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Published: November 4th 2007
I arrived in India after an all night flight from Turkey, and the 5am wake up call in a strange new land was exhilirating! I first noted that most, make that ALL, of the signs were in English! Advertisements in particular were ONLY English! I had decided that I was going to pre-arrange all of my Indian adventures and take a break from the daily how-do-i-get-there, where-do-i-stay grind. Of course, when I exited the airport, there was no guy with a sign with my name! GEEEEZZZZ. I was patient, and after about 10 minutes, he finally showed up and took me to the "A/C car." I'm already thankful for the A/C at 5 in the morning...it will only become more of a bonus as the days got hotter and the trips longer!
The first guy I meet from the travel agency turns out to be a DJ and love all of the same music as me! We start talking about live shows, and he plays a variety of dance songs from his cell phone - pretty impressive from a small device! I got to the Grand Hotel, and I must say, I did not think it was all that Grand.
Just goes to show you that diaramas are an international language too!
But now, after traveling around India for 2 weeks, hindsight proves me wrong! I am still in the land of no shower curtains, and now also in the land of hole-in-the-ground toilets and no toilet paper anywhere! You are supposed to use a small faucet and bucket of water that they have in all the bathrooms...hmmm, sorry but i like to be clean AND dry! I slept for a bit, then went out to explore my new town!
There were people EVERYWHERE, and many many people sleeping on the streets. Most just sleep on the concrete using a bag of rice or their arm as a pillow. There are thousands just standing around, hanging out everywhere! Most are selling something, offering shoe shines, or using bulls to haul loads and bags of things around town. There are bulls all over the place, laying in the roads, on the sidewalks, and mostly just lounging around. A lot of the sidewalks are tore up and there are piles of garbage and rubble everywhere. The sights, smells, and sounds of honking are overwhelming! Driving around in taxis is very, very cheap (a 30 minute ride was about $2.50) and unbelievably hectic and
My tour guide, Queen Rama!
She has a bad knee, so she takes the "Queen's Chair" to the caves!
nuts! Everyone uses their horn - you're in my way, i'm passing you, i'm behind you, you are drifting over near me, i'm coming around the corner, hello i'm here... horns horns horns! The best is that all of the goods carrier trucks have written on the back "Horn OK Please" like they need to give permission! After walking around in the sweltering humidity, I decided to check out a museum on the history of India. Except that it wasn't A/C! 😊 Should've known. But the museum was pretty interesting, and gave me my first lessons in the Hindu religions and well as an idea of the ANCIENT world I've entered. Many of the coins, artifacts, and sculptures were from well over 1000 years ago...and most were from the 1st century!
Afterwards, I wandered over to the Taj Mahal hotel and saw a celebrity spectacle! Except I have no idea who they were, obviously a sports team of sorts and the local people were going nuts taking pictures and crowding them! I then went over to a local pub to have dinner and the local beer, Kingfisher, "The King of Good Times." (I always thought of you, Shane!) The
Amazing Elephanta Caves
Hindu carvings in caves on an island off the coast of Mumbai!
highly anticipated India/Australia cricket match was on, and since I had an Aussie on one side of me, and the whole of India on the other, it made for a pretty exciting evening! Then, I was like, HEY!!! I saw that guy at the Taj hotel today! And that guy! Hey, and that GUY! WHOA my new friends went nuts! I had seen the Australian cricket team! Did I have pictures? Did I get autographs? HAHAHA...of course not! I'm American! I thought cricket was an insect!
The next day I started my two whirlwind days with my crazy tour guide, Rama. She is a 73 year old woman who was to be my new Indian grandmother for two days - she had 50 years on me and was always 10 steps ahead! She took me to the Ghandi museum first, and as we were touring, she mentioned that in fact her family was good friends with Ghandi and the house, which was turned into a museum and where Ghandi stayed in Bombay, was her uncle's best friends house and she had many childhood memories there! He was a very interesting man, whom I knew little about, and he spent
his entire life working towards India's independence from Britain! The top floor of the museum had about 50 dioramas of his life story! SWEET! We also went to Elephanta Island, which is an island of cave sculputes of the Hindu gods. Here she taught me more about the Hindu religion, which I found very interesting. We went to lunch at a local place, and Rama ordered a traditional meal for us. My favorite were the Masala Dosas - a crazy lattice bread thing stuffed with very flavorful potato/onions. Our entire lunch with fun drinks (sweet lime soda!) and coffees was 100 rupees ($2.50!) We went past the Dhobi Ghats where about 5000 MEN ONLY work and scrub and pummel the laundry of the city! She took me to the Sassoon docks where all of the fishermen work and play, and the colors and splendor of the boats and their flags were amazing! Although most of the boats did not look like they were fit to float! Very old, wooden, rotted boats....all in working order! Here I saw my first sidewalk barber, two guys getting their hair cut among the fishing boats, fish stalls, and ice trucks!
At the end
a Jain temple!
a very colorful religion!
of the day, Rama invited me back to her home for a homemade Indian meal and to see "how the average person lives in India." When we got to her neighborhood, there was about 500 young guys celebrating the holiday right outside her door! (It was Dishwana? Or something like that - everyone builds these huge effigies of one of the gods, then dances all night in the streets and have a parade down to the Bay where they submerge them in the water! Also everyone decorates their business and cars with gold flowers...see pictures) They were going CRAZY with the music full blast and this HUGE parade float - handing out candy to me as I walked by and jumping around dancing like maniacs! (Imagine Daft Punk crowd dancing and sweating, crowds like Halloween in West Hollywood, and the enthusiasm of Oktoberfest!) The sense of community spirit and pride here is absolutely remarkable! Rama has two servants that are brothers (she said "labor is cheap") and she has them cook and clean for her, as well as calling them into the living room to use the remote and change the channel!!! ("i don't lift a finger when i come
home...i work hard all day!") She was cracking me up! They cooked an amazing meal, with about 6 different dishes! I enjoyed them all except the holiday treat sweet dish, which is rice and sweet milk?!?! Rama has been living in this same place for almost 50 years and pays 300 rupees ($7.50) a month!!!!
The second day we went out to the Khaneri caves, which are buddhist carvings in caves from BC and the 1st century! It is in a national park in the middle of this huge city, and you immediately feel like you are out in the country! It was here where I first saw the monkeys go mean! 😞 I saw a monkey bully two kids out of a pack of biscuits! They just come up and start pestering and jumping closer and then hissing/growling at you - the kids tried to throw sticks and stones but the monkey kept coming at them, so they finally threw their cookies a few yards away, the monkey picked up the biscuits, and left them alone, eating his hard-fought treat! Survival of the fittest! That afternoon, Rama took me to a few shops with jewelry and sarongs and
My first real Indian Meal
Rama ordered - Marsala Dosa and some doughnut things with a Coconut Curry and Dahl
fancy carpets, even though she knew i was not shopping. Everyone would try and sell me soooo many things, and Rama would just use their bathroom, drink their tea, and then explain to them that I'm traveling for a long time and not buying anything! Old ladies get away with so much! 😊
We went home via some of the "slums" of Mumbai, which is actually a very significant part of the city life here. Mumbai is now the most populated city in the world with 18 million people, and half of them live in the "slums" which are houses made of scrap steel, tarps, and odds and ends. They go on forever and ever, and are packed with people getting ready for work, bathing, playing, and selling things! Rama told me that they pay rent to the government, and there are simply not enough jobs to go around to all of the people of India. It was very humbling! There were so many sights that I wanted to take pictures of, but it just doesn't feel respectful. How would you like it if someone was taking pictures of you doing dishes? bathing? doing laundry? Yet this is what
these people do in front of their shelters in the street every day! It's amazing.
I have never felt so bombarded by my senses! The sights, sounds, smells, and emotions (and cows) are all over the place! This is the part of travel that really begins to open your eyes and heart to the world! We are so blessed and lucky in our country, to even have a pair of shoes to wear is significant....be grateful! It was so endearing to see all of the school children in their uniforms, and Rama was so proud, she kept commenting that they were the future of her country and education was the most important thing they could be given. The schools here are so over crowded that they run two shifts - some children go to school from morning to early afternoon, and then another school day starts and goes into the evening!
After three days in this hectic city, I was very relieved to be going on to a small village in the country. I am surprised by the friendliness and openness of all of the people of this large, chaotic city, so I can't wait to meet the
A working fishing boat!
Again, so festive and colorful! Don't know if I'd go out to sea in this though...
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