The Gate of India, at the dock
I cannot discuss Mumbai without first sending out a huge thank you to Ratul Chakraborty, who hosted me for two nights while I was there. You made my permanence in that city immensely easier and more enjoyable. Said it once, I'll say it again: I owe you one, bro.
My entry for this city closes kind of in medias res. I was at a beach when I wrote it and after that I spent hours walking around the city (carrying my bag AND with the sprained ankle - bloody hell). I would have written something about that walk, which was wonderful despite the fatigue, but after Mumbai I ended up in Goa and I had a four/five-day break from my diary, so I kind of flew over that. I also give a very rough account of that night out in the city, which was pretty crazy (once I was drunk I pretended I was a medium here to exorcise a ghost, and I gave a spiritual reading to a recently-wed couple who were sold on it so completely that I began wondering if I didn't really possess occult powers). But it wasn't much different from many a fun night I've had back in old Europe, so I liquidated it with a couple of lines and concentrated on the day journeys instead. I still think that's very much for the best, given I must have tens of thousands of words in other entries on this blog about times in which I get tanked.
The central station. As British/Victorian as you can get
Mumbai is the most beautiful of the cities I have seen so far, or at least so it seems to me. It is certainly the most Western. I felt very comfortable in this city, and even the food was excellent. Upon my arrival at Ratul’s offices (an impressive rectangular curving building made of dark glass and steel), he took me to a restaurant at a nearby hotel. Increasingly I get the impression that hotels here serve a purpose similar to that of commercial malls in Europe. The restaurant was a classy and expensive self-service and the food was delicious, and Ratul took the bill – as he did that of the taxi, and, later, that of the beers. His kindness was mind-boggling, and also exceedingly welcome – I am running low on money and his contributions did a great deal to help me.
The next day I purchased some food in the streets. Some kind of a bread-ball with spicy mashed potato as filling – a small, fist-shaped sandwich, basically. Absolutely fantastic. I had two and then some sugar-cane juice.
On the first day I chilled out with Ratul and we went out that night for some beers with a few friends of his. I almost got carried off by an American and his own group of Indians to spend the whole night drinking, but when the guy lost his wallet and the night seemed to lose impetus (at the same rate as I sobered up, just about), I chose to take a taxi and go home.
On my second day, I took the local overground – even more cramped and combative than the tube in Delhi, it’s like a war-zone over here – down to Churchgate Station, whereupon I walked towards the docks, surprised at how Western everything looked. Even the traffic seemed slightly more urbane.
I saw the Gate of India and the gigantic Taj Mahal Hotel, then took a boat to the Elephanta caves. I landed on an island full of monkes, goats, dogs, some cows, and an infinity of tourist-stands. Climbing the island, I could visit the famous caves, where effigies from more than 1300 years ago had been carved in stone. The place was beautiful and felt very primal.
It took me two hours and a half to get home. Very boring. Ratul suggested we watch the Arsenal – Liverpool game, which was on at one a.m. local time, and he offered me some dope in the meantime. His friends had monopolized the laptop and were putting bland Pink Floyd or death metal videos. I’m not sure what to make of the local grass. I smoked half the joint on my own and I could barely feel it at first, but a few hours later I was so fucked that the air-waves from the fan on the ceiling were freaking me out because I couldn’t understand what they were when they brushed on my skin.
Eventually I passed out before the end of the match.
Today I woke up and watched the American tournaments of ice-skating while having breakfast. How graceful the girls were.
I left after that, picked up my bag at Ratul’s office, and now I’m here, in Chowpatty beach. The view is beautiful, as the beach is ringed by the city’s skyscrapers, but the sea looks horrendous to bathe in. It is brown and muddy.
My train tonight is at 11 p.m. I’ll spend the rest of this day walking around in the general direction of the station, as I usually do.
Sent some postcards today. They should get home about the same time as myself.
A picture of the first night out in Mumbai. Just for good measure. That's one lovely lovely glass.