Friday, July 18, 2014

Mumbai monsoon and more to come


I have so much to update you on, most importantly regarding my trip last weekend to Mumbai. In less than half an hour I leave for another weekend trip, this time to Varanasi. Time is passing so fast!!! 

I had an incredible time in Mumbai. Even though I had less than 48 hours in the city my trip was not wasted, as I was hosted by the most amazing family and learned so much about Mumbai's culture, history, cuisine, religion, and reality. 

This is the image I feel a lot of people have of Mumbai after movies like Slumdog Millionaire and books like "Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity" by Katherine Boo. I was surprised to find out there are actually tours of the slums. I don't know how I feel about poverty tourism (check out this great piece on the morality of travel) but there is so much more to the city that it has right to be famous for. 

For example, the food was actually really good! I especially liked something called pani puri and I enjoyed trying Indian-style fish, since we never eat fish in Lucknow. 

My hosts had me try six different kinds of bread while I was there. As a bread lover, I was ecstatic. One of the breads, romali roti, was so thin it was see-through!

The moment I arrived in Mumbai the monsoon started. I had never seen it rain so hard. There would be breaks in between though, so all sightseeing relied on luck of timing.

I was excited to see quite a lot of Muslim presence in Mumbai, as it allowed me to practice my Urdu. Here is a well-known mosque located in the middle of the sea, connected to land by a small road with water on either side, full of people.

A favorite during the rainy season is sweet corn. They usually have it with salt and lemon.

I love all the banyan trees around India. This one was decorated, which I thought was really cool! I really liked learning more about Hinduism while I was in Mumbai, as I live with a Muslim family in Lucknow. My host family in Mumbai told me about Ganyapati, the god special to Maharashtra that is submerged in water every year as a special holiday. As someone interested in researching about the cultural value of water, I would love to return to see this festival!

One of Mumbai's most famous sites is the Gateway of India. A cool vantage point of this site is from the rooftop of the Strand Hotel, where there is a relaxed bar.

Across from the Gateway of India is the Taj Mahal hotel, a classic hotel with a tragic recent history since that is where bombs were set off in 2008 and killed countless of innocent people. It's a beautiful building though, facing the ocean. There is also a statue of a man who used to rule Maharashtra.

It was also interesting to see the British influence in the city, both in some of the buses and some of the architecture. This picture was taken across from Leopold Cafe, a popular hangout for foreigners that was also bombed in 2008.

Across from Leopold's I stopped to buy some shoes, as my plastic flip flops were no match for the rainy streets of Mumbai. For less than 3 dollars I got a gorgeous pair of white and gold sandals that had fantastic grip fitting for the rainy season. I love shoe shopping in Mumbai!

Below is a photo of Powai Lake, just outside of Mumbai. This was taken right before the rain started again. Two minutes later the buildings in the background were obscured by sheets of rain!

 I will post some more photos later, but now I need to get ready to leave for Varanasi, the holiest city for Hindus. I watched the beautiful and sad Deepa Mehta movie Water and read Rabindranath Tagore's short story about the ghats in order to prepare. Can't wait to tell you about it!

Khuda hafiz!

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