I figured out the solution for the potential hazard caused by all the coconuts hanging over streets and sidewalks. There are street vendors with piles of coconuts on every corner in Colaba. One can buy a coconut opened with a machete and a straw to drink the juice for 20 rupees. They come from somewhere. In my mind’s eye, I see young men climbing trees at night to harvest them before they are ripe enough to fall into the street.
COCONUT TREES LINE SOME OF THE STREETS
The banks have a plan for India. My earlier assessment of the reasons for demonetization were only partly correct. I have no talent for dishonesty or greed. I learned today that there will be a two and a half percent fee charged by the banks on every transaction, meaning that after 40 transactions of 100 rupees each the bank has earned the entire amount in fees. I just don’t think big enough when it comes to crime. Driving squatters out of their slums is but a cherry on a very rich cake.
Speaking rich cake, my dentists presented one to me before I left. We took photos and exchanged hugs. They will provide transport to the airport so I had to tell day driver to cancel on night driver. I gave him a 2000 rupee note for taking such good care of me.
As I returned from my final visit to the dentist, we stopped for traffic near the hotel. The young woman with the child that I met when I first arrived and provided with formula for her baby was walking by. She recognized me and smiled with a wave. That is the only thank you that is needed. I know that my small gift was appreciated because she remembered me.
The mystery of the red tree nut is solved. I have seen several of the trees in the area. When I arrived the fruits were bright red and sat high in the tree.
CASHEWS IN STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
When they are red, the husks contain the same allergen as poison oak. I noticed during my hike yesterday that many of the trees contain fruit that is black. After it turns black, it splits open revealing the nuts much like the burr on chestnut splits. The nuts are still green because they have not been roasted. They are cashews.
My thoughts about my next to last ride in the traffic of Mumbai is that humans can accomplish things through mutual assistance and cooperation. Drive here requires it. There are too few traffic control devices and too many vehicles moving on sometimes very narrow streets designed for horse drawn vehicles. But, the traffic keeps moving because one driver willingly yields to the needs of another. Indians are very social and cooperative with one another and they live in harmony with their neighbors to reach common goals.
CROWDED STREETS IN MUMBAI
Indian society has had its divisions and there is still much tension with Pakistan. That aside, Indians cooperate and work well together in teams. There is no bullshit rugged individualism here.
It is 7:45 am on Thursday in Mumbai. My bags are packed. My driver will be here at 10:15. The airport is about an hour away. I should be there by 11:30 pm and my plane doesn’t leave until 2:15 am, but I’ll need to swing by British Air, check my bags and pick up my boarding passes, sell my rupees back tot he Bank of India, then go to immigration and report that I am exiting the country and go through security. It is a long walk to the gates. I packed my checked-through bag heavy so that I wouldn’t need to lug it all around with me. I hope I’m not overweight with it. I’ll go to the departure lounge and start a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I found one on the street for 100 rupees. Although that book helped determine the course of my life in so many ways, I haven’t read it in at least forty years. It is the reason that I went to law school. I think that I am a better lawyer than Atticus. I wouldn’t have let Mayella leave the stand until I had broken her!
About that trip home. I left the hotel at 9:30 with a driver who was forty-five minutes early. He spoke no English, but managed to get me to the right terminal at the right point. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport has two enormous terminals, one for domestic and one for international flights. I was delivered to Terminal 2. Some of you may have noticed that my favorite museum has the name Chhatrapati Shivaji in it, as well. Shivaji Bhonsle was a warrior king who lived in the 17th Century. He became known as Chhatrapati Shivaji, Chhatrapati being a title. There was no queue at the British Airways counter and I was able to quickly collect my boarding pass and check my big bag through to Charleston.
The airport was really not crowded when I arrived so I was able to quickly clear immigration. They want to make sure that those who arrive also leave according to the terms of a visa issued to you. The clerk at the hotel notifies immigration when you check out and leave. Visitors are photographed when arriving and leaving. Fingerprints were also collected by immigration enforcement when I arrived although I don’t think that mine are easy to print. My skin has thinned to the point that mine are no longer visible. There were no lines at security either so I quickly entered the departure area, sold my rupees back to the Bank of India for less than I paid. They get you for a total of abut 5% if you buy them and sell them. I made my way to the nearly empty departure lounge for a long wait. I couldn’t log onto CSIA WiFi because I had no Indian phone number so I spent my time watching the other passengers, reading or watching some stupid Bollywood movie on a huge TV, which was directly in front of me. Bollywood movies are the worst, but I find them hilarious when they are meant to be serious dramas. All Indian actors are light-skinned. The “drama” situations were comedic. Dialogue is Hindi but I could understand the plots anyway. The one being shown was their version of General Hospital, but I doubt if the hospital scenes were realistic since admissions and treatments happen in the same room!
The lounge filled up, and we boarded the plane about forty minutes before departure. I found my exit row seat and we departed on time. The plane was a newer version of the Boeing 777. It has nine seats across in groups of three divided by aisles on either side and four sections. I always fly tourist so I always sit in the last section and there were about 180 of us crammed into it. I flew in an Airbus 300 from London to Charlotte. I had an aisle seat but it became uncomfortable after five hours.
SEATING IN A LARGE, MODERN AIRLINER
The A330 has only eight passengers with two on each side of the fuselage and four in the center. I was in the center section. The seats on the 777 are just a bit narrower than the ones on the A330. I fell asleep for awhile when we departed since I hadn’t slept any since Wednesday night. I declined the first meal offered so I was hungry eight hours later when breakfast was served. I could have had an Indian breakfast or an English breakfast. I chose poorly…in heaven, the Italians are the cooks and in hell the English are the cooks! One tray contained two lumps of a thing recognizable as having once been a potato and something stewed that was once a tomato. There were two other lumps that were unrecognizable, although I ate them both. What did Mick Dundee say? “You can survive on it but it tastes like shit.” Two biscuits (crackers to us), cream cheese, some kind of bad pastry and soggy watermelon and cantaloupe along with some plain yogurt which I don’t care for. I prefer my yogurt flavored with fruit in it. I saw “Girl on a Train” during the flight. It is a really good movie and I recommend it to those who have missed it. We arrived at BA Terminal 5 at Heathrow on time after nine hours. It takes an hour longer coming back because of the headwinds.
Everyone who is there to board a connecting flight is herded through security again and directed to the lower level to board a bus for the other terminals. American uses Terminal 3. We were subjected to what I can only describe as interrogation by airline employees before boarding the bus, and it didn’t end with the origin of the trip and the reason for being there. They wanted to know how I made my living, what kind of law I practiced, where my office was, my home address and so forth.
I became irritated by the invasion and told the employee that I had a boarding pass that entitled me to a seat on the airplane and that I had a passport which entitled me to return to the United States and that I was done playing twenty questions. He decided that he had gathered enough “intelligence” for whomever had directed this interrogation, which likely was recorded by Big Brother as I was waved through. I have never been asked these questions by the airline before.
When I arrived in Charlotte, immigration officers there only asked me where I had been and whether I had any prohibited material, things like produce, soil plants, etc., and customs only inquired about items subject to the luxury tax. What the hell!
[Thanks to Gina Stanley for sharing her recent adventure to and from Mumbai, India. It’s probably obvious that Gina went to Mumbai to have extensive dental work. I’ve seen her since she came home, and she looks wonderful! Gina is a practicing attorney in Huntington, WV. She is a gifted writer, sharing interesting details, pungent personal opinion, and an accurate look at a place most of us will never see.]
A MURDER OF HOUSE CROWS
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.
SCULPTURE OF SHIVA ON ELEPHANTA ISLAND
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.]
It is 1:30 pm in Mumbai and the heat of the day was arrived. I worked up a bit of a glisten after walking a mile or so. The buildings in this neighborhood are very old, some 150 years from the look of them. They are mostly four story buildings of flats, and I am guessing that they were built to be multi-family structures. One was undergoing an extensive renovation so I could see the bones of the building. They appear to be built of soft brick and parch-coated with a Portland-based cement or stucco. The stucco is easily stained and darkened by the rainy season and pollution. There are also many stone buildings including the Taj.
I was stopped by a couple of men who requested photos of us. For those of you who didn’t read my posts from my first stay here, Indians like to claim friendships with westerners. They will share photos on social media. So, I put my arms around them and acted silly for the camera, all without a tooth in my head and not a bit of makeup on my face.
PANORAMA OF MUMBAI SEAWALL AND BAY
The bay is full of boats today and the walk along the sea wall is full of people.
I bought a coca cola today. I haven’t had one in years because the ones that they sell us at home taste like crap. This one has real sugar and tastes like I remember before high fructose corn syrup.
I found a very nice restaurant in the next block. I might check it out in a bit. I usually eat two meals when I am here, one early and another late afternoon. There are also plenty of shops nearby, including pharmacies. The problem with the area of Fort where I stayed in May was lack of restaurants and shops. It seemed to be a non-retail area.
THE TAJ HOTEL
There is retail space in the Taj at street level like Gucci, Dior, and Tiffany. Plenty of security wearing paramilitary uniforms and arms with heavy automatic weapons with high capacity magazines may be seen in the area.
Winter is a good time to be in Mumbai. The forecast highs have been about 90 degrees and the lows are forecast at 72, but I don’t think that it has been warmer than 85. The humidity is rather low for the tropics and it is the dry season. The weather is perfect.
I have breakfast at the Hotel Godwin which is about thirty feet away. My hotel pays for it. The Godwin also has the rooftop with bay views. I was able to eat soft food this morning which is traditional Indian food with breakfast cereal and milk for Europeans. I have never been a big breakfast cereal fan so I had a boiled egg, stewed veggies in yellow curry with yellow rice and something called chick cutlets which seemed like chopped heavily spiced chicken shaped as flattened meatballs and deep friend. Very tasty. I also had two glasses of very sweet non-acid orange juice and a mashed banana followed by a cup of cooled tea. I’ll walk around some more and rest today. I am still adjusting to the time difference and the trip. I am getting too old for this shit.
I haven’t seen many Europeans here. There was a German couple on the roof last night at Godwin and an older English couple in the restaurant this morning. That has been about it. But I’ve only been here one day.
India is in the midst of its own political crisis. As I understand it, the country suffers from a lack of currency which I don’t follow. Money can’t be exported from India. I need to investigate this more.
I spent four hours today in the dentist chair and ninety minutes traveling to and from the office. I did have a walk this morning. The trees are full of figs, coconuts and other fruit that I can’t identify.
FIG TREE FRUITING
I noticed palms all long the streets full of green coconuts. What happens when they start dropping on cars and pedestrians?
I had breakfast yesterday with a 70ish Australian couple. Given the current news, the conversation turned to “herr drumpf.” I told them that I despise him and it was clear that they do as well. They watched our election closely and are mystified about how Trump was able to gain the support that he had. The answer is not that difficult. He did it by tapping into some of the basest of human instincts: fear, envy, greed, resentment and deeply-held racism harbored by those weak-minded enough to believe his lies.
I hate Microsoft products! I was in the middle of a post when it shut itself down to update. I lost my work. Anyway, I took a long walk after breakfast. It was early when I started so I walked over to Fort and back to Chhaptrapati Shivaji Museum (yes, it has two “hs”).
The museum doesn’t open until 10:15 am. When I returned, there were buses unloading uniformed school children. They looked to be 7 or 8. The girls were all lined up single file in one line and the boys in another, just as God intended. I noticed two little boys holding hands who were standing between the two lines and a few boys lined up with the girls, but were directed to the other line. There should be a law against that sort of gender confusion. I received quite a few stares, as usual. They likely thought I was Gulliver. They all said hello and smiled. As I mentioned earlier, Indians have this thing about familiarity with westerners as elevating status. If they only knew how vile some of us truly are! [Note: Remember the book “The Ugly American?” which came out many years ago and described how Americans behave, particularly overseas.]
I paid the 500 INR to enter the museum (Indians pay much less, but it is their country). There is a charge of another 100 INR to take photos. I had no extra batteries with me and they expired soon after I got there. I spent more time in the areas that I sped through the last time I was there. I took a break around noon and went to the outdoor garden café where I had a cup of coffee instead of tea because they only had Chai. I also bought a small box of crackers (cookies) which I shared with the house crows. I got one to come really close to get his crumb.
The unusual thing that I noticed is that the Indians who were also using the area didn’t dispose of their refuse. I see people throw things on the ground all the time here. There are no refuse receptacles on the street. I see men with stiff brooms sweeping debris into piles along the street each morning. Other men with pushcarts come and gather the piles into bins and haul it away. It seems that no one does anything for herself lest she deprive a man of the opportunity to work. If people picked up after themselves there would be no need for so many menial jobs. I have a comp breakfast at the Godwin Hotel each morning. It is a buffet, but there must be six men working the room for tips.
I encountered the usual hustlers this morning. One wanted to take me on a tour of the city, including the slums. I told him that I had no interest in doing that and I could get to Elephanta Island and the Museum of Modern Art on my own. A Krishna “holy man” placed the usual flower in my hand and wrapped a few pieces of colored yarn around my wrist.
KARISHNA HOLY MAN
I thanked him very politely and walked away. One wanted to show me his shop so that he could make me a tailor made suit out of French material. Do they still make textiles in France?
I had chicken masala and white rice with ginger tea in a small café close to the hotel, the kind that isn’t marked on Google maps. It is closed a night by pulling down a heavy metal garage door. It was very clean and furnished with well-worn 1940s vintage leather booths. My best guess is that it is owned by the Arab, possibly North African, French-speaking man who was in front behind the counter. I saw him counting a lot more money than a place like that should earn so he must have a sideline. The steady stream of men dropping off money was also a clue. All of the male patrons wore topis and beards. The women wore burqas, so I’m guessing that they were all Muslim. The food was nicely spiced and flavorful and it was more than I could eat. Best of all, there was no air conditioning so I didn’t freeze. And, the food was very reasonably priced, about $3. It is a place to try again.
It is a very pleasant evening in Mumbai. The temperature is perfect and there is a gentle breeze blowing from the north across Colaba. I sat on the terrace for awhile when I returned to my hotel at 8:00 pm. A man named Ram came by with business cards. He does therapeutic acupressure massage. I made an appointment for 6:00 tomorrow night. He only charges 35 INR (about $5.25) for half an hour. If he is good, I’ll give him 500 INR. He works in a hospital during the day.
[This is second in the series by Ms Gina Stanley, written while she was on a recent trip to Mumbai, India. We appreciate so much the exclusive right to publish her exotic adventure. Gina lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she practices law.]
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.
MY LODGING IN MUMBAI
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.
A MUMBAI SLUM
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.
AN INDIAN HOUSE CROW
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.
SWASTIKA IN DIRECTIONAL, ARCHITECTURAL ROSE
[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.]