As they briefly indicated during their lone Leg, father-daughter Hoskote and Naina Venkatesh went on “The Amazing Race” in large part because Naina wanted to prove herself to her traditional, India-born father.
When I met with Naina and Hoskote before they departed, she proudly told me that he had agreed that in any point-of-contention on the Race, she would get to be the final arbiter, a prospect that she found unique and exciting for their relationship.
She was skeptical, of course, that he would be able to set aside his usual role as patriarch to be flexible, but she was also hopeful.
Unfortunately, Naina and Hoskote were eliminated after only one Leg and without getting to make any crucial decisions at all. They got on a later flight to Chile that put their pack of four teams behind the lead group of seven and then a problematic cab ride put them behind the other three teams and that was that.
In their exit interview, Naina and Hoskote lament having an elimination so out of their control and try to emphasize that what looked like a clue-reading gaffe in the episode’s second Roadblock wasn’t a gaffe at all. Naina also expresses her disappointment at not getting to prove herself to her father.
The full Q&A is after the break…
HitFix: You guys got in a hole immediately because you ended up on that second flight. As one of the teams with actual Southern California roots, how did that happen?
Naina Venkatesh: We actually had no problem getting to the airport at all. In the beginning, what happened is the speaker-phone in the car wasn’t registering our communication very well. So that was the little SNAFU we had in the beginning, but getting to the airport we had no problem. What happened is there was a point in the clue where we had to do something that I think a lot of the other teams forgot to do, so that delayed us a little bit more as well, but actually getting to the airport and getting on the flight and finding the airport and whatnot was not a problem for us at all.
HitFix: When you realized you were on that second flight how did that change your mindset and change the pressure that the rest of the Leg put on you?
Hoskote Venkatesh: Well, it was disappointing, but something that we could easily overcome, because the Race was structured in the first Leg, the delay between the first and the second flight was like only 30 minutes into Santiago, Chile. Our flight was going through Dallas and the first flight was going through Miami. Unfortunately, the circumstances were such that there was a hurricane in Dallas on that one day and because of that, our flight was going to be an hour-and-a-half late going out of Los Angeles and an hour or an hour-and-a-half late going out from Dallas into Santiago, Chile. So that effectively meant that we knew before we even left Los Angeles that we were going to be three hours late, minimum, going into Santiago. See, the way the Leg was structured, like I said, was there was going to be only a 30-minute gap by the time we could board the flight out of Santiago and there was a one-hour window to catch a flight from Santiago to Iquique, so we would have all been on the same flight going out from Santiago. Unfortunately, because we ended up being three-and-a-half hours late into Santiago, we missed that flight, through an act of God, and never could make it up. By the time we ended up in Iquique, we were three-and-a-half hours late and that effectively eliminated us from competing with seven other teams. That was the kicker.
We have been rabid fans of the show since 2003. The way Bertram [van Munster] and Elise [Doganieri], I admire them really, they have structured a show which combines so much of adventure and travel… we love the show. We think it should get an Emmy every darned year! It’s such a fantastic show and we’ve been dreaming of the show, so when you are eliminated from the show due to circumstances that are totally beyond your control… I wish they could have given us a chance to use our navigation skills once we knew we were going to be three-and-a-half hours late into Santiago, even before we left Los Angeles we knew were going to be that late into Santiago. I wish we could have used our navigational skills and also our chutzpah, our own travel skills, to be able to take our flight into Chile and say, “OK, we’re gonna lose anyway, so you’ve gotta do something to change your fate.” I wish we could we could have done something. In that case, I could have felt good. With we could have done that, but I can understand that there are some logistics problems or whatever it may be and we can’t do that. But if we could do that? Over the years, I’ve traveled millions of miles. I’ve traveled in bush planes. I’ve traveled in propellor aircrafts. I’ve found different ways to get to a destination if I’m late. We could have done a fantastic job and that would have made it a truly amazing race. I just wish there was a situation where once you leave the beginning thing, they should leave and say, “You’re on your own. Find your way to the destination.” That would have been fantastic and we could have used our navigation skills to get there. But you are three-and-a-half hours late into a destination, especially when every minute counts on this Race, and you’re already hamstrung with that delay. It’s very difficult, if the other seven teams have already finished even before you get into town, to compete. Basically, you’re done. Your goose is cooked.
HitFix: I’ve talked with contestants in the past who have been relieved when the thing that eliminated them was out of their control, because at least it wasn’t something that could eat at them. It doesn’t sound like you guys are particularly relieved.
Naina: Yeah, well we’re just Type-A competitive personalities like that. We like to be in the middle of things and be really involved and just be able to compete with other people. As my dad says, we’ve been fans of the show for so long that we just wanted a chance to be in there with the rest of the teams and show what we were capable of, because we talk the talk and we walk the walk and, unfortunately, that really wasn’t portrayed like we had hoped. We just wanted to soak up the experience. I don’t like to say, “Yeah, we didn’t really get to do what we came out to do, because of this and this and this” because it was out of our control, but if things had been different, I think the circumstances would have turned out completely differently.
Hoskote: How ironic that one day we had to have a hurricane in Dallas. If it had been been a day before or a day after? But it was on that one day. For somebody who’s been so enamored of the show and dreaming and when we got the call to come on the show, we were like, “Wow! Christmas has come early!” and then to have this happen?
Naina: And especially on the first Leg. It’s not acceptable. It’s not fair. It’s not what we wanted to happen.
HitFix: Ultimately the plane problem put you in a pack with four teams, though. But it looked like it was the cab ride, Naina, while you were following your father with the paragliding that put you permanently behind. What actually happened on the cab right that maybe we didn’t see?
Naina: Gosh! It sure was. I left second, as you guys may have noticed, from the paragliding, so we were actually in prime position to compete with the three other teams very well. I actually have no idea what he did. There was a lot of traffic. What he probably ended up doing was taking a very convoluted route. He didn’t speak a word of English, so I tried as best as I could with the minimal amount of Spanish that I have to communicate with him, but obviously I didn’t know how to get to the location because I’ve never been to Chile before and when my dad told me that the last team had left a good 20 or 25 minutes before I had even arrived, my heart sunk, because that was not what I had expected leaving second. I was so pumped leaving the parasailing area, that we were still in this, that we would still be very competitive. We were neck-and-neck up until that point and I had no doubt in my mind that we would go out with our guns blazing no matter what happened, but because of another delay that we incurred? My heart just sunk. I was just so disappointed and so distraught after that. That right to pick up my dad definitely hit us hard and it was the end of the game for us, basically.
HitFix: Was that the sort of circumstance where, because you didn’t know where you were going, you didn’t have any awareness that it was taking longer than it should have? Or did you have a sense?
Naina: Oh no, I had a sense. He was taking all of these quick turns here and there and I was just wondering if the clue or if the location would be this convoluted to get there. Just logistically, I didn’t think the people who created this Leg of “The Amazing Race” for Chile would have done something so intricate. He was on his phone and he was making all of these quick turns and we were sitting in traffic and it just seemed very awkward. I had a very, very uneasy feeling in my stomach and I was getting really, bad vibes that something was wrong.
HitFix: There was a lot of time spent in the episode on the mistake you guys made in the Roadblock and who was supposed to do the rowing, but do you think that even if you’d made that choice correctly immediately it would have made any difference at all?
Naina: Well, I’m glad I can explain this. Yeah. On television it did look like I had read the clue incorrectly. However, what they didn’t show is that we reread the clue after and my dad and I decided since pretty much everyone had finished up the boating — we were the last ones there and we didn’t see anyone — that I would do it no matter what, because I had done nothing on this Leg. The fact that my dad is the way he is, he would not have let me escape this experience without having done something valuable and memorable, for me to at least think that I had some kind of impact and some kind of contribution to this Leg. So despite what may have been shown [on Sunday], we both actually knew that he was supposed to do it, but I wanted to do something. I had done nothing all day but sit on airplanes and in taxis and I was not going to go out of this Race having done nothing, so at least I got that. What ended up happening is I ended up getting tired, it was getting dark and so I just kinda figured, “OK. We might as well wrap up this Leg.” So I came back to the dock and my dad finished it.
Hoskote: That’s the dad in me. I just wanted her to have something, because we love this show much. I think is, like I said, the best reality TV show on television. I just wanted her to at least see that she did something. So I said, “OK. Let her have some fun. I know we’re reading it wrong and we look stupid that she’s doing it,” but I said, “What the heck? Let me give her a chance.” That’s the dad in me unfortunately.
HitFix: Naina, you lamented that you didn’t get to show your father all that you wanted to and you didn’t get to prove yourself to him the way you wanted to. But the conversation that this brief experience started, did it continue? Has there a chance in your relationship that continued since?
Naina: Not really, to be honest with you. We didn’t get to really explore our relationship outside from the norm that we are both used to in our regular lives. The Race would definitely have opened up a whole bag of opportunities to explore different paths that we, necessarily during our everyday lives, don’t get to experience, and were put in situations and circumstances and mental and physical feats that would bring out different sides of our personalities. My dad, because of what we do in our everyday lives, we don’t necessarily interact like that and I didn’t get an opportunity to show that to him. I feel somewhat lacking in that ability to have been able to show him that and I really would like another chance, because our relationship really hasn’t changed and that was that was the prime reason why we did it, to be able to bring me out as someone that my dad can see is confident, competent and able to make her own decisions without him butting in. I have a good head on my shoulders, which may not have occurred to people who watched the show, necessarily. I’m very smart. I’m very intelligent. I’m able to make very, very good decisions. But my dad, being as traditional as he is, takes a very active role in my life and he thinks what he’s doing for me is always correct and, as we all know, when we’re young and we have parents like that, that are very involved with our life, they sometimes can be a little bit of a pest or just conflicting with what we want to do and we don’t really want to fight with them, but then again we have to stand up for what we believe. In the Race, the circumstances that you’re put in will enable a child to come out like that and be able to demonstrate to their parent that they’re truly very independent and they can function on their own. I’d really like another chance to be able to do that with my dad.
Other “Amazing Race” Season 23 Interviews: