ARRIVING SAFELY IN MUMBAI (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

ARRIVING SAFELY IN MUMBAI (a travel series) by Gina Stanley

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.

BRITISH AIRWAYS

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.]

 

A GUIDE TO THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN THE TRI-STATE AREA by Ernie Tucker

A GUIDE TO THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN THE TRI-STATE AREA by Ernie Tucker

About ten years ago, I became fascinated with stories I had heard about the so-called “Underground Railroad” in northeastern Kentucky and southeastern Ohio, the region where I had come to live and work. Over several years, I developed a guide to what I have come to consider the most important sites in the area. Take this tour and I will guarantee you will be deeply moved by the experience as I was:

A SLAVE CABIN WHERE THE ESCAPE BEGAN

A SLAVE CABIN WHERE THE ESCAPE BEGAN

Your Personal Guide to the Underground Railroad in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia

 

Begin with the Ramsdell House in Ceredo, WV, 1108 B. Street (it contains a small museum, too).

Go to Burlington, Ohio (approximately 10 miles upriver from Ashland/10 miles downstream from Huntington) on Old 52. The old stone jail there will become an underground railroad museum.

OLD STONE JAIL

OLD STONE JAIL

Continue to Ironton, Ohio about 15 miles downriver from Burlington.  The John Campbell House, a large yellow painted brick house on 5th street and Lawrence in downtown Ironton, might be worth seeing. He was a noted abolitionist and a founder of Ironton.

Then on to Portsmouth, Ohio (about 30 miles downriver) on U.S. 52 to the downtown floodwall mural.  The actual house featured there is located across from the floodwall picture.  And, the Ohio Department of Transportation recently dedicated ten markers from the Ohio River in Portsmouth to Lake Erie.  Each marker gives a brief history of the Underground Railroad and each community’s part in it.  The Portsmouth Brewery, located at 224 2nd Street, and the Biggs House may have been a part of the Railroad in Portsmouth.

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE

Then to the AA Highway in Kentucky and on to Maysville.  Turn left at Maysville on Route 68 (a major trail on the Railroad going north) and go one mile to Old Washington on the left.  See the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum located in a house where she stayed for a time, the Marshall Key House, and enjoy this history-saturated little town.

Then north on 68 about two miles to downtown Maysville to the National Underground Railroad Museum on West 4th Street.  Nora and George Marshall, a retired, delightful African-American couple, will show you around.  Call ahead, if possible (606-564-3200).  Pamphlets about slavery and abolition in and around the Maysville area can be had for $.25 each.

Then across the lovely old suspension bridge to Aberdeen, Ohio, and thence about 15 miles downriver to Ripley, an old and quaint river town, perhaps the most important stop on your tour.  Eat lunch at a Main St. or a Front Street (on the Ohio River) restaurant.  See John Parker’s house on the downriver end of N. Front Street.  It also contains a small museum.  (You may be able to see the Rankin House on top of the hill in the background.)

Drive back up to U.S. 52, go west through town until the road curves sharply to the left and take the fork on the right (there will be a sign) and drive up the steep road to the Rankin House on “Freedom Hill.”  Notice the long series of steps out back which led many slaves on the road to freedom.

Leave Ripley and continue downriver on U.S. 52 (a beautiful drive) to downtown Cincinnati and on to The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located between the two stadiums.  Parking is beneath the Center/follow the signs. Parking costs $4. General admission is $12 ($10 seniors 60 and above), and $8 for children 6-12, and well worth it.  The hours are 11 to 5, Tuesday through Saturday.

If you have plenty of time, you may want to go to the John Gee Black Historical Center in Gallipolis, a former church, located at the corner of Second Avenue and Pine Street.  You’ll need to call ahead (740-446-6521).

You might also want to visit Salem, Ohio, a historic Quaker Community active in both the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements.  One hundred and three miles from Ashland, you begin by heading north on Route 93 from Ironton.  A number of buildings in the community have been researched and documented as Underground Railroad sites.  Salem has recently published a self-guided tour brochure of Underground Railroad sites in the town.  After touring the sites, the public is invited to visit the Salem Historical Society Museum and Freedom Hall which has interpretive displays about Salem’s Underground Railroad history.

Also in Ohio, near Wheeling, WV is an Underground Railroad Museum located at 606 High Street, Flushing, OH.  It offers tours by appointment only.  (Call John Mattox 740-968-3517).

In all cases, take some extra money with you so that you will have the pleasure of contributing to the upkeep of these places.  Most are privately operated and need our support.

Be sure to take your family. It will be a trip you will never forget.