My only reference of what to expect on arriving to India came from memories of arriving in Bali, backpacking, some 12 years ago. That really did feel like an adventure, specially the bit of arriving at the airport late at night and jetlagged and having to figure out how to get to the accommodation (not using the word hotel). It was chaotic and quite bewildering, but exciting too.
I had always thought that one day I would travel to India in a similar way. And perhaps because of that I had this expectation that arriving in India today would be even more bewildering. Except I am on a three day work trip and the hosts have kindly arranged for a driver to meet me at the airport and deliver me safely to a glass hotel in Mumbai’s business district. I also arrived in the middle of the day. As the car weaved its way to the hotel, rickshaws, colourful lorries and slums could be seen through the window, so I can say I have seen all this but it does feel as if I have been watching it on a screen. I can also say that the air was hazy from pollution and there seemed to be thousands of colorfoul kites rising up from the slums.
Lunch has probably been the point at which this trip has felt most real so far. No matter how dulled the senses may have been after the flight, a Thali (a selection of small plates) did wake everything up. Was very struck by a rich kidney bean and black lentil creamy dish called ‘dal makhani’ (which I had never tried in England), a wonderful aromatic fish curry and a sweet milk dumpling with rose syrup called ‘gulab jamun’. At least from today I can be one of those people that can say “of course the Indian food in Mumbai is nothing like (most of) the curry houses you find in England” with some degree authority.
Tomorrow I will venture out of the glass tower bubble and I am sure it will feel bit more like I am in India. Except, of course, the business district in Mumbai is a very important of what India is nowadays. Perhaps not the romantic notion of most travelers, but very much a modern reality.
Today’s picture is of the yellow and black rickshaws of Mumbai, with their barefoot drivers, as seen from behind the car window.