A Day in Bombay

The atypical day started with a focus on getting my on-the-move USB modem recharged, and to find a better value on accommodation.  The store wasn’t slated to open until 9am so I stretched, did push-ups and organized my meager amount of belongings as best as I could.

 

 At around 9:30am I found the telecom shop that hadn’t yet opened.  I thought: I’m back in India.  Why did I expect them to open on time?  Take it in stride and head back later.

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 I picked up a bunch of bananas to eat as a makeshift breakfast that I had while trying to talk to the fruit seller.

From there I drifted for a minute or two before being stopped by what appeared to be a religious zealot.  He blessed me, placed a bindi on my forehead, wrapped my wrist with a colorful band, and gave me a yellow flower.

I still had about nine bananas left.  The original plan was to hand them out to homeless families that I’d come across.  Instead I handed them over to the man, who looked at me incredulously.  Apparently I should have been ready to fork over a small fortune in exchange for being forced into taking part in a religious ritual.

I walked away and thought: Sorry, I know that we all need the elusive dough, but I’m not falling for his pseudo-sacred sham.

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 I noticed a road to my right. It looked to end at the seaside.  Soon I was on the quieter sea view road and approached by a tall, dark and chubby south Indian man.  He explained that he was a driver and offered different tour packages of Mumbai.  I told him that I had other priorities that needed to take shape that morning, yet I was still genuinely interested.  He didn’t hassle me.

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From there I discovered the Gateway of India and started snapping photos. That’s when I thought:  I’ll have the man take me on his tour while stopping at a few potential hotels.

I returned to him and we commenced. We ended up going to smoky places of his choosing.  He came in and told them what I wanted, in Hindi.  After this happened twice, I got tired of the ordeal and thought: Bad idea, this method defeats the whole purpose. I’ll never get a better deal this way:

Let’s stop with the accommodation checking now!  I’ll stay where I am for tonight and get out of Bombay tomorrow.”

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 We drove up Ridge Road to Malabar Hill and had views of the bay.  Like the cab ride to Colaba, movement seemed unsustainable.  It felt stagnant. But, we always made it.

The driver, Solomon, was relaxed. He’d grown to know the city and its ever-evolving traffic level.  He made calm comments about rich people and their cars:

Why can’t they pool the kids together in a bus?  They use up so much space on the roads with their big cars.”

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 The first stop was a Jain Temple.   He explained that in the Jain religion all living things are sacred.  Jain people won’t even harm an insect.  Also, Jainism is the oldest religion on earth.

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 Next we were off to the Hanging Gardens.  I envisioned plants somehow suspended in the air.  After we got there I thought: This doesn’t compare to Boquete’s Tranquil Panamanian Garden because this one sits at sea-level.

Solomon explained that it’s called the Hanging Gardens because young girls often hanged themselves there because their family couldn’t provide a dowry for their future groom’s family.  He shook his head in amusement.  I shook mine back and went along with his story.  I found out later of my guide’s game when I read the following in the Times of India:

 It’s called Hanging Gardens as it is a terrace garden located on a hill slope.

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The Boot House in Kamala Nehru Park, on Malabar Hill, Bombay.

We walked across the street to Kamla Nehru Park, home to a little house that resembles a boot.  Because I’d never seen anything like it, I was impressed.  Solomon explained that there was a Dutch lady who lived there and took care of three orphans.

There’s a sign that prohibits anyone not younger than 12 to enter.

Kamla Nehru Park also provided us with a view of Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive along with the bay.

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Our next stop would be the Gandhi Museum.  Solomon left me on my own with one sentence of instruction:

Make sure you see the display on the third floor.”

I took his advice.  The third floor had intricately sculptured displays of epic moments from Gandhi’s life.  For fifteen minutes I had the floor to myself and learned ten times more than I’d ever known about Gandhi.  I learned that Gandhi was a lawyer who did hard jail time in both South Africa and India.  Gandhi also protested via a hunger strike, leading to better treatment of the untouchables.

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After that the south Indian man took me to see the architecture of Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus formerly Victoria Terminus.  This UNESCO World Heritage site was built in 1887 to celebrate England’s Queen Victoria’s 50 year accession, i.e. 50 years before she’d become the Queen.

Today it’s colloquially known as VT or CSTM.  The Victorian Gothic Revival architecture is stunning.

CSTM or VT is now the city’s main station for trains in and out of Mumbai.  It’s also a hub for Mumbai’s subway system.

Solomon explained that I should go into the second building, upstairs, and find booth number 52, as that’s the one for foreigners.

The original plan was not to get a ticket out of Bombay so soon, but at $35 to $40 a night, my budget was being stretched.  I thought: There are plenty of cheaper places to be had outside of Bombay.

Before going in, it dawned on me that I’d need my passport to purchase a ticket.

Let’s drive.  I’ll come back later.”

Library at the Gandhi Museum, Bombay

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 We drove along Marine drive.  We parked next to a military base and walked  into the largest laundry services business in Bombay, maybe in India, maybe the world.   Solomon explained that the workers were migrants from poorer parts of India.  Some were Nepalese.

They had wash basin stations and did everything by hand.  There were clothes hanging everywhere.  Solomon explained that when he worked at the opulent Taj Hotel that his work clothes were serviced by this business.  All the big hotels in the city used it .   There were score of good-sized wash basin.  The toiling people were friendly,  smiling and saying hi when we walked by.

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 Solomon wanted to take me to more hotels.  I had him drop me at mine.  We spent about three and a half hours driving and stopping.

I paid Solomon 1100 Rupees or $22.38.  I wholeheartedly recommend him as a guide.  He’s honest, tries his best and speaks and understands English well. Just don’t give him the idea of finding you a hotel, unless you don’t mind your rate increasing so that he gets a cut.  Everyone has to make a living right?

Solomon can be found hanging out right up the street from the Gateway of India very close to the Taj Hotel.  Or, give him a call: 9819495377.  He’ll be more than happy to pick you up and take you wherever you want to go.

Unfortunately Solomon won’t be able to see that his phone number and photo is online, as, like my friend El Chamaco, he’s never touched a computer.

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Wiped from the heat of the day even though the car was air-conditioned, I cranked up the room’s A/C, and created a short but necessary siesta.

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Feeling rejuvenated, I ventured out and got my Internet working.  I then returned to the station and easily found booth number 52.  Solomon’s advice was spot on.  I had a train ticket to the state of Goa for 6:55am the next morning.

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From the station I walked to Leopold’s on the Causeway.  The restaurant/drinking establishment was made famous by Roberts’ Shantaram.  The food was delicious and moderately priced.  I spoke to a couple of other patrons who agreed with my sentiments, especially the former.

Two people I talked to found it expensive: OK, it was pricey by Indian standards.  Along with a veg entrée, I had garlic nan and a bottle of mineral water.  The bill came to 375 Rupees or $7.63.

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In Leopolds, my external mouse wouldn’t function. My eating partner noticed that the cord was cut just before it meets the USB connector.  The mouse was trash.

On the walk back to my hotel I found an electronics store.  There I purchased a brand new Elan Enter mouse for 150 Rupees or $3.05.  Walking back to my overpriced hotel, I thought:  Lucky I’m in a city compared to the country.  I was dreading having to use my laptop’s touch pad.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I really enjoyed this post, having visited many of the places you mentioned. Especially the funny boot! I jokingly gestured for an Indian man to climb to the top, as he was watching us take photos of some kids, and he did it! Thanks for helping me reminisce!

    Reply

    • SARAH: A Thousand Thanks. The boot was sure interesting.

      I rushed out of Bombay because of what I thought to be overpriced hotel rooms. I was spoiled by the amazing value I was getting in Thailand/Cambodia. In India it varies so much by place, and huge cities tend to be pricier. At least I got to see a little bit of Bombay.

      Reply

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