By Vikram Bharati
Jay Weinstein is the founder of A Wanderers Eye which takes people on immersive travel journeys through India combining photography, art and culture. He is also a philosopher, adventurer, traveler, photographer, actor, and a lover of simplicity. Above all he is a seeker. There are not many things he hasn’t seen or done. From practicing monkhood in an ashram in India to acting in Bollywood movies to selling advertisements in Mumbai to building a travel agency to public speaking at Tedx to photographing interesting people all over the world, Jay has lived a very colorful life. He is indeed a very interesting man.
He was born in Australia to American parents but grew up most of his life in India. He speaks fluent Hindi and is culturally more Indian than any other Indian I’ve ever met. Being an “insider” who has spent twenty-five years in India and as an “outsider” who was born to American parents in Australia he has a very unique perspective of the world that only someone with his life story could have.
I’ve known Jay my whole life. We first met when we were five or six years old and studied together in an all-boys boarding school in India until we graduated and then life took us on our separate journeys. But we’ve kept in touch all these years. I recently sat down with him on his visit to Singapore to interview and catch up with him.
What is the vision for your life?
I want to be constantly growing and developing my full potential as a human being. I also want to use my skills and experiences to help others grow and develop into their best selves. I’m creating a sustainable business model that allows me to continue this journey.
What are your biggest challenges in achieving this vision?
I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been able to find my way, at my own pace, and take risks that others may not have the luxury of taking. The biggest obstacle for me is around clarity and turning that into action. It can also be challenging to find a financial model that supports it.
What makes you unique?
My life has not had a predictable path. I have experienced different culture from a young age and my work experience has zig zagged through acting, advertising, film production, photography and travel. This also gives me a wide angled perspective of the world around me. Being an insider/outsider in several cultures has given me a rich tapestry to make sense of, explore, share and learn from.
How did you end up acting in Bollywood?
My mom was an actress. In her early twenties she acted in a movie with Mick Jagger as well as starring in several TV shows in Australia. It was thus an ambition I had growing up. I did theater in school and after moving to LA to have a shot at Hollywood, I thought it would be a better idea to add my fluent Hindi to the mix and head to Bollywood. So I moved to Mumbai. After roles in TV shows and advertisements, and some blink and you miss it film gigs, I shifted to production and then advertising. It was an interesting journey and a lot of fun.
Has Bollywood changed since then?
Everything in India has changed including the entertainment business. I remember it being surprisingly risk averse and repetitive. But a growing young population and an explosion in TV channels, internet and smart phones upended most of the old models. People are traveling much more, have awareness of the world and there are now generations who have grown up with access to global content. With the proliferation of streaming services audiences are now demanding different types of entertainment. When I was growing up my father’s computer was the only one in the whole town, now even the local boat driver has a better smart phone than I do. Things have certainly changed.
How do you want people to remember you?
I’ve tried to make my work fit around my skills and desire to create a positive impact. With my India tours, photography, presentations and life coaching, I found it easier to make them authentic to me and my passions. Thus my work tends to highlight the fact that we are all vastly more similar than different and zero in on what unites us rather than separates us. I don’t really care if people remember me but I hope the things I am doing somehow help bring humanity closer together and offer some respite from the divisiveness we seem to be in.