Saturday, 4 February 2012

Saturday night in Mumbai

I had a good day today in Mumbai, in spite of lingering cramps and the fact that climbing a few stairs seemed like a marathon (ie. I'm a little weak). I began the day with breakfast on the roof-terrace overlooking the typically grimy yet grand neighbouring buildings (sooty? or mould-stained from rainy season? not sure). I shared a table with three sisters about my age from Mauritius, an island off the south coast of Africa (in case you didn't know; I didn't!). They were very nice and had come to India just to "do Mumbai" but they weren't all that impressed. Instead, they sung the praises of Mauritius, which does sound beautiful (and I just googled it).

After breakfast I got a carefully handwritten itinerary from two receptionists at the front desk of Kemp's Corner Hotel. (By the way, I did change rooms last night and though this one smells strongly of fresh paint, it's better than mothballs and the room in general is far cleaner and nicer, if not quite deluxe. I was getting dressed to go out when I was overcome with fatigue and instead ordered room service and watched Sex and the City II on HBO. I then slept like the dead.) They called me a taxi and I went to Banganga Tank, an out-of-the-way sacred spot, like a man-made pond sort of, where pilgrims come to bathe and splash a bit of holy water over their heads. It was very peaceful and I may go back tomorrow. I went to several Mumbai tourist spots, including the Gateway of India built over several years beginning in 1911 for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. But the highlight of my day was a student art show in a square near Mumbai University.

Here's a sample:
Cutting chai glasses pyramid with the artists

This one (above) is called "Cutting." It's a pyramid of chai glasses, or actually it's more like a teepee. Two of the six artists who built it were nearby with a box of fresh glasses to replace any broken ones. They told me they'd been up all night putting it together and were very tired.
Bisleri water bottle maze

This one, the Bisleri water bottle maze, really spoke to me. It was just what it sounds like, a maze made entirely of empties of water bottles, to draw attention to the problem of recycling (as the notes said.) But ironically, though garbage is a huge issue in India, apparently the recycling rate for water bottles is something close to 90% in India. I learned this fact from an Australian environmental lawyer on my Delhi tour. Still, bottled water is both a curse and a blessing in a place like India. I believe in the west, in Canada anyway, it's just a curse and our recycling problem too is monumental. But here, access to clean drinking water is a challenge. For ten or twenty rupees, about 25-40 cents, you can get a 1-litre bottle of water. It's sold everywhere. It's not just westerners who get sick from drinking tap water. Indians do, too, especially when they travel to an area of India away from home. Cleaning up the water supply, making it safe to drink, along with cleaning up the extremely polluted rivers and waterways, that would be the real answer.

This one, Crows, was really cool. It reminded me of the work of the talented, late John Henry Fineday, who also loved crows. Crows love Mumbai. And they were pecking at my window every morning at about 7 a.m. at the Sangam House retreat. According to the artist's (Sumeet Snajay Patil) notes, in Hindu belief crows are synonymous with salvation (mukti). The crow is the one who gives mukti to the dead. So each of the crows in the installation represents problems in the city, symbolizing the desire for mukti from these problems. Here are a couple of close-ups. One shows a crow at a water tap, so more about the water problem.

After my day of sightseeing I went back to my hotel and with the cooling fan and clean white sheets, it did feel pretty deluxe. I went out again later, walking around my hotel. The big deal for me is the traffic. Okay, that and my horrible sense of direction which is compounded by the fact that a map is almost useless as it's nearly impossible to find out the street names. But the traffic. Holy kamikaze. It seems like walking signals, when they exist at all, are meaningless, or at least so many vehicles run the red light that the green time to cross is reduced to a fraction. Then add traffic that drives on the left, (except when some impatient driver decides to take a shortcut), meaning you have to remember to look the correct way before crossing. Funny how instinctive that is. I can't unlearn 40-odd years of training in a month. So what I do is tuck in beside a group of others who are crossing the street (I did it in London too). Then I dash, try to catch the eyes of the driver (instruction from a Bangalore friend) and hold up a hand if necessary. Way to get the adrenalin pumping. But I did manage to get to my destination, Crossword Bookstore. Hard to keep my purchases within reason. There are so many books here that we can't easily get in Canada (I know because I've tried). Tomorrow's my last day in India.

1 comment:

  1. Looks amazing! Of course as a bird lover, I especially love the crows. I hope you had a good last day. Safe travels home!