Its midnight Maharajah and I am sitting in the lounge at the New Delhi airport waiting for a flight that is about ten hours away. I have not written for the past few days not because there was nothing to write, on the contrary there has been so much to write that figuring out where to start would be even more difficult than actually putting pen to paper.
I think that I left off in the Pink City which seems like a million years ago. This was a long trip, but no where near long enough at the same time. We spent about eleven days in Rajastan and we only went to four or five cities out of about a dozen. And Rajastan is only one of about twenty states in the Indian pantheon each of which has a unique and flavor and character.
The last few day have been spent in Bombay, the most vibrant city that we visited. The oppressive heat means that the city really lights up after the sun goes down. We dined at the cities premier seafood restaurant Trishna a once in the trip journey into luxury. The mean cost about as much as a night in a hotel but the garlic prawns and de-boned whitefish Hyderabad style were Amazing! Well worth the splurge as our last dinner in India. Ok, enough about that meal, incredible as it was.
I have been sneezing since the moment we stepped off the plane, there is something in the air or perhaps the air itself that is just generating this torrenting tornado of bloodshot eyes and a snotty nose. Lisa is unaffected by this so it must just be me. This place is alive, everywhere you look there is a crowd, this is unlike anything that I have seen or even imagined. The impromptu commuter passages, the sidewalks that become roads and how six cars can fit on a four lane road make me think of an ant colony. When you look at the hustle and bustle it seems disorganized but when you take a step back the elegance really shines through.
I know that the book Shantaram helped me tremendously on this trip, without it my perspective would have been skewed by my own personal biases. Bombay came alive on the pages of the book and visiting Leopolds Bar anchored me in the experience. The heat, the hustle, the crush of people getting onto the train (a whole story here) is spontaneous and passionate. I loved every moment here even with my head feeling like it would pop.
Bombay is pricey, even the street beggars want ten rupees versus the one rupee of the other cities. We were able to find a cheap three star hotel about forty five minutes out of Colaba. I lot further than I would have wanted but at $100 for two nights it was a bargain about half the price of Colaba, and we got to travel by train to everywhere in the city. Lisa is a born navigator, give her the map and with a little patience she’ll get you there even if the names of the streets are written in Sanskrit.
We visited the Gateway to India and its across the street portrait of luxury the Taj Mahal Hotel. After what we have seen these past few weeks, the Gateway was a disappointment, I did not mind the construction that blocked off access to the walkway (India is all about construction) but its just not that amazing. Nice? Yes. Must see OMG this is fantastic? No chance. From there we went to Chowpatty Beach, this place is filled with the most amazing site. Hundreds if not thousands of Indians were sitting on the beach, playing in the sand, in the heat – Fully clothed. I mean jeans and long sleeve shirts kind of clothing, sitting on blankets watching the toxic water come in, flying kits and just smiling at everything and everyone. Cotton candy, toy helicopters, roasted peanuts, purses, mats to sit on and a huge number of Indians providing the much needed head massage. A ten minute massage seems like an eternity on cloud 9, its just that good.
We stayed at the beach until after sunset, the city lights turn on across the bay and the streetlights look like jewels in a diamond necklace. At about eight, it becomes family time. Hundreds of kits in toy, battery operated cars and trikes trundle up the beach. Driving on the sand and dodging the revelers is just a drivers education lesson for the future drivers of Bombay. These guys are crazy.