Day 131: The Madness of Bombay
Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
144Trip End Nov 19, 2011
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Where I stayed
We were deposited near the Gateway of India, an area called Colaba, teeming with tourists and touts vying for your rupees. Bombay was once a city of 7 islands which have now been filled in to create one land mass. It is still surrounded by the ocean but it lacks the beauty of a city by the beach…sadly there is no beach, only rocks littered with trash and the water isn't unlike your local sewage treatment facility resplendent with interesting smells and colors. The tropical heat of Bombay is like the jungle heat of the Amazon, minus the enormous spiders, poisonous plants, and the lack of people. Oh, and there is that sticky ocean breeze
We spent the afternoon walking around the city and enjoying the sights – Taj Mahal Hotel, Victoria Station, University of Mumbai, City Cathedral, and the Modern Art Museum. After having lunch and exhausting our legs, we found a cute little bookstore café to rest our dogs and peruse the book options. No surprise, I found myself in the travel section already dreaming and scheming for the next adventure! The day quickly got away from us and we realized it was time to head back to the suburbs, as we had a long journey ahead of us.
Rashi suggested we take the local train back to the burbs as it is an experience not to be missed in India. To put it in perspective, I read somewhere that each train has approximately 700 seats and during rush hour every day, 7000 people manage to cram their way on. We had direct orders to get on quickly, carve out a seat for ourselves, and watch the chaos ensue. Sure enough, as we approached each railway stop, men were sprinting alongside the train, trying to hop on for better positioning before it fully stopped. Hundreds of people were cramming into every crevasse they could find and with so many people getting on and so few getting off; we wondered how we were going to manage once we reached our destination.
That time did finally come and we decided it was best to start making our way to the door a full stop ahead as people were elbowing each other just to hang halfway off the train, vying for as much fresh air as possible. Little by little, we poked, prodded, pushed our way towards the doors as one man, watching us struggle, told us it is the Indian way; you must be aggressive or you will never get where you need to go. Then, as the train slowed, and the men outside started rushing towards it, I yelled, "GET OUT OF THE WAY! WE NEED OFF THIS TRAIN NOW!" and the sea of people parted for just enough time to jump off.
With a sigh of relief, we survived our first local train ride and still had all of our belongings and our limbs were attached. But we were only half way there…we still had to flag down a rickshaw who would hopefully understand where we needed to go. And after many confused looks over our directions, attempts to charge 5x the going rate, or flat out refusals to stop for us, we realized the easier part of this journey was already over.
Ten rickshaw drivers later, one finally accepted to take us for a reasonable price and acted like he knew where we were going
Well, that was not the end of it. Our driver started following us, heckling us, and blocking all other auto drivers who were willing to give us a ride. At this point, I felt like we were in a losing battle; it was dark, we were tired and it wasn’t worth the hassle of not paying the guy if we weren’t going to get anywhere in the end. John, on the other hand, was not feeling the same way and it all started spiraling downhill from this point on. The quick and dirty: More arguing between John and driver, another pedestrian trying to understand, pedestrian takes driver’s side, more arguing, more rickshaw drivers joining in, large circle of angry rickshaw drivers closing in on John, spit hurling, me yelling from the outskirts, “just pay him the two dollars!”, cash finally handed over, angry mob retreats, we are alone again…with no ride.
At eleven p.m., five hours after we started our journey from the city to their home, we knock on the door of Rashi and Anoop’s, looking haggard and defeated. “Where have you guys been? We were getting worried about you.” Oh…where do we start? A shower and a few stiff drinks later, we were feeling better. Good night, Bombay, good night.