Recently, my daughter and I took a trip to historical sites in my mother’s home state of Virginia. As a Christmas present, my daughter said she would take me anywhere I’d like to go–at her expense! How could I refuse an offer like that? I had wanted to return to Virginia to places I’d seen fifty years ago or had never visited. I told her that as a black shoe Navy vet, I would like to go to Norfolk to walk on-board the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa class battleship, the largest such vessel in our WWII navy. Along the way, I hoped we could find my Great-Grandfather’s grave. My mother had told us that he was buried in the Confederate cemetery on the University Virginia campus in Charlottesville. He died of wounds sustained at the Second Battle of Manassas in 1862.
[Editor’s Note: Of course, one cannot visit Charlottesville without stopping by Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson; who, incidentally, designed then supervised the building of the university from his front colonnade.]
We also went to Jamestown, the oldest permanent English settlement in America. The fort has been partially restored with a palisade of split logs placed vertically into the ground. The enclosed area is small, only about an acre of land.
Most of the Jamestown settlers died in the first few years of Indian depredation (plundering), disease, exposure and starvation. The native Powhatan also suffered greatly, many in a decade-long war with the settlers. On one occasion, two hundred Powhatans, invited to a treaty signing ceremony, were served wine laced with poison, and all died. Another fifty were slain. One Jamestown settler bore our surname, a “Captaine” William Tucker, whose name is inscribed on a monument there.
From there, we went to Williamsburg, that beautifully restored (some would say too beautifully restored) colonial capital of Virginia. Jamestown had been the capital until 1705 when it was moved to Williamsburg. It remained there until 1779 when it was moved to Richmond during the American Revolution.
Yorktown was our next destination, where we toured a very nice museum and strolled over the battlefield of the final great clash of the Revolution, fought in the fall of 1781.
It was a decisive victory for the Americans and their French allies. Half of the troops on land were French and all of the navy that blockaded the mouth of the Chesapeake was French, who thus prevented the reinforcement of the British forces or its evacuation.
We visited the Wisconsin in Norfolk, a permanent museum ship. One of her 16-inch gun turrets extended down to the power room weighed more than the Fletcher class destroyer on which I had served. Seventeen and one-half inches of armor plate on the main turrets was nothing short of amazing.
All of the stops were interesting to me, a retired history professor, but none was more interesting or emotionally moving than our short time at the Confederate cemetery at the University of Virginia. Here, enclosed by low walls in what we estimated to be about one-half an acre, were the remains of some one-thousand one-hundred Confederate soldiers who had died in make-shift hospital wards in houses and assorted buildings in Charlottesville and buildings on the University of Virginia campus.
Just twenty-six of these graves have been marked with the standard plain marble tombstone.
A check with the Special Collections Section of the University Library told us that we could find Captain Robert Alexander Tucker’s grave by measuring the distance from two of the surrounding walls. The dearth of grave markers may have been due to the scarcity of manpower and materials during the War or it could be that the original markers were made of wood and eventually rotted away. We intend to have a stone prepared for our Captain Tucker of the S.C. Sharpshooters. Interestingly, we were told by a woman we chanced upon in Jamestown that the Veterans Administration would furnish a marker if we could provide the required credentials. The victorious United States funding tombstones for the vanquished Rebel dead is quite remarkable. A quick check on the internet verified that claim.
Incidentally, we intend to trace the line of Captain William Tucker of Jamestown and St. George Tucker of Williamsburg to see if we are related. If we think about it, it is extraordinary that towns named for English kings, James and William, and one king’s wife, Charlotte, managed to retain their names after a bloody, sometimes brutal, Revolutionary War that had many of the trappings of a civil war.
I had no internet service for most of the day yesterday. I walked to the Starbucks at the Taj, hoping to get on their WiFi. The Taj is owned by the Tata family, the same family that built the Chhatrapati Shivaji. They have wealth many generations old. They own the Tetley Tea Company, a string of other hotels, telecommunications, banks, an auto company and truck manufacturing, shipping, steel, airlines and THE STARBUCKS! Forbes doesn’t rank them among the richest people in the world probably because they don’t flaunt their wealth. Anyway, WiFi is not free there and I couldn’t pay for it because I don’t have an Indian phone.
I can’t get Windows 10 to download Google Chrome anymore. I had it on the machine once but I uninstalled the program when I couldn’t get it to work well. I can’t even get Edge to let me open g-mail or any product other than ones installed by Microsoft, like Yahoo and Mozilla, neither of which I like. I suppose that I’ll need to pay my computer guy to do it. Or, my grandson has a birthday next month and doesn’t have a computer. I’ll just wrap it up for him. I’ll need to find an adapter though. The plug is configured for use in Asia.
I left at three o’clock yesterday for the dentist. The drive there was not bad and the traffic was light for Mumbai. I left the dentist at 7:30. They installed the abutments (the part that is attached mechanically to implants with screws) and loaded the crowns in the abutments. Then they adjusted the bite, removed groups of crowns on each jaw. They will be glued in place when I return at 4:30 today so I will have teeth in South Mumbai. I haven’t had more than breakfast each day for the last three days and I haven’t had anything difficult to bite and chew for a year. The crowns look very pretty and they even corrected for my overbite.
My driver waited for me the whole time. When I arrived back at the hotel a little after 8:00. Traffic in Mumbai is heavier in the evening and lightest in the morning. He charged me 1,000 INR for the trip and the wait. That is about $15 for five hours. More than fair, I think.
I took a long walk today from Colaba to the back bay over to Fort and back to my hotel.
On my hike, I passed Wesley Church, one of the oldest surviving Christian churches in South Mumbai. It was built in 1840. A tenement near Wesley Church is for the working poor who are able to pay the rent.
The park across the street commemorates the mutiny of Indian naval brigades in 1857-1858. I took some photos of the park from the other side of the street.
The small fruit is one of the more than 800 varieties of fig trees seen from the sidewalk. I picked one but it was hard. I don’t know if these are edible. We would cut down this tree. In India many trees are sacred so in this case a portion of the wall was removed to made way for the tree.
There is an athletic field for a school behind this wall with bleachers for viewing either football (soccer) or cricket. Cricket is the national pastime of India. School children were practicing cricket. The school is on the other side of the street although it looks nothing like a school in a western sense.
This is a traffic training park for children paid for by the Western India Auto Association and operated by the Mumbai police. Accidents involving pedestrians are not uncommon here. There are roadways in this park and traffic signals. Children are taught the rules of the road and when to cross streets. There are bleachers here, too. A public study pavilion was in rather heavy use when I walked by it.
The public cricket field at Cuffe Parade, an upper scale area of South Mumbai adjacent to both Colaba and Church Gate. This field is about half mile long and two hundred yards wide.
These apartment flats are typical of those in the entire back bay area. Most are seven or eight stories high. These buildings overlooked the cricket field.
Since I am leaving tomorrow night, they fixed the internet about twenty minutes ago. I had no service for half of the time here! [EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the sorts of complications one comes to expect when traveling abroad!]
It is 6:30 am on Friday in Mumbai. The house crows are very noisy and people have been checking out and leaving early. The disadvantage of a room with a view is that I hear all of the street noise.
I had Indian pizza at the Basilico, an upscale eatery on the next street. It is perfectly safe to stroll the streets at night because of the ever-present crush of humanity. The crust was crispy, the sauce was good, there was a big collection of julienned veggies on it and it was topped with mozzarella. Italian spices, including crushed red pepper, were brought to the table. I also had a virgin pina colada made with fresh pineapple juice and fresh coconut juice. Those are wonderful. I couldn’t eat it all, so I asked them to pack up the half that I was unable to eat and I offered it to the door man who seemed very thankful to receive it. My conclusion is that Indian pizza far surpasses Thai pizza in taste.
I haven’t had alcohol here, not that I drink often at home. Most places don’t serve it and no one serves it on Monday (I am not sure why that is so) or to a person not yet 25-years-old. Muslims are required to abstain and none of their establishments have it. I have mentioned that most of the businesses in the area seem to be owned by Muslims and there is a significant population of them in this area assumed from their manner of dress (I haven’t encountered any radical jihadists to my knowledge). I hope that I am allowed to return to the country. India officially discourages the use of tobacco and alcohol. There are public service announcements during movies. We are told that tobacco causes cancer and kills. Alcohol is injurious to health, it is claimed. The claim about alcohol is mostly true and the one about tobacco is absolutely true. Can anyone imagine the furor that both industries would raise in the United States. My belief is that tobacco products are very expensive here. I have seen no one smoking in public but I have seen a few sidewalk vendors selling it.
I had my last breakfast at the Godwin. My belief is that both hotels are owned by the same company. They are about thirty feet apart.
Back to breakfast. Breakfast at the Residence Hotel in Fort was better than here, but the food is all right. I had scrambled eggs and pancakes. There is no sugar in these and they are spicy and meant to be eaten with a coconut chutney made from crushed coconut. The chutney is also spiced so it is a mixture of sweet, salty and hot. My personal waiter (that is what he has become because I tip him one-hundred rupees a day) brought me two glasses of orange juice and a pot of tea which he poured and sweetened for me. I am unaccustomed to be waited upon and it seems a little embarrassing to me. The other guests have noticed that I get such lavish attention and I am certain that they wonder about it. It probably doesn’t occur to them that they should tip, too. The meal is part of the room rent. He will miss my tips, which have been 700 rupees a week or about $11 USD.
I also pay my driver well. Two brothers handle my transportation. Independent taxi drivers tend to congregate at hotels. They likely bribe the doormen to send them riders. The brothers have always driven me where I need to go. I will travel to the clinic for my last visit with the daytime brother and the night brother will take me to the airport. They always wait on me when I go to the dentist so I need not find a taxi to bring me to Colaba from Kemps Corner, an often tricky proposition. I pay them a big premium to wait. I could take a metered cab for about 150 rupees so that would be about 300 rupees round trip or about $4.50 USD. I pay the brothers either 800 or 1000 rupees depending upon the length of the wait. The meter drivers work for cab companies and many of them live in the slums and speak no English. The brothers speak some English, own their own vehicles which have air-conditioning, they buy their own fuel and pay for their licenses. They must think that what I pay is generous because they are at my beck and call. I would feel that I am exploiting them if I paid them less. So, I estimate that I will have paid more than $100 USD for transportation since arriving and the trips today will cost about 2,000 rupees or about $30. The trip to the airport takes about an hour, and the nigh brother will take me at 10, deliver me to the right terminal and help me with my bags. Tipping is the right thing to do and it buys better service!
Because I also tip the housekeeping staff, they give me extra towels, a vase of flowers and extra water for my room. I have them clean every other day and pay them 100 rupees for it. I am greeted by them when I come and go.
How does one exchange money in Mumbai? Most banks don’t do it. The hotel did it for me when I was here in May last year. Rupees can be bought from the Bank of India at the airport but they only gave me sixty-four rupees per dollar. So, I have been using the services of a man who can be easily located. I tell the doorman that I need rupees and the guy shows up in five minutes on the terrace. He gives me 65 rupees per dollar and I always buy 6,500 at a time. If I have any when I get to the airport, I am required to sell them back to the Bank of India. It is illegal to take rupees from India.
There is a movement here to demonetize India. The explanation given (propaganda) is that all of the cash is in the cities and there is none in villages to stimulate commerce. A more likely explanation is that if poor people in the slums of Mumbai have no debit cards (and they won’t) they will be forced to return to their villages. When they leave, the slums will become available for clearing and commercial development by the already wealthy.
“Think of the poor villages,” the ads proclaim. “Do your part to help. Demonetize India to help them out,” they beg. “Don’t use cash use electronic payment.” Obviously, more money can be printed if cash is in short supply. The currency of India is only supported by the likelihood that India will pay its bills, just as ours is. I am told that it is also being done to deal with the dark money problem. That is, to bring bribery out in the open. Bribery becomes more difficult if a paper trail must be created. A bribe can be paid with blood diamonds, gold or a tanker of crude. I believe that my guess is the best answer. The government simply wants to drive the poor out of cities like Mumbai.
If you want to know the real reason for something done by government don’t listen to the propaganda and don’t be distracted by their lies. Determine who will benefit the most. It is always the already wealthy. Public charter schools in our country? Are they favored, for example, by DeVos because religion can be taught there? Are they favored by DeVos because children will be better educated? Or, are they favored because they will be operated for someone’s profit? The latter, I think.
I slept poorly last night. I should never drink caffeinated drinks after 4 pm. It is 6 am in Mumbai. The house crows have begun the morning cacophony to greet the day but it still seems dark to me. I will likely take a nap during the heat of the day. I have a dental appointment at 1:00 pm so I’ll leave at noon. It’s a 30-minute drive in good traffic from Colaba to Malabar Hills. I forgot to mention that I have seen more swastikas since I became aware of their presence. There are two in the museum that I noticed, one on an exhibit and another incorporated into the architecture.
I am taking doxycycline to prevent malaria. It is an effective anti-malarial but it is causing gastritis, a symptom of which is gnawing abdominal pain that is sometimes relieved by eating. I have decided that the risk of contracting malaria is low since I’ll not travel outside the city. Besides, it is the dry season and the authorities do a good job of locating and removing reservoirs for breeding mosquitoes.
Breakfast is done. There were cakes that looked like pancakes so I took one to try.
One of the servers brought me a bowl of something made to eat with the cakes. He said that it was coconut but it was salty and hot. I would have preferred jelly or brown sugar both of which were available.
I spent three more hours in the dentist chair this afternoon. None of those chairs are made for anyone my height, so it curves in the chair hit my back in all of the wrong places. I paid the driver when we returned to the hotel and walked over to the café for a chocolate-malted and chocolate tart. Two women came in wearing hijabs and sat near me. There were men across the room, some wearing topis. There are several rug merchants nearby. I think that this part of Mumbai must be the Arab sector. So, I checked it out with the “Great Google.”
I found a lengthy passage in an old book titled The Origin of Bombay. Bombay was once a group of islands in the Arabian Sea. It is now connected to mainland India. It has been ruled by Iran, Portugal, Britain and others. Colaba was one of the original islands and was divided into north and south Colaba. I am staying in that part of Colaba once called north Colaba. The area to the south is occupied mostly by the military of India now. The area surrounding present day Mumbai has been inhabited for thousands of years although there is no evidence that it was known to the Romans or Greeks. Bombay has been strategically important because of its nature bay for more than five hundred years, and there have been Arab traders living here since before that.
I paid for my snack and drink when I had finished and returned to the hotel. I fell asleep and was awakened when Ram arrived to do the massage that I scheduled last night. I had lactic acid deposits in my feet and calves. He dispersed them and, yes, it was very painful. He did deep tissue massage on my back and shoulders. I feel great so I scheduled a return visit for Friday evening.
After comp breakfast. Today, there were the usual hard-fixed, scrambled and boiled eggs. They will also be cooked to order. Then they had sweet rice with peanuts which I had to remove since I still have no teeth. There were two kinds of Indian bread and regular bread for toast. There were baked beans and fries. That must be an English thing. There was guava and watermelon and orange juice, coffee, black tea or milk tea. My favorite was the very thin pancakes rolled over and stuffed with spicy veggies. As usual, the waiters hovered over to fetch anything that I wanted because I always tip them with a 100 INR note ($1.50). I don’t see the Asians tipping them. Most of the Asian guests are Arab.
I have commented about this before, but I have never seen women working in a hotel. There are men everywhere. Six men work the small dining room each morning. There must be three men to clean rooms and provide service on my floor and there are only seven rooms. I have them clean it every other day and tip them 100 INR. There are three men wearing military-style uniforms and either berets or turbans. They open and close the door and help with bags. I tipped them when I arrived and I will do the same when I leave. I don’t tip them every time they open a door. There are always money-changers about.
I had less that $100 in rupee this morning and I plan to take the day out. I asked the doorman about the money-changer and had a seat on the terrace. He was there in less than five minutes. The exchange rate is between 67 and 68 INR per USD today. He gave me 65, so he made about 2-3% for the service. The business of India seems to be commerce and personal service. It is a patriarchal society. Perhaps they can curb the birth rate by reversing things. If women worked and men stayed home, there would be fewer babies and less poverty. But, hey, it is their country and they should run it as they see fit.
India is like a fruit pantry. There are coconut and date palms full of fruit. I asked about the coconut trees which lean over street laden with large nuts. If they fall and hit you or your car it is the will of Vishnu, Shiva, Allah or some other deity. I am fairly certain that coconut trees are not permitted to line streets in the U.S. Perhaps our deities are less powerful. I also see lemon trees, mangoes, papayas and the oft-mentioned figs. The lemons are very small and thin-skinned but juicier and better flavored than the ones grown for shipping in the U.S.
I returned to Elephanta Island today.
The air was very hazy and visibility on the water was poor so I took no photos from the boat. The ride is an hour each way. I did see that one of India’s two aircraft carriers was docked in the navy yard. When we landed, I took the train powered by a four-cylinder gasoline engine, paid the five rupee arrival tax and began the climb up the steps to the top. I did not go into the cave area since I was there last May. My reason for being there was to shop for a geode. I found what wanted and began the trip back. I bought a rather large one. I haven’t weighed it but I am guessing that it weighs between ten and fifteen pounds. I brought one back last May. The ICE agent in Detroit had no idea what a geode is and I suppose that I’ll need to explain it again in Charlotte. Geodes form due to an air bubble trapped in lava. Crystals form over time, the usual ones being quartz or amethyst. They are millions of years old in many instances.
Back to the subject of aircraft carriers, only nine countries have any in service.
The US has as many carriers in service as the rest of the world combined, being ten. We have one in reserve, two under construction, fifty-six decommissioned carriers and twelve never completed. So, why do we need more carriers than we already have. Herr Gropenfuhrer would increase the size of our navy. I wonder if he owns any stock int he companies that bid on naval contracts?
I’m still having problems with this old computer. I hoped that it would get me home. It is a seven-year-old Acer with windows 7. I may go dark and need to buy a new one here. If I am offline for awhile, you will know why. I am having trouble posting anything very long because the box won’t let me see the entire text of the message. Only about three lines are visible to me until I post it. Does anyone have any suggestions? Something else that I learned today. The best time to use the net is after midnight in Mumbai. Internet connections are lost due to heavy volume of use during the work day. I have no photos from today, but I have the next two days off from the dentist. My next appointment is Monday at 4 pm, so I’ll go back to Chhatrapati Shivaji and then I’ll see the Museum of Modern Art.
I have this machine set up the way that I want it and connectivity and speed are both increased now. I slept for three hours from 9-12. My circadian rhythm is a mess!
There are “shades of color” discrimination in India. Some Indians are European light, some are African dark and others are every shade between them. The only Indians depicted in their movies or commercials are European light Indians. Because I didn’t feel well today, I spent the day in my room watching movies and when I sleep in a strange place, I always explore escape routes in case of fire. I have a window in the corner of my room that slides open. It is big enough to walk through. There is a large ledge about four feet below it and a fig tree next to it. My plan is to collect my handbag, my money belt and leave by the window.
Then, I wondered how fires can be fought here. I have never seen a fire hydrant or a fire house. Many of the streets are so narrow and the traffic so heavy that a pumper truck would never get here anyway. The street in front of the hotel is blocked at one end due to a storm sewer replacement project and the street in front is narrow with parking on both sides and taxis usually double-parked. There are one set of stairs and two elevators. People on the upper floors could burn to death. The learning curve here is that one should always request a room on the lowest floor and plan an escape. [NOTE: When I looked for hydrants, I did see a few.]