India! And what a 1st experience it was. I was feeling pretty good, carrying around a perception of freedom; away from confusing feelings and all at once I was excited, alone and …missing my wife. I started to think it would have been very nice if she was with me.
But this was also the heart of the monsoon season in Bombay! It almost felt like the rains were mocking me as I was going through my own monsoon of sorts. I had arrived in Bombay right smack in the middle of it!
Bombay in the state of Maharashtra, was to me, a beautiful place. I stayed there in the city at a hostel, similar to an American YMCA, near the Naaz Cinema Hall. These lodgings were run by a businessman with ties to an associate in the Indian Consulate back in Fiji.
I was given the address of this place before I left the island by that connection. Thankfully it was affordable and centrally located. My weekly rate was approximately 25-30 rupees. I ended up staying here nearly two months.
Each morning the proprietor had a bucket of hot water for my in-room bath, brought up to me with a knock at the door. The heavily accented masculine voice said, “Saab-ji, garam pani.” Also he would ask me what he could bring to me for my breakfast.
He’d go across the street to this Brahmin restaurant and bring delicious dishes for me to start my day with. Masala chai, saag sabji, and of course hot, red, puffy puris! If this didn’t suit my mood, I’d go out to one of countless restaurants in the immediate vicinity and chow down on amazing food.
Out and about in the city, there are so many people! You cannot walk anywhere without bumping into each other though I never minded if it was a pretty girl. That crowd was of yesteryear so just imagine today!
The one place I really wanted to see and be a part of before leaving India, was Marine Drive. As a youth this was a must! I had seen it in the Hindi films so many times and heard that it was a very special street where so much happens.
Odds were that I’d be lucky enough to see in passing, an India film star. Naturally girl-watching was part of the plan but the rest of the people were interesting too! I would sit on the wall there with the Arabian Sea to my back and just watch this part of India go by.
I quickly learned that after 3 or 4 in the afternoon was the very best time to do this. It was a place to see and be seen which lent to the girls dressing real pretty in their colourful attire; the lovely salwar kameez, saris and what have you, a blend of many nations really.
Speaking of which, there would be 10 guys talking amongst themselves and each one’s native tongue is a different language of India. There’s Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu (whew!) just to name a few, oh my!
But I wondered how they were actually communicating together and it wasn’t in English. The common denominator here was Gujarati, Punjabi and Marathi and I must say it was to me quite a sight to see the Chinese man living in India speaking one of these 3 versions!
The liveliness of the crowds included the chana wala, “Chana garam babu, garam, garam chana!” singing his sales pitch as he walks by you. Then I notice the thel malis guy singing out advertisements of his services; a quick-fix massage of various body parts -head, shoulders, arms, legs, etc., and the most important guy sells garam, garam masala chai and all for a few paisa!
I shall tell you only what I can remember; the monsoon travels around the subcontinent and arrives at different times throughout the country. I was soon to discover, this weather affects people in very interesting and sometimes baffling ways. So much like the tides of life. Well, that’s it, that’s what I got out of it!
Brahmin diet a vegetarian lifestyle focusing on consuming clean foods thoughtfully so eating natural meant promoting peace and tranquility into one’s being; also referred to as yogic or sattvic diet
chana wala the chickpea vendor – (dry fried muttar/peas)
thel malis oil massage provider (quick on-the-spot)