Wednesday, May 21, 2008
What can you say about Bombay
We are here. It still feels surreal. We are on a round the world trip and at our first destination. Air India was a very hospitable airline. Not knowing what to expect, Indian people are similar to the Chinese in their hospitality and for airline food, it was good, and they kept coming back to see if we wanted seconds or third servings of everything, not in the US for sure.
We were nervous when we exited the airport because we had not found our driver. Concerns were still heavy after we met Jagdeet Saini and we had to walk thorugh the dirt to get to our car, it was a Mercedes though. We had to drive 20 miles to the hotel that took an hour and a half. India is has a virbrant night life because living quarters are so small for so many, everyone goes out and wanders the markets, hence the traffic and travel time.
The hotel is totally pimped out. We are in a 104 year old establishment in the rock star suite that EVERYONE, royalty, presidents, sheiks, celebrities and Bollywood actors all have stayed in. There is a royal swing in our accommodations in a turret with hand cut masonry. Unbelievable. We have also been inundated by the Austrailian Cricketeers and their adoring fans staying here.
We are a bit disappointed in the cuisine so far, at least I am because I thought it would suck and I could drop 5-10lbs here. We have had continental fare at the café and last night we dined and a private club with international flair cuisine (Jackets required, ahem). Our first course was a camembert soufflé that was the most savory, fluffy melt in our mouth soufflé with these mini onion asparagus croissants to sop up the last of the camembert residue (it was that good). We shared chateaubriand for two of the finest beef anywhere (Cows are holy here so that is probably where the phase came from, hee hee) with roasted root vegetables and spinach like Joes Stone Crab garlic spinach in Florida. We sat next to the piano player who knocked out every tune Fred requested. It was a perfect ending to a day at the pool, Fred’s first Yoga class by an authentic Yogi Practitioner (yeah for me, cross one “to do” off the list!!!) and indulgent spa treatments ( 2nd “to do” authentic aryurvedic healing treatments to restore balance to the soul) We, well, I have worked out everyday here. I could not believe how heavy the weights are here then I realized that 20 on the weights meant 20 Kilos or 44LBS! I nearly killed myself the first day. Eek! Oh, and the best thing was when the little trainer guy Anthony asked me about Fred because he came in to check on my workout progress and gave me a kiss. When I mentioned that we were just married and on our honeymoon he seriously inquired,” Is that a love marriage?” I asked for clarification because I didn’t understand him between the accent and the plainness of the statement. He then said, “Was it arranged or did you choose marriage out of love?”"Uh, We don’t have those in the US," I replied and just walked off. Double Eek!
Today we ventured out of the seclusion and safety of our palace to see the sites and find some authentic treasures to commemorate our stop along the world tour.
Bombay was returned to the Indian people from British rule in 1948, Jagdeet (JS here forward) shared with us that they are truly missed. A town of 17mm people where it rains four months out of the year, the fabulous British influence and architecture is total crap now. Landlords and building owners do nothing to maintain the quality and integrity of the exteriors. Some let the interiors go as well. Missing windows, rusted wrought iron, chipped paint and missing tiles are the norm, and that is in the good part of town! Our driver offered to show us the poverty areas and Fred and I just looked at each other dumbfounded, we thought we were already there. In order to get to the good shopping areas we had to go through (very fast I might add because JS is a Seek) this total shit area, and wouldn’t you know, it was where the Muslims lived. The ONLY people the Indians hate are the Muslims. Unreal. Kids 4-5 years old running around with no clothes on, chickens inside the shantys with the people, goats tied up on trees along the sidewalks like a city slickers ties up their dog to run in to Starbucks to grab a latte. There are more goats than normal because Ramadan is approaching and they will need them for sacrificing. Don’t pick up the dogs but slit the throat of a goat. There are wild dogs everywhere, just hanging out, screwing on the side of the road in front of shops making more unwanted dogs. The government tried to clean up the dog issue but those lovely PETA folks got involved and guess what, even MORE dogs. It is weird driving through densely populated business and mixed use areas and seeing cows on the side of the road. You can pay a local a couple hundred Rupees to feed his cow some grass and it will bring you luck and prosperity. I won’t give a red cent on this side of town so I am waiting until we go through the Indian part again to feed a good holy cow. Just outside the city limits they have Tigers that kill many Indians each year but they are not allowed to be hunted.(dumb) Our driver found us a hunt to go on for tiger and reindeer (weird combo) but we declined since we would never be able to export the trophy back home. Good gun laws here like Arizona, you can carry a pistol to defend yourself and get a permit that is like a James Bond thing, it is a licence to kill (yes that is how they spell it here)
Driving is peculiar to say the least. It is definitely and every-man-for-himself mentality yet there is never a car accident. Except for one today, a cabbie (all the cabs here are 1969 fiats with at least 300K miles on them or a motor rickshaw) hit a guy and his girlfriend on a moped and the machoness of the guy (who clearly didn’t have his third eye focused on God (red dot on forehead is to remind you that God and humility come first)) hopped off and started to whack the cabbie guy over the head! The ultimate display of American road rage I have ever seen. Ron Kastner would like this, women don’t drive. There was a girl on a moped and JS said they never drive and if they see a woman driving, they usually give her 15 meters (usually the distance between vehicles is only 6-8 inches) because women cry and are unpredictable. Hee hee.
We popped by Ghandis museum and checked out his gig. Very interesting. He had many sayings we have never heard in the US but should. He is on all of the money here and is revered as the Father of India. I did not know this but he was assassinated by his friend who he would not answer where he got the money to give to the Pakistanis’ to create their own sovereign Muslim nation. The Indian equivalent to $100mm US today. I don’t remember that from Ben Kingsley’s version. Nobody seems to work here because all the men are out playing cricket in these huge stadiums and all the women are their hoping to trap their next husband because Indians are the highest paid cricket players in the world.We stopped at a store that was a small door that led up to this expansive 4 story complex just to made custom Sari’s and men’s wedding clothing. We looked for a nice traditional outfit for me but after the 500 yards of fabric that had this intricate wrapping technique reminiscent of Egyptian mummification, we decided that we would select another type of less complicated garment. Fred bought me this incredibly gorgeous royal blue cropped top and full length skirt encrusted with gold beading, blue and white rhinestones that really defies description. It is being custom tailored (as it seems, apparently I am some large breasted Amazon giant in the countries we travel that is unlike the local folk) and there was no off the rack size that would fit.
The driver wanted to take us to the laundry. I didn’t really have an interest but my Husband, Mr. Seven sets of washers and dryers was interested and boy, was it an eye opener. Scores of mud-walled vats of soapy water where they hand wash and beat your garments clean then dry them in the breeze. Ironing is done by irons with hot coals in them circa I don’t know when. There was also a man bathing in one of the tubs so I am real glad that I did not hand over my jeans to be laundered before we went. Fred felt like he should send Connor here to see what real work is like so he appreciates America and Fred’s wealth more than he currently does.
We went to another section in the business district to look at local handicrafts. The wood carving is incredible, hand tooling of metal scrolling with very intricate patterns is also impressive. We were looking for an objet d’art to commemorate our trip and found ourselves in these cottage industries stores. When we walked in the owner ran up to Fred and said, ”Are you James bond?” He could swear that Fred was in the movies if not a movie star. Every single soul here has thought that especially in the hotel. We must be in the James Bond suite.We are watching TV and Mc Donald’s does Mc Delivery…ARE YOU KIDDING ME????
Local pop music is so great and the music videos are so colorful with lots of nubile young dancing fools but Fred wants to know, where are all the beautiful Indians like on TV? Needless to say we haven’t seen them. Tonight we will dine at a Lebanese restaurant as I enjoy that type of food from my history of the folks in my church that make it. After we will head to a hooka bar and smoke it up!!! When in Rome…Fred says do as the Hookas do!