16 November 2009

Pagoda Sunday

The first night with effective sleep without the hourly sudden spontaneous awakening. My colleagues had a trip in mind to the Elephanta caves. I had heard about this and would involve an hourly boatride. Nice prospect. Plans have shifted however to go to Gorai. As I had never heard of this place before (not all to hard considering I'm no Mumbaiker) I was intrigued. Not in the least because my colleagues had not visited the site themselves! This time I caught even the city bus which costs a whooping Rs 7! Amazing. The busdriver unexpectedly drives calm but firm through the busy streets of North West Mumbai. However, somehow it seems that we are too slow in getting off the bus and the driver starts driving back after having reached the terminus. Some harsh words are even exchanged. Life in Mumbai goes fast: be prepared! We walk towards the river (Manori Creek) and the smell of fish enforces itself upon us. At the boat we wait for the rest of our party to arrive.

Meanwhile the floating bank is sinking more and more because of the extra wait of motorbikes and people. The ferry does not sink (thanks for the warning Ravi) and we walk towards Mumbai's newest landmark, the majestic 325-feet tall Global Vipassana Pagoda. However not yet entirely covered in gold, it's already quite impressive.

A lot remains to be done like the marble flooring but as this pagoda is funded purely based on gifts and construction has been going on for more than 11 years now, that seems like a minor problem. Inside people are meditating under a large dome. It must be an amazing site if it is completely filled.

The entry to the temple lies next to (really!) this themepark entrance

Prizewinning picture of an Indian sunset (?!)

On the road back we decide to go through with the highly anticipated plan to see a Hindi movie. The only movie I had heard off was not playing anymore (lucky for some, most people found it to be a bad movie) and the suggestion fell on Ajab Prem ki ghazab kahani.

An entertaining movie about the President of the Happy Club who falls in love with a girl. She's already in love with someone else of course. This mad story is rather simple and because of that I get at least the main plot. Combine that with slapstick humour, a little bad acting now and then, the lovely Katerina / "Jenny" (I'm writing this for you, not me! You know who you are) some strange fighting moves and fat comedy sauce topped of with some singing and dancing and my first Hindi movie was a blast. Altogether again one day well spent! Thanks guys!!

Swinging Saturday

Five AM, the alarm clock punishingly awakes me.

The promise of yesterday stings hard in my body that is unwilling to let the soft bed behind. Ravi calls and we are not going to Santa Cruz but he will be joining me at the hotel. A little sad about this sudden change, although travelling there would have been quite a challenge at that time for me, but with anticipation I head of and meet him and a colleague at the gate. We run for about 6.5km around Powai lake. The otherwise, carloaded, rikshafilled, busfilled road is almost empty. A stray dog looks sad at us when we run by. By 6:50 where back at the hotel. I'm grateful for the invitation and with this exchange of gratitude I walk back into the hotel for some excercises and a steambath (what a nice surprise!). The Dutch colleagues are enjoying breakfast (or faking it well). They are about to embark in a tour of downtown Mumbai. I decline their invitation to go there. As I have been there and especially the long ride there puts me of. Instead I go to my room and ...fall asleep. Yeah, that was kindof a surprise. Afterwards, I left for the Shri Siddhivinayak temple in Dadar.

Some onroute photo's:

First taking the riksha to Anderi station and from there by fast train in the first class compartiment (and the MENs compartiment for that matter, yes I do try to learn from experience). One riksha ride I'm at the temple. The temple itself is gated and basically sealed. I cannot take my camera inside but the local salesman will guard it for me. As compensation, I buy some offerings for Lord Ganesha and take them inside. Dropping my shoes at yet another booth, I enter the temple. All the fences considering, it does not feel crowded so I consider myself very very lucky given that once it get's crowded in India it is oppressingly crowded. Not part of my comfortzone... Inside the temple one has to walk around it and enter a shrine where you can hand over your offerings to some 'priests'? who accept your offering and exchange some items. Ganesha in his orange body smiles at the spectacle. The golden glow of the shrine adds even more atmosfere to this happening and contrary to my discomfort in crowds like this I cannot but smile.
Onwards to Bandra

More onroute pics:

where I really wanted to see the stalls at Linking road. So I found them...well lit!

And they are filled with womans clothes and shoes (very cheap: colleagues say that with a little bargaining you can get a pair for Rs 50 but you can only wair them for a month). Somehow I expected a more diverse palette for shoppers.
So that's the view for when you're hunting for bargains. Then I turned around to find this in my face:
As it is getting late, I return to Bandra station on foot and take the train to Anderi.

I abandon my earlier plan to visit St Mary's church in Bandra. Maybe next time. While on my way to the beautiful Bandra Station, some raindrops fall from the heavens. A chilly wind cools the streets. Temperature reaches a familiar 18 degrees Celsius. Back on the train to Anderi and one riksha ride later I'm back at the hotel. I really love going about and discovering Mumbai. Pity that I have so little time and that this city is so big and busy. I count my blessings for this lovely day and top it off with a few beers.

Working man

Thank God it's friday! Only one day of work and then weekend!

Remembering my old routine I enjoy breakfast at the Lake View Cafe. And since my collegues are there it's all happy chitter chatter. The guys allow me to ride with them so I gladly accept. Within 25 minutes we are at the Mumbai 2 office... my god, the road next to Powai lake has improved a lot. In my memory we used to stand in traffic jams all the time. No such thing. One smooth ride that was! So next thing, the mandatory enlistment in the books at the gate and then inside where there is nobody....it's 8:45. I find myself a spot and one by one the teammembers start arriving. It's one big 'happy happy joy joy' party in meeting everybody. Me and the team have a very constructing day and at 18:00 I return to the hotel. Somehow, I was using my voice the wrong way because I felt it starting to break down at times. At night I had planned a visit to the Velvet Lounge but as the interesting invitation of Ravi passed at lunchtime I could not refuse this unique event: to go for a run at Santa Cruz at 6 AM! So I head to bed early and have a hard time catching it...

The return

So, it finally happened. I was able to return to Mumbai. City of smells, city of bustle. The flight was smooth except for the 10 year old girl that had a hard time understanding that not everybody appreciates if you put your feet under someone elses legs. But Zen will get you a long way. Landed 45mins late because of weather conditions at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The rat race is on. After all this sitting I enjoy the sneak through – fast pacing game to get outside as fast as possible. Along this way I get screened for H1N1 disease by an orange Fluke thermal scanner that is hooked up to some 40 inch monitors. If your face is heated then you’re to be quarantainned. I dodge that bullet and speed on towards the exit. The crowd cheers upon my arrival – I wish…. I find my personal Mercedes driving chauffeur and we are on route. Two o’clock at night and still not sleepy. Three thirty and I force myself to sleep.