Friday afternoon Shannon and I headed to
Immediately when you leave the airport the slums are everywhere, but they aren’t like
The commuter trains are a nightmare, with people hanging off the sides and arms coming out the barred windows. But everything is relative and when Shannon and I arrived in
We stayed at the Sheraton Grand Central, which was a lifesaver. We had a fancy dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants (all of the really nice restaurants in
I ended up calling down to the front desk who connected me to the hotel doctor, who called in a prescription, the hotel picked it up, and delivered it to my door within an hour (truly amazing)- And 3 prescriptions only cost 300 rupees ($9). I spent the morning rehydrating and then Shannon and I went out for a few hours to see the city.
First we went to the Mahalakshmi temple, where we walked down a long small street of vendors selling flower arrangements. At first we thought they were offerings to buy and give to the temple, but it turned out that people were buying them to have them blessed and then take them home. We took our shoes off and went into the temple and people kept leading us past the lines to the alter. The priests put a mark of orange powder on our foreheads and gave us candy and flowers. The ground was white marble which was really hot, but considering that people walk miles on sharp rocks, I figured we got off pretty easily.
After the temple our driver took us to Gandhi’s house, which was really cool. I hadn’t really made it a top priority, but the driver said it was close to we agreed to go, and I’m glad we did. Down a lush tree-lined street, we might have been in
After Gandhi’s house we went to the Haji Ali mosque which is built out on the water, and you can only get there during low tide. The whole bridge there was covered in mangled beggars and homeless children, some people disfigured so horribly that it was hard to look at them. A group of crippled men were lying in a circle chanting, and more able-bodied people were selling trinkets. Tons of brightly dressed families were walking to the mosque, some muslim women in burkas, others in kurtas without their heads covered. It was as if the contrast that is
The rest of the day we did R&R, which I needed even after a few hours out because of the heat and humidity.
On Sunday we slept in and eventually made our way out to finish our site-seeing and go shopping. We were planning on taking a trip to Elephanta, an island off the coast of
After the Gateway of India, Shannon and I wanted to go shopping in the famous shopping district of Colaba. Our driver of our hotel car kept taking us to random stores selling overpriced trinkets and carpets, where we assume he was getting commission, even though we told him we wanted clothes. We even called Rupa who explained to him in Hindi and in detail where he should take us, and he still tried to dump us at more stores saying ‘just look, just look.’ Eventually after some stern language he took us to the shopping street in Colaba, where all tourists in
We shopped around and
After shopping our driver took us to the hanging gardens, a weird mix of cropped English gardens, tropical foliage, topiaries, trash cans shaped like penguins, and a ‘cannon ball tree’ with giant balls of something growing off of it. There my childhood imagination vision of
Afterwards we shopped for the rest of the afternoon and drove around
After our food court meal we were ready to just end the day at the airport, where we ended up spending the entire evening as our flight was delayed twice so that we didn’t leave until 11:30pm. Our tickets home were on a discount airline instead of Kingfisher, and that’s the last time I’ll fly on Spicejet, and no one else should either so that they are punished for their untimeliness and my lack of sleep.
Despite Montezuma's Revenge, which for future reference I think I shall call Maharaja's revenge, a bullshit driver, and a late flight home, Bombay is an excellent city which is truly unique and embodies all of the paradox that defines India as it struggles to create and maintain a modern Indian identity.