Thursday, November 12, 2009
Mubai: Ghandhi to Ear Cleaning
After our 5 hour delay, we finally arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel on Marine Drive. The hotel overlooks the Arabian Sea and has a rooftop bar / restaurant that has a spectacular view. We had drinks and dinner and then retired to very high-tech room. It was so high-tech we couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights on and off and had to call for assistance.
In the morning we were met by our driver and a guide who we had hired for the day. Basically we saw all of the key Mumbai sights we had missed on our previous visits to the city. Yesterday Mumbai dodged a bullet as the Cyclone missed the city, although it had heavy rains. Today it was perfect with a blue sky.
We were expecting rain, so we were lucky.
We started by visiting the Dhobi Ghats, where they do the laundry for the city. Hundreds of men clean and wash clothes by beating them against concrete. They then lay the clothes out to dry in the warm sun. it is quite amazing to see human labor used instead of our traditional washing machines. The richest man in India is Mukesh Ambani he is building a 2 billion dollar house that will be 60 floor high rise with a helicopter deck on the roof. We had great fun guessing which one of the many high-rises being built in Mumbai was his home.
Malabar Hill is the highest point in Mumbai and also the richest area. It is the home of many Jains and Parsees. There are not many Parsees left in India, maybe 60,000. They worship fire and were originally from Persia. The religion is also called Zoroastrianism, Many are fabulously wealthy, including Rashon Tata who owns the Taj Group and Tata Motors. The conductor Zuben Metha is the most famous Parsee in the west. Among other things they are famous for the Towers of Silence in Mumbai. When a Parsee dies, instead of being buried like a Muslim or cremated like a Hindu, the body is placed atop the Towers of Silence and devoured by vultures. We saw the vultures circling above us, you can not visit the Parsee the Fire Temple or the Towers of Silence.
We especially wanted to see the Tank and Ghats atop Malabar Hill. The tank is a very large and ancient pool the size of a football field that is lined with steps leading down to it. These steps or Ghats is how the Hindus could descend into the lake to take their ritualistic bathes. There are several Shiva Temples around the Ghats. The whole area felt like a village community in the middle of the city.
From there we walked over to a Jain Temple. Removing our shoes we walked thru. It is very rich, lots of gold, silver and jewels. We saw priests wearing masks for Jains are such extreme vegetarians that many wear masks to prevent them from accidentally swallowing and killing an insect. In Hindu, Buddhist and Jain Temples there is always a bell that you ring. Cathy rang with gusto. If we had bells in Jewish services I might have enjoyed them more.
After a short walk through the hanging gardens we went to Gandhi’s House. Gandhi is big in India. We have no comparable figure. Think of Lincoln, Washington and Martin Luther King rolled into one. He was a driving force behind freedom from British rule, he fought for equality and he had a very religious aura. Ironically, this man who had few possessions picture is on every denomination of Indian money. As a young lawyer he left India and moved to South Africa. He championed the cause of anti-discrimination in South Africa and when 21 years later he returned to India, he was already regarded as a hero. The rest of his life was devoted to non-violence and the Indian Freedom Struggle. The house, where he stayed when in Bombay is now a museum. It was very touching to go thru it. We have been to several different Gandhi museums in various cities and each one is very moving, he was a remarkable man.
We then drove through the incredibly busy traffic of Mumbai to Crawford Market and the Chor Bizarre. Traffic is so dense it barely moves in this predominately Muslim area. Crawford market is the central food market for Bombay, Chor Bizarre and the streets surrounding it sell everything else, from tools to movie posters. I had heard about men that as a profession clean other people’s ears. Finally saw one.
We returned to our hotel and had a bottle of wine on the roof and then a massage (each of us got a free 20 minute massage – a nice touch by the hotel).
We then went to Trishna, our favorite restaurant in Mumbai for the 2nd time on this trip. They serve fantastic sea food.
Tomorrow we leave this hotel and head north to the suburb of Bandra, near the
Bollywood Studios and close to where Kashmera and Krushna live.