Saturday Jan 26, 1991 Indian Independence Day
Haji Ali Mosque, and the tomb of a Muslim saint, is located off shore, in the Arabian Sea opposite MahaLaxmi Temple. During high tide the walkway to the mosque is submerged in the sea and it can be visited only during low tide, we were the only westies there, and inappropriately dressed.
Today was Chowpatty Beach; very hot no shade, walked for miles along Arabian Sea Mumbai inner harbour. Stopped at the Aquarium on Marine Drive, most fish rather boring, very plain, no plants with minimal upkeep. We discovered that the red stuff on walls was paan spit, even in the Museum; in the stairwells you can see paaned corners.
Stopped for lunch at some fancy veg restaurant, had an all out meal for 94 rupes, that’s 3US. Continued to Malabar Point, checked out some Hindu temples, then down a three-foot wide street to the papadam squalor. But very proud, friendly people everywhere, people shouting hello to us, we walked to the beach, completely excrement city.
Watched the crows eating turds and the herons basking in the sun amongst the drying laundry set out on the rocks. Children rolling in the mud and water, asking us for pens and candy. Got a temple tour by the town drunk. Saw a band rehearse or a wedding, everywhere weddings. Took a bus for 3 rupes, jumped off and went for a chai and continued looking for our way back to the Y. Was followed by a skinny well dressed man, we let him follow us and inadvertently gave us a tour of the neighbourhood, he continued to follow us for about an hour till we got to Metro Cinema, then we parted, he came up to me and shook my hand, I thought he was going to cry, I felt like he wanted me to go with him. Exchanged blessings then we got in a taxi and back to Madam Cama Road, got a mango shake at the Leopold, home to the Y, made love, slept till six the next morning.
Sunday Jan 27, 1991
Got up at dawn, rattled our tails on the balcony, decided on getting tickets to Cochin, so went to Victoria Terminal and booked leaving the next day on the 28th for 75US for a 36 hour super express air con birth. Got back at the Y, to prepare, rest, write, play then went for lunch at 3, bought a seven-rupee ring, total crap. Did shirt alley on Mahatma Gandhi Marg, then back to the Y for a nap still getting use to the pollution, dust, heat, people. Around 6 PM decide to go for a walk, we found ourselves on this street with two person carriages being pulled by donkeys, before we knew it we had been talked into getting into a cart and the donkey was led away, down the street. We came to the entrance of a large stadium; unexpectedly we had been mistaken for guest at a union of two of the richest diamond merchant families in India, Incredible food and drink, saris of all colours, exceptional women and impeccable men. We looked like Jethro and Eli May by comparison. We were befriended by a Police Sergeant, he took care of us, and explained that two top diamond merchant families children where being wed. A huge jumbo screen showed the bride and groom receiving gifts. On stage with them was a full-scale model of their wedding gift house straight out of the American Monster House Catalogue. With over 1500 guests in this large stadium with full size human relief sculptures around the stadium walls depicting the Mahabharata. We left at 1 PM and where invited to return the next day at 4 o’clock to continue the celebration. On the way home, a truck load of people screaming Long Live Sadam Hussein drove by, as they went by I got a severe pain in my chest over my heart, then I realized that one of them had thrown something at me. The pain knocked me down; it turned out to be a small perfume bottle. It was time to go.
ek, do, tin, char, panch, chha, sat, nau, das. ek sau, do sau, tin sau, and sau on……
Kitna? How much?
Lust night Polux Castor and I, the evening of too much, too much food, too much passion, and too much poetry both awash in goose bumps and shakin, jettison all food the body was on survival mode… sleep and awake. What a night, only plea, the moon made me do it.
Monday Janvari 28, 1991
Chai and toast on the balcony and spent the morning compressing our worldly possessions- still not enough room varoom, left luggage behind at the Y and went out to the Hanging Gardens, never got there. We wandered, managed to find the Towers of Silence, but it’s more a place of energy than a tourist attraction, We were hoping on catching a view of the vultures that come to devour the corpses. We found ourselves at the Jangavan Art Gallery and saw some fab drawings, later we met Ashish Nagpal of Sophias Gallery, he gave us insight into the modern India art scene. Something for us to explore in the coming months.
Walked around and bought a copy of the Cama Sutra, or Coma Sexa, for 26 rupes and a Kraftwerk tape to boot, now we will have a pulse outside of the Massala music.
Had a bhel puri and sweet lassi at our new fave restohaunt. Got back to the Y picked up our luggage, took a cab through Mumbai’s vast vast belly, as we passed all manner of shopping experiences. Made it to the Dadar train stations. As we learned that in south East Asia, many times, if you are going west the train station or bus station will be in the west end of the city, and same for the north and so on. Well let us say that first class is like cattle class in Canada or outclass in Japan. Still good to be out and about, getting pani for the long journey was a riot. Little ole lady, in the pani cage with forty people shakin canteens at her, used the baksheesh to get the edge, 2 rupes and I was out of there. Train ride ride along down the track don’t know if weez coming back.
Tuesday January 29, 1991
Last night cold on the lower bunk, at some point stop somewhere Kaliwar possibly, guy opened the train car window from outside and pinched my toes for some baksheesh. one rupe paid, I realize that I have to have a baksheesh budget and a beggar budget. Had Om-lett for breks this morn and chai, managed to get extra chai for canteen while the man was on errands. Sabubu took a picture of me by the Krishna Nuclear cooling towers, over looking the Krishna River. At one stop a woman selling stuffed squirrels, chipmunks, mongooses and pussycats did a train window presentation for us. I really liked the red squirrel, I thought of buying it for Kim, but had no low denomination rupes so I gave her a gold ring with diamond chip inlays for a squirrel. [Picture] Caused a momentary rupe imbalance, she was transformed into a queen as she slipped it on, and the train pulled away with her offering us more stuffed household pets.
How will I explain the stuffed squirrel at customs at home?
With all the kids I give out pens at first, they look at us and get pissed off. They keep insisting country pen, country pen, hey this pen can write in the country and the city I tell them to go and sell it or write something or do a drawing, do you give them food or pens, food for thought. The country pen, is the one in your pocket that you bought before you left home, the one that cost you ten dollars which is equivalent to 300 rupees in India. I have a pen fetish so that isn’t gonna happen anytime soon, I cant blame them, most ground level stores sell very primitive writing instruments.
The landscape twelve hours from Bollywood is similar to the typical southwest USA, towers of red rock, red dust, dry air yellow dried grass, and lilac in flower in vast bushes. I wonder if the glaciers came this far south at any time from the Himalayas. It would seem so judging by the forlorn boulders in the center of stunted cornfields, no money for fert, crops depend of human fertilizer. That is why the uncooked veggies are not advisable. You only need to see beautiful orange monster sized carrots being rinsed in an irrigation ditch of brown shit water to get the idea. War is the consumption of time and space and power in the soul chain reactor. Sabubu and I roll with the rocking train in bliss away from the squalor of Mumbai, only our love can restore the grace of the unknown and abort the collapse of time. The Gulf War is continuing, if Armageddon is scheduled soon we will probably have to leave India by the end of February, judging by the Iraqi resolve this could go on for sometime.
© napoleon brousseau 1991 India Travel Diary