Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ode to Mumbai - reloaded

So I did it. I went to the city that has been lingering through my dreams for years now. And I decided to talk about Mumbai and not about India, because this has been a travel to a a city dear to my heart for now.
I will take things chronologically...I had a superb Lufthansa flight - business class (awesome start for such a trip). We landed (I was accompanied by my best friend who had no interest in India, but she was afraid I could be kidnapped...yes you can lol) and once we stepped inside the terminal the craziness began:
-gazillions of eyes staring at us (hence I covered quickly with a shawl my daring cleavage)
-white teeth smiles and even gentle caresses when handed or taken from my fingers various official papers; :D And it wasn't as bad as it might sound
-when finally took the luggage, I went outside and tri-gazillions of eyes staring... oh boy...here we were, looking for my friends who were supposed to pick me... Weirdly enough I did not panic, but I inspired the heat and the smells...and only then I used the phone...
-hugs, kisses, emotions, recognition, locked eyes, smiles, laughter, tiredness and here we were in the car going to the hotel. And ladies and gentlemen drivers from Europe... Sorry but you are just users of some devices called cars. This is not driving what you are doing. Mumbai driving is The ULTIMATE driving...rules respected when absolutely necessary, rough streets, a continuous ti, ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti,ti from thousands of cars, an uninterrupted flow in which vehicles (of all sorts) and pedestrians are passing by each other within less than half of centimeter, without stops and without accidents.
-I stayed in 2 hotels (Sahara Star and Novotel-Juhu Beach) and I am not going to make any travel reviews, but I want to send a big thank you to the cleaning teams and to their "Is everything ok, Ma'am?". I felt so pampered. :) Also a special mention to the pool and restaurant team in Novotel - you guys were so human and endearing.
-I didn't take pictures...I know...what a crime... I didn't go to the most famous landmarks...again what a crime. Instead I felt the streets, with good and bad things, I exchanged money in a bank - awesome experience that took 6 hours :D :D :D, I went to the big malls to see the new middle class on the rise, I went on Diwali and saw Ra One premiere in an Indian cinema (what else could I have asked more), I went to a spa where I let myself wrapped in saffron and massaged so badly that bruises in certain places could have given wrong ideas to anybody, I went to Mannat - SRK's house, I drank a splendid devil coffee specialty in a CCD coffee-shop, I went to Linking Road and saw my friend bargaining with the most stubborn sellers (successfully), I crossed Bandra Sea-Link 4 times, I went to Gateway of India and bought small shiny, very shiny, too shiny trifles, I bought a green salwar kameez and apparently I looked good in it, I ate in a restaurant (questionable for any European taste) the best pav bhaji in the world with my hand (and no, I didn't die and I wasn't sick as many expected and wished. :P), and I would do it again any second, I saw some slums, I saw people sleeping under bridges, I saw mountains of garbage, I saw the new constructions, but also the neighborhoods with old colonial architecture, I went on Marine Drive and visited the Aquarium, and I saw elegant cricketers in the field. I was fortunate enough to be able to see from my hotel a full day of Chhath Puja festivity, right there on the beach. Hypnotic incantations, divine music, lights, firecrackers, dances, clapping and thousands of people purifying themselves in the sea. Now I know where Andheri, Santa Cruz, Bandra, Navi Mumbai is. And I also had a first hand experience of Mumbai police in action, when my friend's car was picked up and we had to go and recover it. :D

All of these must be seen, felt, heard and smelled. Photographs cannot depict the spirit of 24 million people living in a city that almost cannot grow anymore. Photographs speak zilch about the highest level of tolerance in the world to my knowledge.

I dreamed of Mumbai and I was right to love Mumbai even before I saw it. Because above all, Mumbai meant for me the people I met and the love that I felt exuding everywhere. Thank you Jay, Natty, Sunil, Shakti, Tush, Vishal and everybody else who came to see me even for a couple of hours, thank you to all the people who called me just to hear my voice, thank you "bosses" from the rickshaws who always told us that "haivei" (aka high-way) was straight ahead, no matter where we were... :D Thank you Arjun for deciding to stay among us, even if this time we could not see each other. Thank you beautiful and patient ladies from the banks and receptions, thank you shoe sellers for helping me put the boots on as if I was a queen, thank you to all security guys and gals at malls, hotels and public institutions who checked everybody for bombs (never felt so safe in my life), thank you Mumbai for giving me such a warm welcome.

I will come back to see you and this time to criticize you as well, as you deserve the best. :)
Love, M.

PS. And no, I didn't see any cows in the streets. (this is for all those with stupid prejudices)
PPS. Did I mention we had 11 days with 36 degrees? Eat this dying of cold Europeans.

27 comments:

Rahul Srinivas said...

Next time you are here, I wont let you go without meeting me. X-( Also, plan a trip to Kerala. :D (Backyard!)

Noufel said...

Thats such a nice post..you sound like a child in an amusement park! :D

Thais said...

This is so PAKKA! :D That backyard is stuck in my mind and I usually (as I have already proved) grab the things that stay stuck with me, sooner or later. :)

Thais said...

@noufel... So I was... a spoiled brat loved by everybody. :D

Calena said...

Awesome to read, you made Mumbai come to live for me. And you also cleared up for me that I can never go to Mumbai - 11 days of 36 degrees in November, I would die of heat (I'm not dying of cold rightr now, I'm enjoying the reasonable temperatures :D). Thus looking forward to the account(s) of your next trip(s).

Punkster said...

=D
I actually could picture everything you mentioned.
Next time you're coming here to the north too.

PS- Did you try breaking into Mannat? =P

Thais said...

@Calena woman... everything is air-conditioned and evenings are brilliant from the temperature point of view. The 36 degrees there... are a complete different story. Its not a sweaty situation believe it or not. Simply your bones are warmed beautifully. :P

Thais said...

@Punky my dear North is in the cards as well... but that will be a long trip and properly arranged well in advance. :) I did try to have a sneak peak inside Mannat. :P

Shakti_Shetty said...

Moniiiiiiiiiiiii, you do sound like a kid in an amusement park! :D ... but it's oh-so-worth-the-experience. :)

Glad it meant so much to you... hope the city cleans itself up (at least a bit) the next time you are around.

Hugs.

Thais said...

@Shakti next time it will be better... i will be more prepared...and not so into awestruck, crazy, stressed state I was in. :) And we know both what I am talking about. :D

H Natarajan said...

"All of these must be seen, felt, heard and smelled. Photographs cannot depict the spirit of 24 million people living in a city that almost cannot grow anymore." That's a purrrfect summation. India has to be EXPERIENCED.

But such is the cultural diversity of this huge country that you would need to stay for several months to get the feel of the real India. Trust me, a man from the extreme North will find things very alien in down South and so would a guy from West travelling to North-East.

The next time you are here - and I hope Yiota joins you - you must plan your trip well so that you can optimise your travel.

Cheers

Natty

Thais said...

@Natty Definitely agree with you. :) Just hoped I could show a bit of my love for the city. :)

Yiota Luyu Ladybird said...

Next time i will be with you, girl :) And that will be a whole new experience within the Mumbai experience lol :) You are making me soooo jealous, but also so very proud of you for making this dream come true. :) ☾˙❀‿❀˙☽

Thais said...

@yiota my dear friend, me and you there...omg..this would be really like the craziest thing we could ever do together. hugs. one day...for sure. :)

Adee said...

OMG!
u skipped Dilli???????????

Thais said...

@Adee As you can see time was short and I barely touched Mumbai... Dilli will be in the cards too in the future. :)

Adee said...

that initial shock apart, i loved the post. u seemed to have 'lived' every moment of your travel to the maximum city. and i'm so glad for you, hope to have you visiting Delhi soon :)

Calena said...

Ha!If 36 didn't feel hot, why is everything air-conditoned, then! :P lol
We'll see, never say never, and my curiousity may just get the better of me, but till then I'll enjoy your travel reports :)

Nivedita Gandhi said...

Bombay! (I like the name Bombay better than Mumbai :D)
You cannot help falling in love with this city. I make it a point to visit Bombay whenever I'm in India. The peace that you experience while gazing at the boundless sea (Marine Drive) after a long noisy day (ti-ti-ti-ti :P) is unmatchable. There is never nothing happening in Bombay - you glance at the faces of the child beggars at the traffic junctions, at the focussed and dreamy eyes of thousands of young boys and girls who visit the city each day to realise their Bolly dreams, at the wrinkled yet wise foreheads of the dhobis at the Dhobhi ghat - and you hear whispery tales of so many untold stories.
India, and particularly Mumbai is a must visit place for anyone interested in exploring the idea of 'peace within chaos.' :)

Thais said...

@Nivedita Whoaaa... among the few who speak so beautifully about Bombay. :) Actually exactly this is the real spirit of the city. :) Thank you for reading and dropping by. :)

Vivek said...

This is the best account of the city I have ever read. It has made me forget the traffic, the crowded trains, even the obnoxious house rent and I am ready to live in this city for a long long time.

Thais said...

@Vivek Awwww...thank you Vivek. Much humbled and crazily happy. Next time beer? :)

Vivek said...

Pakka beer.

aida said...

India isn't far away.. not too far away... ;-)

Thais said...

@Aida No, its not. Actually 8.30 h of flight away. :)

Summer said...

You know what? You sound exactly like me. Yess. These are exactly the kind of things I imagine myself doing whenever I visit a new city. I'm least interested in visiting the 'tourist destinations'. Give me a camera and leave me with the locals to explore the streets, that's what I love.
I can't imagine NOT taking pictures though. :)
Anyway, I am really glad you liked the city. I have been to Mumbai only once and it indeed is a worth visit city.
But next time you are in india, a trip up North is a must.

Thais said...

@Tanya I did take some pics. :P Posted some of them as well. Have also lots of small movies. :) The idea is that I actually didnt feel like taking pics. It would have meant a waste of time from focusing on my friends, and the heat, and the smells, and the food, and the air... :) And yes, I know North is a must. Also lots of friends there as well. :)