The first time I went to Mumbai was over 20 years ago as company for a sister who was attending an interview at catering college. We stayed with her friends' family, Kashmiris who were extremely hospitable and welcoming. I remember the sparse cleanliness of their home and the sparse frame of the mother, worn out from a constant rote of household duties in a large family. Even in Broken Hindi, somewhere we were able to connect.
The second time was about 10 years ago with another sister, this time to attend an exam in a hospital. We stayed with another sister's friend's sister. In city style, they had meant to give us only beds but the Indian spirit soon caved in and we were eating a lot of meals with them and they were showing us places .
I suppose we saw the sights of Bombay - but its the memory of our hosts that remains.
Now when I have to go again , this time with my daughter; its still scary. Where will we stay, where will we find accommodation for her, how will we travel?
Foreigners seem to find their way around the country more easily. As I get older, new experiences get more intimidating.
But the great Indian networking system has been ticking. Sister's friends and friend's sisters which is how things work for us- are slowly shedding some light.
Well Im back after a nice slow trip to a fast city.
Bombay is rather like Madras - old worldly and colonial. There are the huge buildings and the little run down repair shops. But not so many hoardings. Driving around is rather pleasant.
Autos and taxis are wonderful. They take you right wherever you want to go. On the meter and its cheap.
But, they are not going to chat with you. In fact, no one is. The anonymity is both wonderfully freeing and depressing.
Every fourth building seems to have a real estate broker.
The electric train is mind boggling. Even first class on Sunday afternoon which Darshini insisted we try for the experience. Second would have been too much of one.
A question to the ladies in there was met with blank stares. Maybe the accent was all wrong. Or just dis involvement.
Traveling by train to Mumbai- its all dry fields and hanging electric wires. A few farmers with ploughs and oxen. Not even tractors. Seen through dirty panes of glass, India is not shining outside its cities.
But every Mumbaite we met swears by their city. They would live no where else.