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.