Bombay: PATT for my Birthday
Trip Start Sep 24, 2008
77Trip End Jul 21, 2009
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Where I stayed
Pranita's place in Bandra
October 29-Nov 1, 2008
Welcome to Bombay: THE Modern Asian Megalopolis
I arrived in Bombay the evening of Oct 29 and made my way to my cousin (big sis) Pranita's place in Bandra. Bandra, is a neighborhood that has drastically
changed, much like the East Village and fringes of Brooklyn/Queens, and
now houses many fantastic restaurants, bars and shops. She eventually made it home from work, as a producer at a radio station, and we stayed up late into the night catching up over Kingfisher's and the wonderful Punjabi cuisine from downstairs at Pancho's. I can still taste the juicy Reshmi kabab now.
I've been to Bombay once before, to visit and celebrate Shashank's 24th birthday and New Year's and to visit my cousins Sweta and Pranita (with a cameo from their mom) back in 2004/2005
The traffic is suffocating and being an extremely north-south city, there are few main arteries that all the traffic uses. There is a good local train system, very much Indian and nothing modern about it, but it allows one to quickly move through the town without having to take a rikshaw or a taxi.
The southern, oldest and British planned, part of the city, with the highest real estate values in all of India does not allow rikshaws and makes you feel like you are in a very modern, but colonial part of the city. However, traversing from the airport anywhere takes you through Dharavi, the largest slum in all of Asia. While there is tons of destitute poverty and filth on the streets, the residents of Dharavi are not in such dire conditions. Many of them have TVs, power, microwaves and satellite dishes, though they live in shantytowns. Dharavi is extremely self-sufficient, sits on an incredibly valuable piece of real estate, and its residents are proud and defiant of receiving or giving anything to the municipal or state government
Chilling on the Eve of my Birthday, "JK"
I slept like a baby most of the 30th, did some blogging, cruised more around Bandra and then made my way just north to Juhu beach for sunset. As I said earlier, beaches in India in the cities are like a carnival scene - it's a cool and free place to bring the families. Juhu was no different with thousands of people there - kids playing futbol and cricket, families eating/splashing around the water and chai and food wallahs everywhere. Juhu Beach is an extremely long sandbar into the Arabian Sea, making for massive movements in the tide and an extremely long and muddy sand bar. It was a fantastic sunset that showed the vibrancy of a city rather than the usual serenity of a quiet sunset on the beach.
Earlier in the day was monumental domination for India in the test with Australia. Laxman and Gambhir each had double centuries as India looked good going forward (we all know it now ended in a draw after pathetic Indian bowling and a fast pitch). I SMSed cricket updates to Prani at work, and as a joke, led one with: "In some trouble. Police have my passport. Jk." In the US, that means just kidding; in India, that means Jammu & Kashmir
That night, Pranita got home from work and we enjoyed some fine boutros, another gluttonous session from Pancho's and drinks and alas at the stroke of midnight (officially my bday), she surprised me with a lovely little birthday cake. It was an incredibly thoughtful gesture and with Prani I totally feel like I'm at home. This slightly made up for the fact that for the first time in a long time, I'm not with my sis or parents for my bday. Over the course of my few days with Prani, we had many almost philosophical discussions on work/life balance, keeping things in perspective and never letting anybody or anything shatter the core or center of one's self.
Oct 31 - Birthday in Bombay
Pranita took off from work the day of my birthday, to spend time with me and get away from the stresses and politics of the work environment, and we both sadly made our way to the salon. I did say no to the facial! However, I got my second flat razor shave - this time to trim and clean up the beard, a haircut and a scalp massage that turned into a torso up massage. What a country!
After getting all primped up, relaxed and dressed for the night, the bum that is me headed out with a fantastic looking Pranita for a big friday night in Bombay
Prani and I got ourselves into a nice buzz waiting for the rest of the crew to show up and then the party began at about 11p when my friend Nicky and her crew all arrived and the deep house DJ got the party started. With the birthday cake the club brought out, the mad vodka shots, the great music/dancing and the great company, it was another fantastic birthday celebration that saw me sweaty, tired and sufficiently embibed by the time I collapsed back at home. If only Nanavati had been there in his hometown to down some Old Monk with me.
However, on my ride home, as I was thinking about the 16,000INR tab and the hole that puts in my budget, I was struck by how ridiculous and excessive my night was as I was passing by tons of people living on the streets. There is homelessness everywhere, but in the US, it is not to the level that it is in India. The disparity between have and have-not is most striking in Bombay, because those with affluence live a life that is very similar to that of a fortunate person living in a cosmopolitan city in the West. In that sense, Bombay is relatively much more expensive than the rest of India as compared with NYC or London to the rest of the US and UK, respectively.
Hangover Day and Harbor Cruise
Nov 1 saw a very hungover Hari cursing the butterfingers of the Indian catchers and the dominance and depth of the Australian batsmen, as Aussie did the improbable and finished 577/all out, basically ensuring a draw on the fifth day of the test (Nov 2, when I would attend the match)
After blogging and recovering from the night before, I made my way down to the Gateway of India (while a beautiful monument, just like the Victoria Memorial Building in Kolkata, it represents everything I loathe - the welcoming of King George in 1911 to his colony of India) to tool around the harbor and take a sunset cruise out in Bombay Harbor. It was in a tiny, wooden dingy, but cost 40INR (<USD1) and provided amazing views of the entire southern part of Bombay - from Malabar Hill, all across Marine Drive, the Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India. The sun set perfectly behind the SW buildings of the city and it was an excellent way to wind up my time in Bombay.
Originally supposed to leave for Delhi that afternoon, I changed my flight to the morning, only to not go out because of the effects of the previous few nights and a poor dining decision. I met Prani's friend Saif, a wonderful Mumbaiker who has done all sorts of creative things and now mainly directs commercial films/visual effects/VJing. He was a phenomenal spirit telling us about a stellar documentary on a fishing village in Bombay, joining me in a tirade against the insane politics of Raj Thackaray's MNS/anti-migration BS and very supportive of my journey. He had spent six months in Billysburg in Brooklyn, so we also enjoyed nostalgic memories of the World's city. I hope to stay in touch with Saif and see him somewhere down the line. Though not a devout Muslim, he attended Haj this year with his mother and spoke glowingly of the power of the prayer chants at the giant mosque in Medina. Having heard the wonders of prayer call in Istanbul, I can only imagine what Medina must sound like.
I had a 4 spot on my alarm clock on Nov 2 as I caught an uber early morning flight to Delhi, so I could enjoy a day of international cricket before pushing off to Hong Kong less than 24 hours later.