bombay :: 01/01/08

cities are the gateways to dreams and devils :: the acclimatisation station [quote by Suketu Mehta]

– moist smells
– perfumes of jasmine and pepper
– stinking garbage
– black and yellow cabs
– slums and stray dogs
– complete traffic chaos
– new year, radio club – people – bars
– booking misunderstandings
– tips, tips, tips
– betel stains on the sidewalk
– beggars
– horn battles
– too many busses and taxis
– wide avenues
– victorian buildings
– hindus and muslims
– bright colored sarees
– dark faces
– yes, madame – yes, madame!
– coconut and sugercane juice
– cows and dogs
– faded flowers and big old trees
– cricket & more cricket
– hindi and english
– crows and rats
– gods and temples
– tinckle bells and streetnoise
– homeless people, rich elite

On my arrival, 02.30am new years night, I book into Strand Hotel as Harbour View did not confirm my reservation. Typical, I have to find out later. Strand offered a small room for 2020Rs, Harbour View’s slightly bigger but with a ‘cornered’ sea view and too highly priced (3520Rs) for what it is. Their highlight is the view on -stinky- Mumbai Harbour.
The gateway of India is still a landmark for tourists. It doesn’t look that impressive as it should: due to renovation works it’s rigged from all sides. Don’t stand still at the gate because guides are poppin’up and it’s difficult to get rid of them afterwards. You can’t look someone in the eyes, or he thinks that you will gladly follow him, the guide, or at least buy some stuff or let him arrange a citytour for you.

The sun is shining and it’s a pleasant 25 degrees, not so hot. I wander through the corridors of the Taj Mahal hotel. There’s still a scent of old (expensive) glory but it’s most of all an expensive vulgar place for rich Indians, NRI and rich westerners.
I walk around Colaba. My immediate impression is that things did not change that much since 2000, the last time I was here. Cafe Leopold is still packed with tourists, and now more than ever: it’s holiday season and the Shantaram-story made it even more (in)famous. Bur for good food you better go elsewhere.
Shantaram-the-book is ubiquituous present in Colaba. The hash vendors and the rats too. Homeless kids won’t let you go unless you buy them rice or powdermilk. I read somewhere that they make a deal with the shopkeeper. After you bought it, they resell it immediately to the shopkeeper for half the price, take the money and run.

I made an appointment with Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran to visit their studio in Bandra tomorrow evening. I tried to reach Vasu at Barefoot, and Shumona in Bombay, without result.

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