Out of Place, Out of Town
Back in Mumbai, Andrew and I continued to celebrate our friends’ wedding over several days. A day after the religious ceremony, we attended a party for out-of-towners and friends at a spectacularly pristine golf club. The facility had a nicely cooled indoor space, but also a lovely sunny outdoor space which was comfortably shaded. Well, for me anyways. Andrew thought he was going to melt.
It was lovely to be able to spend some time catching up with our friend, and spend a little time mingling with the bride and grooms family from out of town. A now brother-in-law of my friend lives in Seattle, so it was lovely to catch up on the going-on’s back home as it has been so long for us! Several cousins of the bride and groom our age were in attendance and it was lovely to learn about where they were from and chat a bit.
Of course, as with this gathering, and with life, one of my favourite parts was the food. So many lovely hors d’oeuvres and a buffet to die for! There were these yummy little puff pastrys, called puri. One kind in particular we tried was called the pani puri. Pani means water, and so you actually dipped the round pastry in a broth, scooped up the sauce and popped it whole into your mouth. It was a veritable flavour explosion in your mouth! The amazing spices of India were simply mesmerising. There were chicken skewers and little samosas, rice dishes and curries and breads. Plus a basket made of a sugar treacle and ice cream which we had to race to eat in the heat with fresh fruit. (Fruit is healthy, right?)
After a relaxing couple of hours chatting, eating and drinking, Andrew and I decided to take a cab we’d rented for the day to check out a local mosque and stop by a photo opportunity on the way home.
The Haji Ali Dargah is a stunning mosque in appearance, but what makes it most unique is that it is only accessible in low tide. The mosque is situated in the Haji Ali bay. There is a walking path to the entrance, but in high tide, the path is completely submerged. Coming from a party, we decided to take a short walk to the entrance, but refrained from entering as we were not dressed most conservatively. The walkway was more interesting to us as it were, with vendors selling souvenirs, many with images of the mosque, scarves, boxes and shoes. There were food vendors selling hot meals, to nuts and sweets. Sadly, there were also heaps of beggars, many disfigured. Having done our homework, we had tried to prepare ourselves to see disfigured beggars, as it is the most horrific practice amongst the poor pimps to purposefully disfigure their poor charges to try and elicit more handouts. Mostly, these beggars do not get to keep the money they earn, but actually give it to a ‘pimp’ in charge of the group. It’s a terrible practice and sheds light on how tourists would do more to support organisations helping to provide education and safe havens for the young and handicap rather than give money to beggars not knowing who that money is really supporting. It still was terrible to see so many beggars missing limbs, hobbling or pulling themselves along the path. Many who were blinded, or visible scarring from acid on their skin. It was another moment to really be thankful for where we were born and the fortune of living in a Western culture.
All of us walking to the mosque felt a bit out of place, as likely our skin colour and our clothing set us apart as obvious foreigners on this path. After approaching the end of the walkway, we gazed back upon the city we left behind temporarily, and the beautiful exterior of the place of worship. I can see how this was a popular mosque for Muslims and tourists alike to visit.
On our way back, I had read there was an overpass where I could get a good view of Dhobi Ghat, a huge open-air laundry space in Mumbai. From this vantage point, you could see line after line of laundry hanging to dry. Unfortunately, our taxi driver decided we would much rather see the laundry from where they wash it. We drove on to the bottom of the area where the laundry was normally washed. My main impression? It stunk. The smell was a mingling of feces and chemicals and rotting food. Even hotels used the services of the Dhobi Ghat, which was a bit disturbing. But it must work for this city. There were many kids and elderly occupying the rooms where the laundry bins were located. I do not know if they worked to clean clothes, or just were hanging out in the area as it was a rather slow day for laundry when we visited.
Particularly, I enjoyed the rides into town and around. The sites are just that bit different, sometimes the same, and oftentimes so very unique. At one point, in the middle of a very busy street, with three lanes of traffic in either direction, there was a huge barrel filled with water. There were these scrawny brown little arms and legs poking out and as we neared, I could see these naked young boys, no more than 8 or 10 bathing in the middle of the intersection, feet from passing traffic.
We frequently passed a huge cricket field, Cross Maiden, where there were no less than a dozen cricket games being played by young and old at any given point in time. There was a beautiful train station we passed, with an old locomotive outside. And a newer train station, where it wasn’t uncommon to see vagrants and business men with white shirts and laptops hopping the fence or running along the tracks to catch a train filled to the brim with passengers. I couldn’t imagine the heat being sandwiched next to so many people as it was oppressively humid during the day.
All in all, every day was an adventure and there was still much more celebrating with friends to do!