I’m at the airport with boarding passes in hand and my bag checked through to Mumbai where it is 11:00 pm. My route is Charleston to Charlotte to London to Mumbai, India. I arrive there about 2:45 EST tomorrow or 12:15 am on Saturday, Mumbai Time.
I almost forgot the story about my trip over.
My American Eagle flight was 20 minutes late leaving Yeager (Charleston, WV), and I didn’t have much time to spare in Charlotte (NC). I wasn’t worried about missing my flight but I did have some concern about my check on bag being transferred.
The excitement happened when we landed in Charlotte. I had a window seat just a little behind the wing. As we were landing, the pilot dipped the wing to my side of the plane and it nearly hit the ground on the side of the runway. He was off course and not leveled, so he powered up and we had to go around again. That was another 20 minutes. None of the other passengers seemed to notice anything but the delay. The pilot told us something about the vector being wrong. The truth is that he almost killed us all. If that wing had tipped further we would have cartwheeled.
I don’t like American Airlines flights. Their food is bad even for airline food. I had an aisle seat but it was cramped.
We had nearly three hours between arrival at Heathrow (London) and departure and the time was needed. British Airways has its own terminal. We had to take a bus to it, and we had to go through security again. I descended the only four story escalator that I have ever seen to the transit level of the main terminal. The transit system feeds the four sub terminals. I think that I must have walked three miles at Heathrow.
I bought exit seats for the BA flight to Mumbai and the return. The added leg room is worth $63 for a ten-hour flight. We flew a very odd route which was almost entirely over land, including Iran and Afghanistan. When I came here in May, I flew Jet Airways, an airline owned by a partnership of governments including India, the UAE, Oman and Bahrain, from Amsterdam to Mumbai. We flew a route that took us through part of the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea.
It was a more direct route and shorter. I was concerned about flying over Turkey and Iraq. I think that the Brits were very concerned about it and avoided the area. British Airways is better than American Airlines, in my opinion.
I arrived safely in Mumbai. It is nearly 3:00 am. Immigration is an ordeal even with an e-verified visa issued by the Indian Embassy. This room is larger than the one that I had in May at the other hotel, but it is shabby and not as clean. The mattress is very firm. If I don’t like it here, I can move but there will be a penalty of one night.
I managed two hours sleep from 3:30 to 5:30 and three hours on the nine hour flight from London. That is all the sleep I’ve had since Wednesday night. I hear the cry of the house crows announcing daybreak. I need a shower. I was too exhausted to manage that a few hours ago.
The gulf between the poor and the wealthy is stark here. India has a middle class but the poor far outnumber them. I met two women on the street today. Each had babes in arms obviously failing to thrive. I spoke to one of them this evening. Her baby girl is a year old, but more the size of a three-month-old. She hasn’t crawled yet. She didn’t want money. She asked only that I buy her powdered formula made from camel milk [Note: I learned later that it is all right to milk Indian cows since they must be milked anyway. Camel’s milk is more nutritious with a higher fat content], so I took it that she is Hindu. This is another example of one of the things wrong about religion. I doubt if the creator cares if the milk from his cows also nourishes human offspring. I bought her the formula. It cost about 525 INR ($7.50). A child will live a few more days. I am angry, though. I see many people who have so much more than they can spend in a thousand lifetimes, and I see millions who are starving. Because of the influence of wealth on decision-making at the national level, governments refuse to act for the benefit of all of the people. Poor babies are people, too.
I will take no photos of the hellish slums here. To do so feels wrong to me. They cover many square miles and “shelter” hundreds of thousands of desperately poor men, women and children. These “shelters” are no more that 16′ square in size. They are nearly always made of corrugated sheet metal on a bamboo or scrap wood frame. Often, blue sheet plastic fabric cover them. One can see them on Google earth.
They appear to be disorganized patches of earth in Mumbai. The structures are so small and so tightly abutted against one another that they don’t seem to be structures at all from space. That is the type of country that Trump, Ryan and others envision for America, a country where unions will cease to exist and wages are frozen forever so that workers can be exploited as they are in India. Here, it is cheaper to use dozens of laborers to open a utility easement in a street by hand and to move the earth from one place to another on the top of their heads than it is to use an excavator with a single operator. The rich would point out that these workers would have no work otherwise if not working for a few rupees a day.
I went to the dentist today. I hired a driver for the day. He picked me up at 10:45 am and dropped me back at 4:00 pm. I paid his asking price of 1,800 INR plus a tip of 200 INR, about $30. He likely doesn’t respect me because I didn’t try to exploit him by bargaining down his asking price. The dollar is worth about 68 INR, but no one will buy dollars for more than 65 INR. I sold $200 for 13,000 INR today. Anyway, Singh was a good driver. Negotiating highways in Mumbai is not for the faint of heart. I am without teeth for awhile. My dentures will no longer fit because my dentist opened up my gums and installed the male ends into the existing female ends of the implants. He also made impressions. My mouth was very sore most of the afternoon. The pain is much less now. I bought half a kilo of fresh dates and a bunch of ripe bananas on the street for 80 INR, about $1.25. Fresh fruit is always plentiful and inexpensive here. I had a banana and a virgin pina colada for dinner. Tomorrow is Sunday but I won’t do much. Many of the hotels in this area have bay views and roof top restaurants with magnificent views. It was hazy this evening, so I didn’t take photos of the harbor. My hotel is only four floors. It has a roof top terrace but no bay views.
There was a murder of house crows numbering many dozen on the terrace earlier. One of the employees was feeding them. I heard something tapping at my window a little while ago. It was a smaller finch-like bird about the size of a blue bird at home, but this one was bright green with red and blue markings on its head. Very pretty. I was eye to eye with it at less than six inches with only the window glass separating us. The fig trees are blooming and fruiting. The trees here have white blooms and set a dozen fruit at blossom head. Other trees are also fruiting but I don’t recognize some of them.
This photo clearly depicts a swastika inside a compass rose. I thought it odd to find swastika in Mumbai, but then I remembered that it is an ancient symbol still considered as sacred by Janism, Hinduism and Buddhism, but in this case, it is likely symbol of free masonry because of the rose background. It was the swastika that caught my eye.
[We are delighted to have this exclusive series from Ms Gina Stanley. Gina is an attorney from Huntington, WV. She is widely-traveled, exceptionally observant, and carefully describes so much that traditional travelogue writers miss. We asked her to edit her work because we were afraid we would leave out something of special interest. We think the series may run as many as four or five articles. Don’t miss this enchanting look at a part of the world many of us will never see.]