This is my interview with Ummit Sethi. This interview was really cool to do because he has a picture of my favorite plane, the Concorde. He has been lots of places, and his blog has some really, really cool pictures. You should check it out – after you read this, of course. Don’t forget to click on the picture of the sunset in is interview to see it bigger. It is awesome. Thanks for letting me interview you Ummit.
Where do you live?
At the moment I live in Brooklyn, New York. I say “at the moment” because I’ve been moving around quite a lot lately. This is the sixth place I’ve lived in fourteen months, but the stops have been getting longer (I’ve been here for four months now) so it’s all good!
What is it like where you live?
I love it here. I’m lucky enough to be living on the river with stunning views of Manhattan. We get to see some amazing sunsets over the city and, as I learnt this weekend, the sunrises are pretty spectacular too. The neighbourhood is really mixed. I live right on the edge of a Hasidic community – which is very traditional and conservative – but just a few blocks away are bars, clubs, restaurants, artists’ studios, galleries and some very edgy graffiti. I guess it’s sad because the traditional community that has always been here is slowly getting pushed out but it’s an interesting mix to say the least.
I know you are from London. Why did you move? Do you miss it?
I moved from London for my job. New York is somewhere I’ve wanted to live since I first visited. When the job came up it meant leaving my old career and starting up something completely new and that I had little experience in – but it meant that I got to live out an ambition. Whatever happens at least I’ve been able to have that experience now. As for missing London, I do miss my family and friends but I go back fairly regularly to see them so it’s not too bad.
Did you ever see the queen in person?
Ha! Well actually I have seen her but it was a bit random. I was walking past the Natural History Museum in London and a few police cars and motorcycles went by with their lights flashing and just behind was a Bentley with the Queen and Prince Philip in it. She didn’t wave to me.
I know you travel a lot. What is your favorite place to travel to?
That’s a really difficult one, I’ve been to some amazing countries and many I would go back to at the drop of a hat. I think I’ve got a real love for India though. It’s such a colourful place in every way: the people, the history, the culture – even walking down the street is interesting, there are always new things to see, there are lots of smells (good and bad), and the sounds of life are like nowhere else. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit it a few times and even live and work there for a couple of months but there’s still so much more of it I want to see, it’s a vast country.
Is there anywhere you haven’t been to that you would like to go?
Well hopefully in my lifetime I’ll be able to say “Space” and then get to go there, that would be an insane experience! But today I’m going to say South Africa, China and most of South America… which is a fair old chunk of the world to get through before I start looking at the stars.
If you were going to be stranded anywhere in the world….where would you LEAST like to be?
Blimey, that’s a tough one because there are obviously plenty of countries today that you wouldn’t want to get stuck in. From personal experience I don’t have a great relationship with JFK Airport in New York (you can flick through my blog for the reasons) so that’s not too far off the top of my list! I’ve had the thought, “I wouldn’t want to be stuck here for too long,” quite a few times though. There was this no man’s land I went through between Cambodia and Vietnam once. My visa was canceled leaving one country but it took quite a bit of time before they let me into the next one – I don’t know what the deal is for being stuck in limbo between two countries, particularly when no one speaks English and the borders are guarded by armed guards in wooden huts, but it’s not something I wanted to test at the time.
There are plenty of places closer to home too, you don’t have to be on the other side of the world to be in a sticky situation. I ended up in this conservation marshland in New Jersey last week, the sun had just set and two friends and I were making our way along a dirt track looking for a main road when suddenly we realized we were covered in mosquitoes, they were eating us alive and we were only wearing shorts and T-shirts. It took us about half an hour to get out of there and I remember thinking, “I really hope this track goes somewhere because this is the last place I want to spend a night.” I guess you never thought I’d be saying “New Jersey” as my answer…
What is your favorite place to go and just enjoy life?
I think if you put me on a golf course anywhere in the world with my father then that wouldn’t be too far off the perfect place to be enjoying life for me.
What are your hobbies?
Well you can see that I like golf, I also love to Scuba dive whenever I get the chance – it’s amazing how different the world is just below the ocean’s surface. If you ever get the chance to dive one day Matthew I highly recommend it. Those are two things I really miss doing living in a big city. I’m also a big music fan and try to listen to as much as I can; that’s definitely one good thing about being in New York – the amount of live music you can get to go and see, more so than in London I think. I saw five concerts last week! And my latest bug appears to be for cooking, which is a bit of a shock to the system. I never thought I’d get into that!
If you were a car, what kind of car would you be? Any vehicle, actually?
You know, if it was still flying, I would probably say Concorde. It’s such a thing of beauty and was a timeless piece of design, and then to be able to fly at that height and so quickly – wow. I never used to get tired of seeing it land and take-off from Heathrow Airport, it was an amazing sight. I’ll actually admit to knowing that the flight from New York to London used to come in at around 4pm so if I was ever near the airport I always used to look out for it…
If you are a vegetarian, please don’t answer this…otherwise…what is your favorite type of meat?
I’m going to include fish and seafood in this. I’m a huge fan of things like salmon, trout, tuna, prawns and lobster. You also can’t beat a good steak!
What is the most disturbing thing you have ever seen?
Two things come to mind. The first being the street people in Asia and Africa. There’s literally no support for them so they live day and night on the side of the road. Children are born into this environment and quite often are abandoned or orphaned, for them they never get a chance to get out of that plight. That’s a particularly disturbing sight but something you almost become immune to seeing after a while – which is probably even more disturbing.
The second was from the tsunami in 2004. I was on an island in Thailand but was lucky to avoid most of the devastation; however we did get evacuated to the crisis centre in Phuket. Most of the people there were far less fortunate and seeing the walking wounded, people who had lost friends and family – most of them in shock – and then the photo-boards showing the missing or unidentified dead, it was both surreal and shocking. I think the most distressing experience was being on the phone to my sister and being so happy to be talking to someone in my family but then overhearing a Canadian guy sobbing on the phone next to me trying to explain how he had lost his friend and couldn’t find her – he had last seen her going down to the beach in the morning. Our emotions couldn’t have been any further apart at that moment.
It’s easy to forget how lucky you are sometimes.