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How Barbara painted the city red... - Spriha Srivastava - The Sunday Indian
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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How Barbara painted the city red...


SPRIHA SRIVASTAVA | New Delhi, October 2, 2011 17:06
Tags : Rome | Venice | Florence | Mexico City | Hrithik Roshan |

If you were to venture online, looking for reasons why travelling is every man and woman’s greatest fantasy, you’ll find the usual suspects – a jab of adrenaline or to breathe in the beauty of a sailboat silhouetted against a sunset by the sea or to bask in the light of God on a remote cliff-top in the clouds. But in this issue, we decided to focus on the ‘urban legends’ of travel lore, the cities that have captured our hearts and our minds. To that end, we scratched out city names and heads to select the ‘big smokes’ that light up our imagination, and deliberated for hours to decide upon the locations and then the guides for each destination (Read Electric Cityscapes, page 11). And while my colleagues chased the cities that made the cut, my brief was to chase this woman who, for more reasons than one, is a cut above the rest, and the city that has been her play-ground for almost all her adult life. Barbara Mori’s Mexico City (MC) is one of the most overbooked tourist hotspots in the world, but trust Barbara to show us the city, with all its scars and dimples to its advantage.

“Mexico City, I’d say, is simply amazing. It’s huge…really, really huge and there are lots of places to see. It’s always lively,” were her very first words about MC. Her Spanish expressions find it difficult to squeeze their way into English sentences and would spill over every now and then but she tried to weave words together to explain the essence of the city and despite faltering and fumbling, their shared joi de vivre, the city and her, keeps the spirit of the place alive. “I (was) born in Uruguay, but I don’t remember much because I (was) very young when I came to Mexico City.” Barbara shuttled between Uruguay and MC till the age of twelve, after which her family moved to Mexico. I first met Barbara when she was in India for her film 'Kites', and I remembered her mentioning that acting had accidentally come her way. A teen-aged Barbara was working as a waitress in Mexico City when a fashion designer spotted her and got her into modelling, and by the age of 17 she had become an independent career-woman. Though it was all work and little play at that young age, Barbara, today, thanks her profession for having presented her with the opportunity to explore other exotic destinations and experience the true vibrancy of Mexico City.

To begin with, here’s what Barbara’s recommends for the must-sees in MC…

“One of my favourite places in Mexico is Playa Del Carmen Beach. Tulum is another favourite of mine. It’s a party place… a beautiful beach, full of colour and is very virgin. You wouldn’t see many people around there. It’s the perfect place to relax, get romantic and also party. Whenever I want to rest and be away from people, I go there.

People should definitely see the Mayan Pyramids here in Mexico. And go to the downtown area where you can do a lot of shopping. Everyone who comes to MC goes there in the evenings. I love watching plays and musicals and so would recommend a visit to our theatres in Mexico. Then, I (would) definitely tell tourists to go to my restaurant, El Beso Huasteco, for the very best Mexican cuisine in the city. I opened it a year ago. Another favourite place of mine is Sabor Amor, an organic bistro.”

When I asked if opening a restaurant had always been on her mind, Barbara’s reaction was one I could’ve anticipated: the “No, no, no. Not at all!” Reminded me of her reaction when I’d first asked her if becoming an actress was a dream. She laughed and explained that a very close friend of hers is a great cook and the two of them, just one fine day, decided to set up a restaurant together. “On my birthday or any party, he would always cook for us. Everyone loved his cooking and always told him that he must have a restaurant. So, I discussed with him and then created it.”

Mexico City is also known for its art museums which house works of Mexican greats like Enrique Guzman Villagomez and muralists like Rivera and Orozco. While a fair share of tourists throng to these museums, Barbara, too, sounds like a keen art aficionado.  “Oh! I visit a lot of museums. Even the architecture of these museums is beautiful. In Mexico City, you should definitely visit history and art museums like National Museum of History (which explains Mexico’s survival against invasions and about its rulers and leaders) and the National Museum of Art.” At this moment, she excused herself, quickly exchanged some words with Oscar, her manager, in Spanish, and then got back saying she needed help with explaining her thoughts to me in English, and then continued, “You know, when you’re in your own country, you don’t visit places like museums. When you’re travelling to other countries, you do. But I like going to museums, the art museum, anthropology museum…they’re amazing.”

The excitement in Mexico City isn’t only limited to rolling in the sand, digging into Mexican food and queuing up at museums. A city can claim to be truly vibrant only if it can keep you awake and alive throughout the night as well. And Mexico City does just that. “We love dance, music, food and drinks. There are a lot of nightclubs here. I go and dance a lot. I (am) still young, you know! I love dancing. Even if you don’t like dancing, you must visit nightclubs. I like Arroyo. You find people singing and dancing and drinking all night.”

Barbara’s role in Kites gave her the opportunity to visit India for the very first time. At that time we had spoken more about her experience of working on an Indian film set and with Hrithik Roshan. This time, as Barbara spoke about her stint in India, she again slipped in a good word about Hrithik and said, “Oh! Working with Hrithik was amazing. I didn’t know India at all. It was a new country for me and Hrithik was a good companion and always took good care of me.” And then went on share her memories of Mumbai. “I was there for three months and had a great time. I loved the people. I’ve travelled a lot and when I was in India, I didn’t feel like an outsider. Everyone I met made me feel like a part of them. Mumbai is a great place to visit. One of my best travel experiences in another country.”

However, Barbara also felt the difference of cultures between India and Mexico, and was honest enough to admit that certain aspects of Indian culture surprised her. “When I go to the beach (in India), people are not in beachwear. In Mexico, we wear anything. I was surprised that people were all dressed and in the water! The culture is different. I think there’s more freedom in Mexico. You know, in Mexico, there are single mothers, gays etc. People don’t bother about that. In Mumbai, everyone was surprised that I was a single mother and asked me how it feels to be a single mother. It was strange. In Mexico, for example, being gay is not taboo. You see gays everywhere and nobody cares. In India, they don’t have a lot of freedom. But I always say, Mexico is very vibrant, but still nothing compared to India.”

Apart from India, which are her other favourite destinations?

“Rome. I loved the city. Also, the men are so good (laughs).The culture is different from Mexico. I loved Venice and Florence too. The beauty, buildings, art, architecture (are) so good. And you can go around with complete freedom and walk and enjoy the place.

The conversation with Barbara would have been incomplete without asking her about her dream destination, to which, she said, “I still haven’t discovered my dream place. I still have to visit a place where I (would) feel that this is where I want to be for the rest of my life. For now, I just love Mexico City.”

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017