More mobs and police interventions needed to save us from an unruly crowd!!!
Bombay has been quite good to us in this part of the trip.
We were quite fortunate to secure a crack smoking cab driver who only blinked once every 17 minutes. We know this for I timed it. It was quite freaky as he stared out at everything with big frog eyes (you know what I mean, eh Mom?) chattering in fits and starts, not unlike his braking techniques throwing us into the back of the front seat from time to time…
Amber had the good sense to check a few streets in the beginning to ensure he was taking us in the right direction. We again passed miles of slum houses, projects, poor people and polluted areas. There weren’t as many cows and goats here as 26,000 people per square kilometer doesn’t leave much room for farm animals.
We arrived at Moti Mansion after much ado for yet another taxi driver did not know where we were really specifically going and needed to ask 84 different people for directions. Too bad Amber doesn’t speak Hindi cause she could have told him twice over. Her navigation skills are second to none. She only needs to see somewhere once to never forget it and be able to navigate from there with no errors! She makes an excellent co-pilot to be sure.
Sonja had missed us by only an hour (we found out later) but we were still able to check into our hotel, leave her a note and head out for lunch and then to the Crawford market for more sight seeing and shopping. (Shopping was the theme for this part of the trip.) We saw the butcher portion of it, and were so lucky to smell it too…thank god for Tiger Balm under the nose! We then toured part of the market, down tiny back alleys, saw the wholesale district, listened to people singing/praying/wailing over loud speakers when it was prayer time.
The Holi Holi Holi festival of India was this weekend too. It is the celebration of spring, good fortune, abundance and the starting of “new”. Part of that festival is on Saturday night where they light bonfires to cleanse the air of evil spirits, and then on the Sunday, they paint themselves with paint powder either straight (with natural organic washable paint powder) or with ink powder mixed with water that is far more permanent. They have powder piles or powder packets for sale in booths on corners. Seeing one, I asked Amber to stop so we could examine it.
Simply looking for more information, I started to ask the vendor how it all worked. He asked me to show him my palm and then he sprinkled less than 1/16th of a teaspoon of red powder. I wasn’t too impressed until he then sprinkled my hand with water turning the powder green and then it ran all over my hand. I giggled at the magic of it, so Amber held out her hand, and was sprinkled with bright red powder that when added with water turned pink and gold. She then giggled too and we started to smear it on each others arms, cheeks and legs. It was great fun! Or so we thought….our laughter and squealing with the display of fun, unknown to us, was a beckoning call for a crowd of over a hundred men to gather around us to see what was going on. Apparently any sign of laughter is seen as a sign of encouragement.
Soon, the police with riot gear had to be dispatched to save us from the crowd. They were starting to pour powder down our backs, our necks, the backpacks, the scarves….and we were still naive as to what was going on. Soon they were pushing us, roughing things up and the hooligans were coming out. Practically lamb to the Holi festival slaughter until we were rescued by the police. The police were yelling at the vendor for he had broken many rules to the Holi festival. We learned this after the fact, for we weren’t sure if we were in trouble, and if so, what we had done wrong. The vendor wasn’t supposed to paint foreigners, which he did, he wasn’t supposed to do it two days early which he did, and wasn’t allowed to touch us as we were women, and especially not to do it to us as we were strangers, not friends. Color painting is for friends only.
Quickly hustled out of the melee by the police we were told we had to leave…..NOW! We now had to make our way back to the hotel with the paint all over us with people staring at us and chanting “Holi Holi Holi”. We still weren’t sure what the big deal was, so we smiled and acknowledged them not wanting to be rude, but also not knowing that it could be misconstrued and we could have been assaulted with paint again.
We also found out once we reached our hotel that the vendor would be facing jail time, possible caning and other serious consequences as a result of his error. The caning happens here right in the street. Sonja attested to that. Earlier in her trip she had been pinched by a man, and a police officer saw it. He asked her what happened, so she told him, when he whipped out a 1″ cane and started beating the man. It is called “Eve teasing” when a woman is taken advantage of or harassed by a man.
We made it back to the hotel and then started trying to scrub it off. And scrub it off. And scrub it off. And try again some more. It wasn’t coming off!!! Arrgh!
Sonja came back then and saw what was going on and laughed and laughed at us. Nice friend….! As you will see, those who laugh last, laugh hardest!
Amber and I decided then to skip the curry dinner and head to Bombay McDonalds. We were quite happy to see the golden arches at this point in the game. The fries were EXACTLY the same as back home…mmmmm…. Their menu also offered the McCurry sandwich, the McIndian wrap, the McEewww Thing we didn’t even recognize. Fortunately we also saw a McChicken on the menu. There was a big sign on the wall stating there were zero cow products on the menu.
We decided then to supplement our calcium intake with an ice-cream. As the sign said no cow products were on site, we asked the employee there where the milk came from for the ice cream. (Was it water buffalo perhaps? Goat?) He said, “It comes from the factory.” When then reclarified, “What animal does it come from?” He again replied, “From the factory.” I guess milk is made in factories here, not from animals! LOL. We didn’t’ have the heart to tell him it was likely a cow factory and then breach their no-cow products rule. Sometimes denial is not just a river in Egypt! (More on that later.
Sonja belongs to a “couch surfing” organization that allows foreign travellers to stay on the couches of local people as an exchange program of sorts. She had arranged to have us all go out for coffee with a woman from Russia, a man from France, and three local Indian people. We all met for coffee which was nice and then arranged to meet for the Holi festival on Sunday afternoon.
On our way home, we dodged another bullet of sorts as we came face to face with a grill of a bus as yet another crack smoking cabbie was running the gauntlet with his cab and we were the ones at risk. Narrowly averting death apparently caused my face to contort to such a freaky one that Amber nearly peed herself as I inspected the grill for bugs! I must be part cat I think….
Going home to bed, or should I say sleeping on practically a rock was nasty. It was a futon time mattress that was only one inch thick and super hard.
Sonja was not feeling super well, so I got to crack out my first aid kit, and with Amber filming it, jabbed a needle into Sonja’s arm that she claims was the best injection ever! When we were in Dehli, Amber needed to get an injection, but her arm still hurts, days later. She was having an allergic reaction to something, and her face was breaking out, so rather than popping all the zit like bumps on her, it was more efficient to dart her with an anti-allergy needle. She cleared up nicely, but still moans about her arm to this day. Sissy! What I should say now is that there is some credit to the CSI shows. They talk about hesitation marks on dead bodies when they are being chopped up, and how there are little marks on the body indicating that the person doing the chopping or stabbing is hesitant. Well, Amber showed such newness to stabbing, and I have the hesitation marks to prove it. I needed one shot while in Aurangabad, and I swear had I taped it, I could have sent it to Funniest Home Videos as it was hilarious. Good think I wasn’t in anaphylactic shock with my life depending on a timely delivered needle, for I would have croaked. I was ready to ram my own arm into the needle after her carrying on, pricking me, then pulling away, pricking me, then pulling away, all in nervous anticipation. Soon the blood was streaming down my arm before she finally got the courage to jab it in. I told her to pull it out quickly when she was done, but she did not do that. She pulled it out so slowly that the medicine had a chance to follow the channel out that the needle had made and ended up like Old Faithful and gushed out for a good squirt! The only consolation I had to being pricked unmercilessly was that the squirt made Amber’s stomach turn and she suddenly was queasy from giving me the shot. My turn to laugh!
Anyways, back on the ranch, Poncho not knowing Sisco was disguised as a door, he shot his knob off….back to Bombay…
Rock hard beds…right….off to sleep now.
The next day was slated as another shopping day. We went to a store called FabIndia that Sonjas was quite excited to financially support, several specific present stores that shall remain nameless to protect the identity of the gifts. We did more sightseeing and then headed back to the hotel.
Sonja was off to another couch surfing party, and Amber and I decided to indulge in a massage at the Taj Palace hotel. We went early for all the shopping had made us “crusty” from the day and we thought it would be prudent to shower first and avail ourselves of the services the spa offered. Hot tub, steam room, large fluffy towels, bath robes, slippers that didn’t fit my skis and then the massages. Aaaahhhhh…..
Afterwards, we went to Ming Palace for Chinese food and champagne to celebrate the final hours of our trip here. That and to celebrate surviving all we had to date. Much champagne induced laughter followed, and then phone calls home.
Three hours of packing and repacking our bags capped our night. Deciding what to keep, what to throw away to make room for purchases and weighing the bags on a fish scale wrapped things up.
Next post….Holi Holi Holi….
Annie and Amber