efforts are channeled in more productive directions, India will be one of the great economies of the 21st century.

The Process:

I thought about the different types of people I had worked with in the theater. Generally speaking, directors have this unique opportunity to act as Zen-masters of the play -telling who to go where and under what light and how to speak the lines that had been given to them.  Most every director I have worked with has contributed significantly to my work and I consider my collaborations with directors like Eddie Levi Lee, Charlie Otte, Don Baker and Geoffrey Hitch to have been among my most satisfying intellectual experiences. However, there are the few who are drawn to the profession for the control it offers. Theirs is less about entering into the exciting give and take that is the collaborative process of theater, and more about exercising dominion over it: When all is said and done, in order for the process to work, the director has to have the final word.  

Taking a personality type such as this and sticking it in an environment that never lets you get a moment of control was the process that created "One Day in Mumbai"

The Book:

"Tourist Volume One" (Working Title)
-A collection of short stories from throughout the world

 

© 2003 Tom DeTitta