(We returned from our trip to India in early March but only now – 6 months later – am I catching up with our blog…)
We arrived back in Mumbai late in the evening, only slightly delayed on the train. Once again we stayed at Travellers Inn in the Fort but were also going to spend a few nights with our friend Arti, once we’d finished shopping and sorting luggage.
Although neither of us are fashionistas it’s hard to resist the bright colours and quality of clothing found in India. Both of us found a few more items of clothing to stuff into our already overstuffed bags.
And, as this window display shows, it’s not just clothing that’s colourful.
And even more spices. Then Sue and Arti spotted wood blocks for printing at the street stand we’d visited on our previous trip.
Really though we didn’t need two more days of shopping. We needed more luggage. So off we went to Crawford Market where a young man at a spice shop guided us not only to more spices but to a luggage shop.
At the luggage shop we bargained hard. So hard we kept getting referred up the line until the owner himself appeared. He demonstrated the durability of the hardshell cases by standing and bouncing on them. Eventually we settled on one, very large, case. I hoisted it on top of my head and we headed back towards the hotel. Folks were laughing as we passed with the large case on top of my head, Indian style.
Along the way we stopped to admire the work of artists at the Multi-Medium National Art Camp, on the grounds of the Sir J.J. School of Art.
Sometimes though brilliant art pieces were everyday objects seen on the street.
Shopping done, bags loaded to the max we wandered the streets of the Fort and Colaba districts. At times the streets were packed with people and vehicles, at other times almost deserted. But always entertaining.
We said “Good-bye” once again to our hosts at Travellers Inn and loaded everything into a taxi for the ride to Bandra West, where we were staying at Arti’s family home for a few nights. On the way we passed one of the most expensive private residences in the world:
(The photo’s taken out the taxi window as we passed by.) I’d heard about Antilia, the private home of Mukesh Ambani. A mere 40,000 square feet it has 27 floors and 3 helipads! And there it was, just off the main street, in the midst of lots of apartment blocks. But Mumbai’s like that: high-end residences side-by-side with slums, often populated by the workers and servants to the rich.
Then over the Bandra-Worli Sea Link to West Bandra. Traffic was alternating between thick/slow and thin/fast.
Staying in West Bandra was a contrast from the Fort. Streets were, for the most part, tree shaded with lots of older apartment blocks and homes. We took an auto-rickshaw to see the film Gully Boy at a Le Rêve Cinema and afterwards walked back with Arti and her mom to their home, passing through several funky, historic neighbourhoods.
The small streets with their eclectic mix of shops and homes were colourful and busy. The architectural influence of Portuguese colonists was noticeable. But then there were the brightly painted ones…
This former bakery had a 2014 facelift during the ST+ART street art festival. We continued walking west, passing the historic St. Andrews cathedral and to the waterfront. We walked down a narrow alley and saw the sunset as kids played on the rocky beach.
We continued along the waterfront, Arti and her mom greeting some of the passersby, including Imtiaz Qureshi; the first Indian chef to be honoured by the Indian government with a Padmashri award for his contributions to the culinary arts.
The next day, Sunday, we started the day with an Indian classical music concert at the Taj Mahal Tea House, featuring the vocalist Pranab Biswas. We found seats in one of the tea house’s small rooms with about a dozen other music lovers.
After the music we sat back, drank tea and ate pastries. On the way out I bought a variety of teas, adding them to our new suitcase stuffed with spices and teas.
We spent the rest of the day touring around West Bandra. We visited the Mount Mary Church (aka Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount) where we had a view out over the neighbourhood to the Arabian Sea. For lunch at Amrut Sagar Fast Food I devoured one of the fattest dosas I’d seen (after all it would be my last dosa of the trip) and an incredible smoothie-like drink. Later we meandered along the seafront by Bandra Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1640 at Lands End, near where the Sea Link bridge comes ashore. Not much remains of the fort but it was a busy spot, with great views of the water around the entrance of Mahim Bay. The Taj Lands End hotel dominates the landscape but next door the picturesque Bandra Fort Garden, a small rocky space reclaimed in the early 2000s, provides a lush respite. Everywhere people posed for selfies, on the garden paths, along the seawalls and under the one remaining upright edifice of the old fort, an archway.
(not a selfie… I asked someone to take our photo)
Later in the afternoon we were alerted to the approach of the Walk for the Future, a protest march organized by the 2020 Group. About 2000 artists, from all fields, marched from Dadar to Bandra. We arrived just in time to see the end of the march at Carter Road with performances, music, speeches and a multitude of costumes and placards. The impetus for the march was the ongoing divisive politics, religious discrimination and the recent flaring of tension between Pakistan and India, with the shooting down of a jet fighter on the border.
We spent about an hour chatting with participants in the march and heard many wise thoughts on the politics of India and the world in general. It was inspiring to see thousands of like minded people raising awareness of the dangerous divisive traits we’re seeing in the world.
On our last day we were treated to an incredible dinner from Kakori House, owned by Ishtiyaque Qureshi, the eldest son of Imtiaz, the chef we’d met on our seawall walk. The meal was capped by kulfi, an Indian ice cream that is both denser and richer than Western ice cream. A truly memorable meal to end our stay in India.
That evening we taxied to the airport, stood in long lines made even worse by the heightened security and flew to Bangalore. Where we stood in long lines, made even worse by everyone having to completely empty their electronics for inspection. Eventually we boarded for the overnight flight to Hong Kong.