Back in the Bombay Groove

It’s true that despite how crazy/upsetting Bombay can be, it can also be quite pleasant. The past few days have been hectic, but enjoyable. And even though I have had down days (with respect to poverty, misery, Delhi Belly, etc.), the pendulum is starting to swing the other way.

Before I got here, everyone I had ever met who had been to Bombay had loved it. Okay, all except for one. Then, the first day that I got here, I thought, “where in the hell am I?” But now I’m starting to figure it all out, which is quite a relief.

Like Seth Stevenson from Slate (who I’m sure read some of my blog before posting his Slate story…how could he know about my fave player Harbhajan Singh? Indian cricket is on a break this week…), there are plenty of things I’ve learned to like about Mumbai. Here’s a short list:

Anything and everything can be delivered
What’s the greatest thing about a one-billion strong service-based economy? Everyone aims to please. If you buy a television, you can get it delivered at no charge and they’ll come in and program the channels for you, too. Want lunch or dinner from McDonald’s (or any other restaurant)? No problem. Pharmaceuticals? Fresh seafood? DVDs from the rental store? All of things are delivered at no extra charge. Funny anecdote about the DVD rental place: you call them up, tell them what kind of movie you’re looking for, and they’ll start going through the racks. There were at least 4 guys talking to customers on the phone, “How about ‘so and so’? It was rated best comedy of the year.”

The Bollywood scene is real
I haven’t seen the BIG Bollywood stars yet – actually many of them are in the U.S. right now doing a tour – but I have met tons of producers, directors, actors, and actresses. We were at Olive, a bar in Bandra (the ritzy neighborhood to the north) the other night, when television cameras swarmed in to catch some young socialite. It was quite a scene. Kind of cool. In fact, we were there with an older Bollywood actor who had invited us out. Why he wants to hang out with us is beyond me. I’ve found that Indians, in general, are unbelievably, genuinely hospitable.

MTV Asia
Anyone who really knows me knows that I have a soft spot for super cheezy international pop music. Well, there’s plenty of that here in Bombay, what with all the songs from the Bollywood movies being the big hits here. Frankly, you can’t get away from the Bollywood sound, which is great if you like it. I still find it mostly jarring – the pitch of the women’s voices is too high, for one. Anyhow, I have found a few Indi-Pop artists that fit the bill. My favorite right now is Raghav. Okay, so it turns out he’s (North) American by way of India and Britain. That’s probably why I like him. Oh yeah, and I love Hinglish (cousin of Spanglish), that mixture of Hindi and English. The other day, there was a headline that said, “Who’s the Hottest Cheez in Bollywood?” Cheez=thing, in Hindi.

Custom-made suits in 24 hours
Look at the tag of that Gap shirt you’re wearing right now…it was probably made in India. Everything is made here, it seems. In fact, a friend told me that there’s a shop in Breach Candy that carries a lot of the Gap and Banana Republic clothes BEFORE they get shipped to the U.S. Cool, huh? Haven’t checked it out yet, but I’ll tell you when I do. Additionally, there are fabric stores and tailors on every block. Believe it or not, we found a tailor who speaks fluent Italian (he caters to the AlItalia set) down in Colaba, and he’s at work on a linen suit for Anthony this weekend. Cost? About 100 bucks. It’ll be ready on Monday (it’s Saturday night). The quality is quite good, too. Insanity.

More vegetarian restaurants than you can shake a (celery) stick at
You know how when you’re in a foreign country and you’re just not sure you want to eat that mystery meat at the buffet? No problem here. I do have burger cravings from time to time (I blame the 18th and U Duplex Diner in DC for that). But it’s easiest to find veg and pure veg restaurants. McDonald’s menu is even more veg than non-veg. Right now, I’m a big fan of Sun Restaurant, which has these stuffed tomatoes (think samosa-style) in a tomato sauce with a sprinkling of cheese. I’m getting quite the food education over here.

Hmmm…what else, what else? I don’t mind the time lag here. I was able to watch the Kerry-Bush debate during breakfast the other day, and I can watch almost every English Premier League or Serie A game during prime time. Funny thing about India is that the time here is 9 and 1/2 hours ahead of EST. I understand they add the extra half hour so they don’t have to share the time zone with Pakistan. Does that make sense at all to you? Me neither.