Mumbai, India

January 5, 2019

From Porbandar, we sailed north to Mumbai, went through customs where our papers were checked at three different points by dour officials before we were allowed to board coaches en route to the city of some 20 million.

When you travel in groups as we are doing you have to stay with the pack. There’s lots of waiting, and line-ups for everything, including going to the loo.  And since we’re going to so many places in a relatively short period of time, each excursion gets you a mere bird’s eye view, only enough to discover if you like the place enough to want to go back some day.

I took to Mumbai right away. Maybe I saw something familiar in the architecture left by the English, and in the wide avenues and high-rises similar to downtown Toronto’s business district.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel opened in Mumbai in 1903. Legend its suggests its builder, Jamsetji Tata, built it after being refused entry to the grand whites-only Watson Hotel. The Taj was one of a dozen sites attacked by terrorists in 2008. The attacks lasted four days took the lives of 174 and  wounded 300 more.
A commercial laundry in Mumbai

We arrived on a Saturday, which meant traffic wasn’t as bad as it might have been on a work day. But it was still pretty bad.  Our coach honked its horn regularly (adding to the cacophony of the city) to get tiny tuk-tuks to move over a few inches so we could get past  them, after which then the bus zoomed ahead, so close to other vehicles it made me catch my breath.

We studied the city through the windows of our bus, our assigned local guide providing  running commentary on what we looked at plus Mumbai’s history, architecture and a whole lot more. Sometimes too much more.  More than once he pointed out the state of the art cricket field used by the national team, and more than once and mentioned that India had won against Australia. (Don’t ask me when. I know less than nothing about cricket.)

The tour took about two hours.  We got off the bus a couple of times but only for photo opportunities, although we got a whole twenty minutes to shop at a government supported department-store-type place at a brisk pace.  In India and many other places it takes more than twenty minutes just to agree on a price once you’ve picked what you want to buy.

On the way to the airport we saw some of the less glittery side of Mumbai seen from our bus

At midday, we were taken to a very good restaurant in the Worli district. We had a whole hour to enjoy a marvelous buffet serving curries, dahls, breads, and other Indian specialties.  I finished the terrific with a delicious cup of coffee.  (I don’t care for the coffee on the ship and had been longing for a great cup of coffee.)

A Mumbai woman huddles under a blanket in the pouring rain

At 1 p.m. we hopped back on the bus for the hour-long drive to the airport en route to Delhi.  After more scrutinizing of documents, carry-on bags and purses our flight took off at 4:15 and landed in Delhi at 6:30 p.m. where yet another coach waited to take us to our hotel, the LaLit for a two-night stay.

If I’d thought Saturday traffic in Mumbai had been pretty bad in Delhi I learned what bad really means.

(It’s three days after this stop in Mumbai as I write this.  I’m sitting in the ship’s Charleston lounge having a cappuccino around midday.  A young man plays smooth jazz at the piano in the background as the Indian Ocean glitters and ripples and winks on either side of the ship.  A fellow passenger stops by and we chat briefly before she goes on her way.   How easily I could get used to this life, to having all my meals prepared for me, served to me, my bed made and my room cleaned and whose job it is  attending to my every request.  The best part is I have almost three more months to go before it ends.)


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