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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]