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.]