It’s amazing how much easier life in Mumbai can be when you have your own driver. Ours started today, and I’m relieved. We may be scooting around in the Honda Civic for the time being, but at least the rides are now air conditioned and hassle-free. Four days of hailing cabs in this city can wear you out. And, since I’m new here, a few cabs have gotten “lost” on the way back to my place. It was to be expected…we did a whole simulation on cabbie foul play in my Hindi class.
When you’re not in a cab, though, they seem pretty cool. All drivers drive the classic Ambassador, and Indian-made car that looks like a PT cruiser/old Benz prototype, only much much smaller. There’s hardly enough headroom for me, and I’m only 5’6…(okay, okay…so my driver’s license says 5’7″). Some drivers have also decked out their cabs with decals of Lakshmi, Ganesh, Lord Shiva or other Hindu deities, and the interiors of a very few are quite luxe. Still…no a/c.
As I was fortunate enough to have a driver today, I decided to get down to business and shop.
First stop was Crossroads, a surprisingly western-style mall with a Marks & Spencer, Benetton, Mango, Lacoste, Zegna, and a few other stores. There was also a McDonald’s there, but I nixed the idea for the time being. The Maharaja and Tikka Macs looked tasty, though…
I was most happy to find a supermarket in the mall. Would you believe they had Mountain Dew and a whole aisle of pasta? It had a nice mix of Indian foodstuffs and European/American things, so I think I’ll take Anthony back there this weekend.
My second stop of the day was a housewares shop called Premson’s. I desperately needed some basics, like a dishrack, dustpan. It’s amazing how you’d miss such simple things. The Premson’s experience was decidedly more Indian, in that there were clerks for each aisle who could only help me with the items for their section. So, one guy wrote up the receipt for a can opener, another for placemats, and so on. Kind of bizarre, but I got the hang of it.
That took a lot out of me, so I decided to go back home. No matter if I’m in a cab or air conditioned comfort, the sights on Mumbai continue to intrigue. On the way up the hill, I saw that two men had set up a makeshift barber shop on the side of the road, and their two customers were enjoying a comb and a shave. They were fully lathered, just sitting under a palm tree. Photos were in order…but I forgot my camera. Not to worry….I’m pretty sure that’s a semi-permanent installation.
So Mumbai…it has almost been a week and my views of it change every day. On many levels, this place is as first world as they come, as far as shopping and some communications are concerned. On the other hand, it’s beyond 3rd World – maybe even 4th. Am I repeating myself? I haven’t quite figured out how people live with the harsh juxtaposition. But I’ve heard that some attribute it to the fact that the poor are poor because fate (and reincarnation have deemed it so). How come people use religion (Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, etc.) to justify the suffering of others?
Ack…didn’t mean to get philosophical.
Anyhow, I’m looking forward to doing a bit of sightseeing this weekend. Stay tuned for more stories…