Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kalbadevi - an old trading neighborhood

I moved to a hotel yesterday here in the Kalbadevi district of Mumbai. It's an interesting district to say the least. It's one of the oldest parts of Mumbai and the architecture sure shows it. Beautiful buildings, lots of crowded narrow streets and clothe shops galore. I didn't take any photos these two days, in this area I didn't feel comfortable roaming the streets with my camera out. But here's what I saw

Men carrying bundles of sari's on their heads and shoulders from the warehouses to stores.
A little naked boy of maybe no more than 3 years old hanging out on a street corner listening intently to two business men having a conversation.
A little girl in rags sleeping on the step of a closed up shop
A man standing on his balcony of a many hundred year old building looking down at the crowds below him.
Hot oil popping as freshly assembled samosas are lowered in for three minutes of cooking.
Men pushing and shoving to get to the counter so they can order their plate of samosas
A plate of two squished samosas with mint chutney and yogurt poured on top
A reflection in the oil splattered mirror of me with a mouthful of food, grinning back at myself
A frosted glass of ice cold Kingfisher beer sitting in front of me as I peer out the small doors of a dingy bar
A sign in the window that says "buy 2 pants get six free", the pants only four dollars each
"Buy 3 shirts get 9 free", the shirts only $3 each.
A laundry bill that exceeds the cost of buying new clothes
A 100 year old house with a well dressed man and his chauffeured car
A family of five sitting in the gutter cooking what little food they have in front of the house
The man selling samosas is intently staring at me as I intently look around at my surroundings.

Kalbadevi is really an interesting place. Yesterday when I arrived I didn't like it in the least bit. I walked and walked and didn't want to be here. Today I walked and decided it really wasn't all that bad. The people are busy moving products from the warehouses. Kalbadevi was the old trading post and today goods are still traded. The only thing here that I really found interesting is the architecture. I wish I had taken some photos, the next time I will.

I've been in Mumbai long enough. Last time I was here was in January, saw all the sights back then so not much more to see this time around. My family gathering is next weekend so I decided to take a break from Mumbai and will be flying to Jodhpur tomorrow, it's the desert state of Rajasthan.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Special Puja

Puja, or Pooja, is a religious Hindu ritual that is performed for special people or special occasions. My cousin Rajiv and his wife Poonam have built a new house and before they can move in it needed to be blessed so a puja was held today inside the house. This is a ceremony that dates back more than 2000 years. One of the small tables was set up for the nine planets, 200o years ago the moon and the sun were considered planets.

A Hindu priest performed the ceremony and Rajiv's entire family was present as was a few relative including me. The puja took 5 hours and afterwards we indulged in a pretty nice feast.  Afterwards I returned to my room (I'm staying at the dorms at the Tata Cancer Research and Treatment Center). Having had too much food at the puja I opted to skip dinner tonight. Here's some photos;

my nephew Naman
My cousin in law Poonam

Rajiv and family

Poonam and Rajiv

Nephew Rohan

My late uncle Jagat, Rajiv's father

My cousin Neena, Rajiv's sister
My aunt on the right (Rajiv's mother)
her sister on the left

The Hindu priest

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Just some various doors that I've seen in the last couple of weeks, mostly in Delhi. Sorry for the small photo size but I have such a slow internet connection right now that this is all I can upload. No story to tell, nothing new these last couple of days.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Trek in Mumbai

Mumbai, the largest city in India, doesn't normally come to mind when one wants to go on a hike. But be surprised, there are beautiful mountains, part of the Western Ghats, that surround Mumbai. Lush green this time of year and even a waterfall or two.

I arrived last night into Mumbai after a two hour flight from Delhi. When I was at the airport in Delhi I was starving and decided to stop at McDonalds near my gate for a bite to eat. The spicy chicken burger is not like the one in the states, it's actually spicy here and will knock your socks off. It was actually quite good and the fries tasted like McDonald's fries. But it wasn't all good after that, my stomach was in pain for the rest of the day and night. Probably all that grease or something, just didn't settle right.

Passing through security was an adventure. I had to have one of my bags hand inspected, the security officer was asking questions about my nebulizer and all my asthma meds. He said I was too young and healthy looking to have all this. So I explained I was just a sick old man and needed my meds. Then he picked up one bottle and asked me about the natural remedy for asthma that I bought in India. He asked if it worked, I said it did, better than anything else in the bag. He put his hand out and demanded I give him some. I said no and as soon as it looked like he was going to take the whole bottle I changed my tune and have him two capsules. Only in India.

On the two hour flight with Jet Airways a hot lunch was actually served. Choice was a vegetarian dish or non-veg. I had the non-veg which consisted of dal (lentils), rice and chicken tikka with some flat bread. It was actually quite good. After lunch service was done and the trays picked up the flight attendants came through and gave everyone a nice chocolate and vanilla ice cream bar, finished off with a choice of coffee or tea. All in a two hour flight. Impressive.

After landing in Mumbai I got a pre-paid taxi and went to Navi Mumbai, the new part of Mumbai I think. It took over an hour to get there and once there I met my nephew Rohan. My cousin Rajiv and his family are building a new house and it's almost done. Next week there is a Hindu ceremony to bless the new house and in two weeks there will be a house warming party. I'm here for both I think. Anyway, Rajiv's current house is packed with people and far away so he put me up in a guest house for a few days. Last night I had the cooks bring me fried rice and chicken masala. Because of my tummy ache I only ate a couple bites of each but I have to say that while I don't particularly like mushrooms the mushroom soup was outstanding.

Today I met three nephews and two nieces and we went on a six hour hike through some of the mountains surrounding this part of Mumbai. Great views, even of the prison. Which to be honest, looked much better than I would have imagine an Indian prison to look like. At least from far away.

Our trek took us up some very steep hill sides that I think only goats previously have traversed. We did see a few goats on a neighboring trail but none on ours. It was a good hike and with the high humidity I perspired so much that when I returned to the guest house the guard thought I went swimming in my clothes.

The rest of the afternoon was spent resting and then I went off to my cousin's house for a good home cooked meal.

Tarang, the budding photographer

Rohan and Naman looking out over the valley

Mansi and Nikita

Naman and his sister Nikita

Six pairs of trekking feet

Nikita saw this small 2 inch caterpillar

Looking out over Navi Mumbai

Pondering the meaning of life

Rohan ready to wrestle but there are no takers

Prison just outside Mumbai

Climbing the steep goat trails