Mumbai Round 3 - Knockout Punch

February 28, 2008 - Bombay, India


I only had two nights in Mumbai before our flight to Hong Kong and at this point Namita and I still hadn't decided if we were going to change our plans from Australia to somewhere else (Thailand was the lead option). Therefore we were going to have to spend some time together figuring that out so instead of making the trek downtown to Coloba, I decided to stay north, Santa Cruz, which was closer to Namita's parent's place and the airport. I figured I would just take it easy for those couple of days since I wasn't near any of the touristy areas and pretty much stay close to my hotel.

A service at the Mumbai airport helped me book my hotel. I had spent a lot of time on the internet in Goa attempting to find reasonable accommodation but everything was booked or really expensive. It was mid afternoon by the time I checked in. My original plan was to go to Juhu beach to walk around before cleaning up and going out for dinner. However, it was getting a little late so I elected to walk around my immediate area. Just outside my hotel there were a number of side streets lined by local shops. As I wondered around I was on the receiving end of many funny looks but also some sheepish hellos and smiles. It was honestly like they had not seen a white person in a very long time. The streets and alleyways were buzzing. Kids were playing pick-up cricket on the road and in empty lots. The people were very friendly and they wanted me to take their photo. After interaction with a small group they asked me if I wanted chai. Although I appreciated the offer, I turned them down. Chai is found everywhere on the streets of India, typically served in not so clean glasses that are returned to the vendor once the tea is finished.

I explored the area for about an hour and a half. On my stroll back to the hotel a few young guys were sitting drinking chai on the street. They said hello and asked me 'where are you from' (a very common question by someone who wants to sell you something). I stopped to talk to them as it appeared they had nothing to sell. They offered me chai and this time I accepted. They were very genuine as we got to know each other. After the chai one of the guys, Sunni, asked me if I wanted to go to his shop. I said to myself 'ok, now comes the catch'. I followed him to his shop which was only a few 'store fronts' away. On arrival I realised that he wasn't interested in selling me anything because his main business was selling bulk milk in large containers. He gave me a chair and we sat side by side as people walked by. I met both Friends and family of Sunni as they walked by. Some of the younger people would stand in front of us giggling and smiling as they shyly said hello. I felt a bit like a circus act but it was a neat experience.

It was now late afternoon and I was heading back to my room. Sunni asked me to come back at 6:30 to go out for a drink with him and his friend Summit. Armed with an excuse in case I wanted to bail on the situation, I headed back to Sunni's shop. Before reaching there I actually ran into him talking to someone else in the neighbourhood. I was introduced to a few more residents of Santa Cruz as we walked to his shop. I felt somewhat like a celebrity as we worked our way through the busy streets shaking hands with people. As we got to his shop we resumed our position in the plastic chairs that were side by each. Of course, we needed to have chai so Sunni sent one of his young cousins to fetch us some classes. We hung there for awhile, still meeting more people, until his one uncle came by. Of course, he quickly said 'chai?'. The three of us then went to see another of Sunni's uncle which was a half a block away. His office was down a narrow walkway that was immediately beside a small fenced in area that housed milking cows. Above the small, tight office was two floors which made up his bangle (bracelet) factory. I actually think it was really only one floor divided into two. As I was shown around the by one of the employees I had to be hunched over because the ceilings were only about 5 feet high or even less. It kind of reminded me of the 1/2 floor in the movie Being John Malkovich. There were probably ten to fifteen workers on each floor sitting and assembling bracelets.

The four of us sat around a small desk drinking chai and talking. The one uncle didn't speak much English so the conversation switched back and forth from Hindi. We were joined by others in the very tight space as people wanted to see what the big white guy was doing there. After sharing some snacks, a couple sandwiches, a bottle of water and few rounds of chai (they didn't allow me to buy any of it) We left his uncle's place and four of us went out to bar. We ultimately went to three different places and it ended up being a much later night then expected. No excuse needed.

The morning came too quickly but I managed to get up in time to meet with Namita to figure out the rest of our trip. Neither of us were very excited about Australia. After what he had seen and experienced so far on the trip we thought Australia might be a little too 'normal' for what we were looking for. So, we decided to go to Thailand instead. It was Friday, Sunni and Summit wanted me to go out with them thatagain that night but I wasn't up for it so I told them I had plans. They actually really wanted me to go clubbing with them on Saturday afternoon, yes, afternoon, but our flight was later that night and Namita didn't think that was a very good idea. They even told me they would take me to the airport.

I spent my last night in India on my own. It started with a glass of wine at a swanky bar right on Juhu beach looking out at the Arabian Sea. After that I strolled down the main street looking for a good restaurant to enjoy my final Indian meal. To my surprise there really weren't many restaurants but there were a lot of high end hotels. I ended up going to the Marriot to eat. The security at the hotel was way beyond many of the airports I had been in on this trip. Each car that passed through the gates was thoroughly searched by security including the trunks and underneath the hoods. All luggage went through an xray machine before entering the hotel and each person was scanned by a metal detector (this was quite common at malls and other public places). There were a few different restaurants in the Hotel. I had a terrific meal at the Indian one. The pricing was closer to North American than Indian - a beer was 5 times the cost of local restaurants.

Saturday was just spent putting in time before our flight. I decided to heed Namita's advice and skip the clubbing activities with my new Indian friends. Namita's parents took us to the airport - two separate rickshaws as we couldn't secure a cab - to say goodbye before our overnight flight to Hong Kong with a stop in Bangkok.

I was ready to leave India. It beat me up a little bit, I needed a rest.


Santa Cruz
Kids in Santa Cruz
Typical Day in Santa Cruz
Rickshaws of Santa Cruz
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