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Reporter's Notebook: From Bollywood to Hollywood

From bestselling pop stars to tales of everyday heroism, the SoCal arts scene proved full of revelation for an Indian-born reporter.

December 23, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani

Earlier this month, I interviewed my two youngest sources: 10-year-old Maxx and 7-year-old Helena Solomonian.

Standing on the porch of his Corona del Mar home, Maxx blurted, "I knew you're Indian because I watched 'Life of Pi' and you sound like him." Oh, the joys of being a child.

As I shook with mirth, I felt warmed by more than the California sun.

In the past year, my role as features reporter for Times Community News has showered me with many such pleasant surprises. I've chatted with children, sitting cross-legged in their brightly colored rooms, laughed and cried with sources and made friends with publicists.

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Born in a small city that no one's heard of, though, I spent my initial days here pinching myself as if trying to awaken from a Technicolor dream. Accustomed to narrow Indian streets, dotted by animals, jaywalkers and two-, three- and four-wheelers, I struggled to wrap my mind around the fact that I was driving down Pacific Coast Highway while waves frothed nearby.

But, the next morning, I'd get a call from yet another artist who "loooooved" a story. So, although I got on with my day, I could never quite shake the wide-eyed wonder. And for that, I'm thankful.

Ruth Mayer of Laguna Beach was among my first local connections, and as she narrated her experience of meeting Pope John Paul II, I began my virtual tour of the world. Sitting in Costa Mesa, thanks to my laundry list of stories, I've spent time in every imaginable city in the United States, as well as Thailand, Russia, the Philippines, South Africa, Australia, Monte Carlo and elsewhere.

A disproportionate amount of that time was spent in Irvine, namely in its City Council chambers. Inside, I got my first brush with the Orange County Great Park in the form of an eight-hour meeting that lasted into the wee hours of the next morning. I also witnessed the ripple effects of the murders by former LAPD Officer Christopher Dorner.

This horror and indignation was offset by opportunities to write about Broadway shows, ballet and beaches. Thanks to Tom Everhart and Alan Ross, proteges of heavy-hitters Charles Schulz and Ansel Adams, respectively, I learned the meaning of magnanimity, dedication and dumb luck. I was also able to peel back some layers to the onions that are Kenny G, Roger Daltrey, Counting Crows and Common Sense.

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