The news last week of what happened in Mumbai was disturbing to all watching the scenes of panic , fires going on , and tat tat tat sounds from guns going off. So it was an easy choice for me to choose Mumbai or what was then Bombay to be the travel spot this week.
When we were doing the 5 week cruise from Piraeus Greece to Singapore , Bombay was the port which began week 4 of our transition into Asia where we would spend the winter doing 10 day cruises between Bali and Singapore. It was a day in December when we arrived at the port of Bombay.
I was a Maitre’d on the cruise ship and the first thing I was told by others was watch out for the Indian port authorites and customs because they would look for anything wrong in your inventory that you would declare so they could use the mistake in order to scoff a bottle of Johnny Walker Black from you or a carton of cigarettes. I remember for that and all of the ports we went to in India we had to make sure our inventory was exact and that when we counted everything that we made sure we just had what we needed and the stores were locked up and no one was allowed in to get anything without first notifying me or the bar manager. If the authorities decided to do a quick count of the bar and it did not balance with the sheet then the blackmail began. Give me this or you do not get clearance….
So India was a big headache for that and I do remember one customs official saying , please sir one bottle of JWB for me please sir one bottle please if you would be so kind… I did not give him no bottle nosirreee or next thing you know his friends would be coming along quickly upon the news their friend managed a bottle.
The loading was light that day so I got a quick tour of Bombay. We went to a house that Ghandi had lived in while in Bombay and I saw what was an open air laundry where people from all around would come to wash their clothes on washboards and you could see for blocks all the clothes hanging up on lines.
The one thing about Bombay is the people. Huge numbers of people everywhere living on corners , in buildings , tents , whatever you could think of. And the traffic was beep , beep , beep all the time. Bicycles and cars dodging one another.
This brings me to the Taj Mahal hotel which we saw was terrorized and on fire with many hostages inside. Where it is located it looks out at the Indian Ocean. It is a jewel of Indian architecture and I remember walking in the lobby and everything was elegant and the smell of money permeated the air. Then you walk across the street and there is a market where all the beggars are. What a contrast!
A scene where you have a beggar with a monkey on a leash and he is making it do tricks by slapping it with a stick , or , what was even more terrible to watch was this guy had a garter snake and a rat duke it out with one another till there was a clear winner for entertainment. He would break it up then put the snake in a bag and the rodent was on a leash so he would settle it down with his stick. There were bites and blood on the rat from all the skirmishes. There was more but I was too disgusted to hang around.
So you had the Taj Mahal hotel , a symbol of wealth and this square which represented the lowest class of society side by side. Then the vast Indian Ocean next to all this.
After all what happened last week I am happy to have gone when I did. What with what is going on in Thailand and now in India my thirst for going back anytime soon is out the window.