Category: South of India, 2012

Playing it by ear, Mumbai, January 22

After about three very welcome hours sleep, we awoke before the call we’d left. Finished yesterday’s blog, coffee brought into the room, then an excellent buffet breakfast in the Sea Lounge.

Down in the lobby, we are greeted by the Peirce & Leslie representative du jour and, shortly thereafter, introduced to our guide, Joshua, who tells us the plan for the day, which involves a good deal of looking at Victorian buildings. I tell him that, while buildings are okay, we’re really much more interested in people.

Joshua “gets it” right away and proceeds to change the bulk of what we do for the day. This flexibility to change is one of the great advantages of planning your own itinerary, either alone, or with one other couple. Instead of walking by and into a bunch of buildings, we drove by them. Instead of visiting the Victoria Terminus on a Sunday, we drove by and will experience its bustle tomorrow, on a week day.

We drove to an area called Bon Ganga. Where Lord Rama is alleged to have shot an arrow (“Bon”) and produced water (Ganges). We walked around the area, visiting a small Hindu shrine, where various different ceremonies were taking place simultaneously. We walked around a residential area, saw a small outside community laundry business being conducted (we’ll see a much larger version tomorrow), went into a local home, watched children play on a playground and young boys playing cricket on a field and looked inside, but could not enter, a Jain Temple. The Jains are believers in complete non-violence, to the extent of wearing cloths around their mouths to prevent their breath from doing harm or from accidentally harming insects. They eat nothing that grows below ground. We learned about the Farsi people, who do not either bury or burn their dead, but place them ceremoniously on mounds (the Towers of Silence) to be eaten by vultures, and we drove near the site. Since we’d expressed interest in the slums, Joshua walked us through a small portion of a small slum, taking pains to point out that the residents were hard workers who kept their homes clean. We watched a boy on a rooftop, losing the kite he was flying in a kite fight. All of these tastes of real life, was far more interesting to us than what our original schedule would have been.



The rest of the day, we walked in a garden area and saw the coast around Mumbai, called the Queen’s Necklace because of its shape and the sparkling effect of the lights at night. Situated on the Arabian Sea, Mumbai has a pleasant feel to it that belies a city of some twenty million people.

We next went to the home at which Ghandi stayed when he lived in Bombay (the name of the city was changed to Mumbai in 1996, in which Joshua said was a purely political move, intended to show that the city was no longer run by the British, who gave it the name). The home has been converted to a fascinating museum that houses pictures of Ghandi, letters from and to him and many dioramas depicting important events in Ghandi’s life. Very worthwhile, and well executed.

We went to the prince of Wales Museum (now called something else) which houses a great collection of various different styles and periods of miniature paintings, which Joshua explained to us. There was also an interesting room of paintings and sculptures of Krishna the ninth incarnation of the Hindu god, Vishnu (some say Buddha was the tenth). We visited a couple modern art galleries, but the modern art museum was closed because their exhibits were being changed.

Returning to the hotel around four, Carol and I partook of the lavish high tea spread put on daily by the hotel. Carol met a woman named Sue Bard from New York, who was alone, because her husband was not feeling well. what is domain . We visited with Sue, who joined us at our table and then we headed back to the room to clean up, relax and blog before being picked up at seven for our dinner tonight.

We were driven out almost an hour to dinner in the nice residential area of Branda at the apartment of Anil and Ninaz Pathak, which Shonali (the travel agent I raved about yesterday) arranged for us. En route, our driver, Mohammed, who I suspect would love to be a guide, pointed out a beautiful and beautifully lit Muslim hospital, the most expensive home in the world, a $2 billion structure that looks like an apartment building, but houses only a wealthy family and several brightly-lit areas where large weddings were taking place. The traffic seemed heavy and harrowing to us, but Mohammed described it as light because it was Sunday evening.

We spent a wonderful evening with Anil, Ninaz, and their friends, Lalita and Roger, who they invited over to join us. All were involved in the travel business, Anil as Chairman of Peirce & Leslie, Ninaz who works with the head oh human resources of Singapore Air, and Lalita and Roger, who were both flight attendants with Air India. All are in their fort ties and the lively conversation ranged from travel to US politics to Disney Cruises, which Lalita and Roger would like to take their small children on. Ninaz prepared an excellent dinner of fish and chicken, we drank a very nice Indian Cabernet and had cocoanut and green apple ice creams for dessert. Anil’s grasp of, and thoughtfulness about his business were both impressive and exciting to me. He clearly gets what we travelers are after. We brought Anil and Ninaz a copy of NO SECRET WHERE ELEPHANTS WALK and all four of them loved looking at it.

Our driver, who had waited three and a half hours, picked us up and we drove back, the weddings we’d passed en route still going strong. We passed colorful, lit horse-drawn carriages on the waterfront, as we pulled into our hotel to retire.

1 comment to Playing it by ear, Mumbai, January 22

  • W.

    Love the picture of the little girl, Dadz. I’ve gotta pace myself on reading these because the computer doesn’t agree so much with my eyes. So, I’m still behind . . . I might just peek at some more photos you’ve posted for now . . .

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