India 2016, Ep. 4: “Modern Mumbai”

Day 8:

Today I woke in Delhi, had dosa for breakfast and my cousin took me to the airport.
I observed some impressive highways along the way (having seen roads in Uttar Pradesh gives me a disproportionate appreciation for decent infrastructure).

My airport experience was non-remarkable if not average, and I arrived in Mumbai easily enough. My Mumbai cousin’s (names redacted) choice of IndiGo as an airlines worked well, and I was happily greeted by him at the airport upon arrival into the damp air.

It was easy to feel a distinguished vibe from previously visited cities thanks to tropical flora, no haze/visible pollution, and a blanket of humidity. We drove home, had a good lunch of dal and palaak paneer, got acquainted with the young boys (cousin’s sons), then was went on a drive through a storied southern Mumbai. This included colonial Era European style buildings and even the infamous Antilia.
I was treated to a delightful first dinner of tapas/chai/deserts at the 5-star Taj Palace Hotel that was overlooking the coastal waters and Gateway to India.

We then took a scenic coastal route back, stopping along the way to peek at the coast and confirm that it was still humid (/joke). I found the landscape of coastal Mumbai to be reminiscent of coastal San Diego, including a notable modern over-water bridge.

The remainder of the night was a combination of conversation, hanging out with the boys, and some Corvae work.

I’m quite delighted by Mumbai–ignorant of the cost of living in these nice areas I wouldn’t mind living in–something I haven’t claimed before in other cities.

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Day 9:

My first full day in Mumbai was very enjoyable. Woke easily and we all went to a breakfast place called Indigo for some solid eggs benedict and chai :).
Big cousin and I checked out the ISKCON – Mumbai temple (interesting note: they had valet parking).
Soon after a delicious home prepared lunch, I was dropped at the local train station, bought a first class ticket (for Rs. 70) to the southernmost station in the peninsula, Churchgate, quickly figuring out what platform to take, enjoyed the open-windowed ride, and started to explore/wander South Mumbai.

I came across the ‘Oval Maiden’ which is a big open space where a 48-village cricket tournament for huge trophies (and bragging rights) was taking place.
There were dozens of impromptu pickup games going on as well just meters away from each other–there were hundreds of boys of all ages playing.

I watched and observed my surroundings, made my way to parts of adjacent MU (Mumbai University), passed the National Bank building and Eros Theater, helped push to the side of the road a car of a girl and her mom who’s car was smoking, then walked to the west coast where we drove along the day before.

The heat and humidity thoroughly soaked my linen shirt, and even sitting on the breezy coast walkway for a good while didn’t permit any drying.

I walked back east, admired older women setting up bouquets to sell at intersections (even bought a flower for fun and out of appreciation for their extended efforts), and crossed paths with a brit who I asked what he was up to.

He was here on a work conference in diamond trade (later found out he works for De Beers) and he didn’t know any sights, so I led him to the cricket games and University I previously visited–learning along the way that his father was born in India after his grandfather was stationed here in World War 2.

After chatting I took a well appreciated air conditioned Uber to the Gateway to India – Mumbai. Ahmed, my driver, knew no English and set the GPS navigation to the wrong location but we got there with not much fuss. The Gateway (just across the street from yesterday’s visited Taj Mahal Palace) was nice, but very crowded, so I just took some pictures outside the pedestrian fenced area.

I waited a while for an Uber to take me back to the train station, had a no-English ride (again), bought a return train ticket, rode through the now-dark night in a largely vacant first class section (adjacent to a tightly-packed second class), and got home to freshen up, shower and change.

Delhi-cousin (name redacted) arrived for work travel, we had a great home-style dinner, and then the three of us joined with a colleague/friend of Delhi-cousin’s to go out for the night. Enjoyed time at ‘Khar Social’ (which had mostly my age group of an audience) then ‘Elbo Room’–which was having “Bollywood Night” of storied music videos and singing.

Early morning we returned home, and the us three cousins hung out and chatted before heading to bed.

It was a good, free-flowing day.

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Day 10:

I happily woke to my young nephews playing and wondering when I would get up and join them. We had a light breakfast of toast, jam, an omelet, and chai.

I spent the morning getting work done for Corvae and tending to emails on some delightfully fast (for India) WiFi.

Late afternoon we had lunch, and went out grocery shopping to both an upscale store that had everything an American would want, then a more typical and cramped Indian store that had squeezed Walmart into the space of an American gas station.

After returning and completing some more work on my laptop, I accompanied the nephews to a privately-maintained just inside the ocean coast. I was only allowed in because I was accompanying the young boys. We played some football, then I left on my own to explore the rocky coast.

The coast had tide pools, shellfish, barnacles that sounded like sand flowing when I passed and they shrunk into their shells, and plenty of people.
It was fun to just enjoy the coast and watch the waves.

I walked along the shore and spotted a coffee shop. I got a small cookie for Rs. 20, then walked away from the shore uphill to get to Mount Mary Church.
I walked back downhill to watch the sun set over the water, then made my way to Bandra Fort at the southern tip of this small peninsula.
After enjoying the scenery (can see the Sea Link bridge) and people watching, I took an auto rickshaw back home.
A delightful Manchurian home cooked dinner closed the day.

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Day 11:

Today was my last day in Mumbai, so I wanted to finish seeing the major sights. My cousin happily joined me, and we set out to see Haji Ali.
We drove close, hopped out at a stop light, walked through a underpass crammed with little shops, and pushed through touchy vendors offering their fairs along a concrete pier of sorts that was a few meters wide.
Water was splashing on the path, as we walked surrounded by the sea on both sides. Soon enough, a wave rolled over and wet my socks a tad. Before I could get upset, a larger wave washed over my feet–soaking my shoes and socks through. Upon completion of saying “oh sh*t!” a wave happily washed completely over me, leaving no spot dry.
The murky water brought cool refuge in the hot, humid day and we couldn’t then back now (little did either of us know the water managed to penetrate both of our phones).
Haji Ali was an okay sight, mostly worth the story of getting there.
We took off our shoes with a man who would guard them for a few rupees, looked around, then had to hurry to return as they sounded sirens and a loud-speaker announcement that the gates are soon closing as high tide comes in.
We rushed to get our shoes back on, ran the length of the splashing concrete path, and walked to the Mahalaxmi temple soaked in brine.
There was a long line waiting for the gates of the temple idols to open, but a guard led us to the front on account of my flight later that day.
After the idol gates opened, we proceeded through, then walked back to the car–still soaked.
We made our way to the Jain Temple – Mumbai, which only had devout attendants present. We were invited by one to tour the colorful and ornate premises. This was one of the more meticulously decorated temples I’ve visited, and it was well maintained.

Having visited three different religions’ sites, we called it good and made our way to Soam Restaurant for some delicious Gujarati food.

After lunch, I showered off the Indian Ocean, tried to dry out my soiled clothes, packed up, then flew to Hyderabad.

At the Hyderabad airport, I was joyously greeted by one of my uncles and cousin.
We went to a solid Italian restaurant named after the Flying Spaghetti Monster, had a great thin crust pizza, then returned to the airport to pick up my girlfriend who was arriving from Bangalore–the center of her graduate school course on social sustainability.

The return to my mother’s home, where my grandfather, uncle and two cousins live, was a well-awaited family reunion. One can never have too much love in a family.

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