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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

T.I.A.

5:30 pm local time UAE.

My inflight movie had just gotten over. The display in front of me said that we had another 1:15 to reach Khartoum.

I noticed the flight status display. And then it hit me.

For 28 years, 9 months and 15 days, I had spent my life in one place. The gigantic continent that we call Asia. I looked again at the screen. Our flight had just flown over Jeddah and was just over water.

I opened my window ever so slightly, so as not to disturb the passengers for whom this journey was less momentous, and had chosen to sleep.

I opened my window to view a canvas of shimmering blue that stretched far away and melted into the blue of the sky. This sea of blue was the (slightly inappropriately named) Red Sea.

The fact that I could see water confirmed that I had indeed soared away from home. Having traveled all my life, I’ve never realized that I had a place and a home. That I actually have a place where I can say I have roots with no ambiguity whatsoever. My beloved Asia was gone. Chennai, Dubai, Mumbai, Sharjah, Bhubaneshwar, Muscat .. They were all behind me.

Right now, I could see the blue power of the Red Sea defeated by a coastline, a jagged brown one.

I remembered Leo Di Caprio from the Blood Diamond.

This is Africa.

And I am here.

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Pleasantly Mumbai

Part 1

Though its been just a year since I last visited Mumbai, I can’t remember the last time I actually managed to explore so much of this dynamic city and get so much accomplished in one trip.

My flight landed at Mumbai at 2:00 am in the morning. Pre-paid taxis were the only way to go I was told. I spent an hour waiting in the line. Not for the line for the taxi, but the line to get a receipt to get in the line to get a taxi. Every 10 minutes or so, a man would run out and come back after 5 minutes. Later I learnt that as part of his enhanced job description, he had to sprint to the taxi stand and get the license plate numbers of taxis waiting there, so that he could assign them. Idea! Cellular have obviously never seen this place – an ad is just waiting to be made here.

I said weary hello to the aging taxi driver and waited for the crude mumbaiyah language to ravage my ear drums. Instead – “Namasthe. Kahan thak jaana hai aapko“. Aapko! Not tereko? Such bliss. The guy was a Lucknowi who had managed to retain the chastity of his spoken word in this verbally promiscuous land.

After waking up my hosts, I settled into bed at 4:00 a.m. only to find my self wide-eyed at 9:00 a.m. Coming to Mumbai, I suddenly realized how much my life had been starved of color. Bright yellows, reds, greens. I just could not get enough of it. I loved watching the big lorrys that had a huge red rear-side. Reminded me of I.R. Baboon, for those who know what I’m talking about. In the afternoon, when we went shopping, I found a bunch of people with metal vels (pointed rods) stuck between their cheeks praying in front of a temple and running off somewhere. More than the pain of watching them, what I noticed was the color.

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Imagine coming from a world where everything you see has been coated with a generous dose of brown. People with such variegated (I like that word) clothes, colored buildings, etc. It was colorful ecstasy. I would have probably died of shock if I had come during Holi.

That night, we went to a place called Morocco. When I heard the name, I pictured a dimly lit chic place with a heavily scented aroma lingering all around. The waiters would be dressed in fancy dresses but would display a lot of attitude. The ambient sound would bear a steady murumur from all the tables which would accompany pleasant Arabic music.

I was as close to the truth as the spoon in my kitchen sink is to Pluto. The place we went was called Morokko. There was no entrance per se. For some time you were out of Morokko and then suddenly you were in. The music seemed to struggle to find its meaning. For a while the DJ would play sad Hindi music. Then, he’d spot a pretty girl in the crowd and switch to some really good English house numbers. After a while, someone would get around to breaking it to him that his payment for the night was also being effected by recession. You’d think the music would get somber then? No way. We’d have to endure a remix of a remix of Darde Disco. Towards the end of the night, he started playing Bappi-da music. I wasn’t surprised that it was the only music I enjoyed that night.

If you feel you need go upto someone and say “I bet you that I can get you to poke a fork into your eye”, then not many places could help you win that bet better than Morokko. Waiters materializing at the pop of your fingers may be wishful thinking, but for that matter, anything that is related to service would firmly remain in the relams of Utopia. You might consider getting up and walking over to the kitchen to place your order yourself. But you’d quickly give up hopes of that when you realize that that would take you closer to the speakers with the ahem delectable music.

The waiter species found in this restaurant are the masters of subtle communication. One of our group ordered chicken with pasta. He was given chicken … with no pasta. He called them again to inform them that they had missed the pasta. They apologised and took the dish away. After a many many minutes, they returned with the corrected dish. “We are extremely sorry Sir. Here is your order. Enjoy”. Chicken … without pasta. Our friend tried to correct them again, but realized that the waiters were actually trying to convey to us that we had better eat the chicken or else suffer dire consequences. Considering that not much around us could get any dire-er, we weren’t really keen on finding out what other torture mechanisms they had going on. We ate the food, paid the bill and left.

The night finished with an exciting trek up 8 floors of the stairs of a building to reach a friend’s house. The lift did not appreciate that people called it a lift, demanded that people find the Hindi equivalent of the word and call it that, and shut down for the night. We had some lovely coffee and wonderful conversation till 2:00 am in the night.

When we came out the moon was full and shining.

What a perfect way to end the perfect day,

my first day in Bombay!

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