Thursday, May 17, 2007

India!

Thanks again to all for your enthusiasm. I'm busy putting together a couple more packets for this weekend. Last chance for one!

On to more about my trip: we arrived in India, in the city of Mumbai. To everyone who's been there before, it's still Bombay (a British corruptions which Indians adopted happily).

This is a great view of India - India in its beauty, its color, its dancing and vibrant life:

But that's from a magazine (in-flight). Instead, let me show you something else.

This is the ubiquitous "auto," the taxicab of India. Depending on where you take one, you may negotiate a fare or go by meter, but you'll sit tight with at most two others as you speed and weave through the horrific traffic, the breeze whipping at you from the sides. The drivers emblazon the backs of these autos with religious stickers, family planning sayings including "We two, ours one," anti-child marriage publicity like "The proper age for a girl to get married is 21," and feminist slogans, such as "Power for women," amazing given that all of these autos are driven by men. (That's dh's profile in the photo)

In Bombay, we visited cousins and relatives, who live 6 people to a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment of about 800 square feet. Surprisingly, it was VERY comfortable, and we managed to fit a few extra people over the course of our stay, too!

We also had a surprise visitor: a curious monkey who came at the windows (barred for exactly this reason!) and went away with a banana.

It was when we went out in the 85-degree humid weather that we got the full effect of Bombay. Whether it's 2am or 2pm, the streets are alive with people and cars. We drank tall, cool glasses of pure sugarcane juice (no ice or water added, of course), and ate spicy Bombay specialties in air conditioned restaurants: pav bhaji (toasted bread with a vegetable curry) and vada pav (bread with a fried lentil-and-vegetable ball). The color started showing up all over the place: store fronts with plastic buckets, garlands, and earrings for sale; women's traditional dresses in every color of the rainbow; vendors with carts selling mangoes or flowers. Here is one of a traditional store selling "cool drinks" hanging up at the top, with a modern telephone in front.

My favorite part of Bombay is one I don't have a picture of: spending time with family. There's something I cherish about being in that kind of environment where it's okay not to have much privacy, and people are genuinely kind and intimate and comfortable without being formal or polite or even having to say how they feel about you. They'll take you in any time of day or night, chastise you when you've been bad (and know it), but forgive you the next instant and love you all the same. That's family.

Oh and a new eco-tip (India-inspired): Carry a scarf. It's like the towel of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame. it works as a towel, a head covering, an impromptu skirt, a warm shawl, and it keeps out pollution on dusty roads.

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