Sunday, March 15, 2009

Mumbai Madness: Holy Holi and Hindi Horror

(Click photos to enlarge)

A 16 hour bus ride brought me from Hampi to Mumbai, where I rendezvoused with Julia. I had the sleeper seat in the very back of the bus which meant that when the bus hit a bump (often), my head hit the roof if I was sitting, or my entire body lifted off the bed if I was lying down. Still, the bus trip was alright as a few foreigners, Indians and I played cards into the night.

Mumbai is a pretty decent city. Immediately, I was struck by how much more modern and lively it is than Delhi. Maybe that's because it's on the coast, or because Bollywood is based there. Everywhere you look there are buildings with balconies that, though I've never been there, remind me of the French Quarter in New Orleans.


University of Mumbai

On our first day, we took a wander around Colaba, the tourist neighborhood of the city. Colaba is also where the Taj Palace Hotel that was the main focus of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks is located. We took a walk past the old building that was bombed and is now completely closed for repairs and walked through two sets of metal detectors into the new tower that seemed unharmed. The Taj, I believe, is a Mumbai institution, and had the look of a five star hotel anywhere in the world.

Day two was March 11, and the start of the Hindu festival of Holi. We didn't really know where to go to participate in the paint based food fight that the Indians call "Playing Holi," so we hopped on a random bus. Turns out we got lucky and ended up in one of the most active places in Mumbai for the holiday.

A nice family invited us to play in front of their home, and so it began:

In the beginning

The source of my green hair

After playing

Hours later, thoroughly covered in paint, we returned to the hotel find that it's not easy to get that stuff out. Four days and five showers later, I still have green and red on my skin, and a little green in my hair. Julia's hair looks like peacock feathers with the green, and she is asked dozens of times a day if she enjoyed playing Holi.

One shower later

We figured we had to see a Hindi movie while we were in the Bollywood capital, so we saw 13/B, a horror movie. Going to an Indian movie is a surreal experience. First, you pick your seats from a seating chart at the box office. The previews are each preceeded by a few seconds of a scanned, handwritten document approving them to be shown. Then, suddenly, all the metal chair backs slam as the audience arises at once for the Indian national anthem! I joked that maybe they would have songs and dancing in the horror movie. It turned out there was. And an intermission. Fun fun.

One sunset we wandered over to Chowpatty beach where locals come to put there children on thoroughly dangerous looking, human powered carnival rides, swimming in the toxic seawater and eat tasty snacks. We sat for a while, fought off hawkers, and tasted Bhel Puri, a tasty dish of puffed rice, fried biscuits, tomato, onion, lime and a whole bunch of other things.

Eating Bhel Puri

Street art near beach

We spent a little while one night in Leopold's, the bar and restaurant made famous by Shantaram, which nearly every backpacker here is reading. Leopold's is about as boring as it gets, with overpriced food and drinks, and a fully tourist crowd, except that it still has bullet holes in the walls from the Mumbai attacks. Seeing how plain Leopold's is slowed me down even more in the interminably long middle section of Shantaram.

We're now in Udaipur, but more on that later.

A man makes Pan

Train in Mumbai CST: Lonely Planet says 2.5 million people go through here every day

Food bazaar

The bazaar is a perfect place for a nap

Outside of bazaar



Unknown said...

Where to begin? First, it's just great to see another posting. After a few days off I start to pine for them. Second, your pix are always wonderful, but it's really fun to see you in more of them. You look so happy, healthy, and handsome (see, I like alliteration, too). The colorful Holi pix are so fun, and seeing you and Julia snacking, drinking, touring gives a real feel for what you're doing. Also love the street art and bazaar pix.

For folks who might be reading my comment, some advice for more fun if you haven't gotten to it: (1) don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge; (2) go to the map at the top of the blog and click on satellite (upper right), then use cursor to enlarge (zoom in symbols are on left screen) where Zach is at any time to see city streets and buildings.

Anonymous said...

Agree- great to to read about how you're doing! And I'm so glad you got to participate in Holi- that holiday seems PERFECT for you.

Anonymous said...

Dookie: I know where to begin: "I'm jealous! Can I come join you?" Honestly. its a thrill to read and see your Indian your alliteration, refs to N'awlins, psychedelic Tuolomne reminiscent white clothing and tie-dye like colors, good looking beer (and company), and the wild eyed looks on the kids goin Holi on ya. I still can't imagine a cooler way to to be going....keep us posted.

p.s. Got us covered for the Allmans at the Fox!

Unknown said...

Wow Zach, this is way cool! Ur looking so incredibly grown up and so healthy and alot like ur daddy :-) Wonderful to read ur adventures. Ur making memories u'll have for a life time. All the best for the remainder of ur trip. Travel SAFE and be back to ur mama and dad soon.

Linda Flory

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