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Here, there, everywhere... A modest attempt at chronicling my around the world adventure over the next year (or so).

Mumbai motions

INDIA | Monday, 27 July 2009 | Views [568]

The final city stop on the grand journey around the world was Mumbai, India formerly known as Bombay. We happen to time this visit with the most powerful monsoon rains the city had seen in a long time. In fact, the high tide that registered the day after we arrived was the highest in 100 years. Finally in Mumbai we were also staying with some Couchsurfing hosts who lived in a planned city just outside of Mumbai called Navi Mumbai. Since we were supposed to arrive around 6am on teh overnight train they had given us directions to their apartment located about an hour from the central train station. Our train was an hour late and it was pouring rain but we managed to get with in a half block of their apartment before calling them to meet us. Balram and Saloni greeted us at the door with warm hellos, smiles and clean sandals for their flat. Balram was getting ready for work so after they showed us to our room we settled in and got cleaned up. We said goodbye to Balram and after chatting with Saloni decided to head back into the main historial and tourist area of Mumbai called Colaba. We had taken the suburban commuter rail to their flat and were now taking it back the same direction but even further to the formerly colonial grand railway station called the Victoria Terminus. While the surbaban train was a cheap and mostly efficient way to travel back and forth it was also hugely overcrowded much like the train scenes in the movie Slumdog Millionare. It was fine when we first took it even with our big bags but taking back into the main part of Mumbai was obviously the thing to do as it got more crowded after each stop. Jessica was lucky as each train had at least three cars reserved solely for ladies and these were hardly ever as crowded as the 'dude' cars that I rode in. The main doors were always open so people loved to hang out the door in the wind and each time people got on they pushed further into the middle and if you happen to be in the middle well you got pushed as well. However, nothing was as bad as havign to get off at a stop that was popular for people getting on. On our fourth or so trip on the train I witnessed a guy get repulsed by a the most intense and solid wave of humans trying to enter the train not once but three times. You just had to feel sorry for this guy as you knew when the train stopped exactly what was going to happen. From my standpoint I defended my 1x1x1 space with squared shoulders, steady handgrips and slanted eyes that would repel most surges. It did not help that we were not as familar with all the stops so I had to keep trying to look over shoulders to see which stop we were at. Riding the train for the almost four days we were in Mumbai was an experience I shall not like to repeat anytime soon and one I don't wish for anyone. I suppose some might enjoy the connection you have standing ass to ankle with 50+ sweat guys in a small railway car. Well I am not one of them and if that makes me less culturally sensitive then so be it because I rode the damn trains everyday! I felt sorry for the folks who had to do that everyday either for work or to get home. It was quite maddening for me and something I would not have been able to do much longer. After getting into Colaba we walked around the Victoria Terminus and vicinity, caught some lunch thend found an internet cafe as Jessica was supposed to set up a phone interview while we staying in Mumbai. After taking care of business we decided to head back to Balram and Saloni's flat in Navi.

The next day was supposed to the day of Jessica's phone interview but we soon realized her interviewer was not super organized and he kept trying to call her at random times (with time zone difference) when she was not available or the mobile was not working. The day ended up being a wash because of this so our plans to see more of Mumbai were moved to the next day. We had a nice dinner with Balram and Saloni that evening and went to bed. Sometime in the middle of the night I was awakened by my gurgling stomach and cramps. I suddenly was overcome by what Indians term the "motions" or "loose motions" and what we call the shits! Not sure what I had eaten early as Jessica and I would eat much of the same thing but it was back with a vengence. After my first visit to the bathroom I was up the rest of the night with cramps. By morning I had deposited everything I had in me as my reeling from cramps and lack of sleep. It would appear this day was going to be a wash as well. I began taking medication when it first happen but by midday it had still not taken effect. I was able to eat a little and rest so we decided to brave going into Colaba again and the train!! The rain had actually subsided enough that the sun was coming out so we made the most of it and walked to the water so see many of the wonderful colonial style architecture left over from the days of the English. I was still very weak and crampy but the 'fresh' air was helping a bit. We were also supposed to go out with Balram and Saloni but I was just not up to it so by evening we decided to head back to the flat so I could get some rest.

By the next morning I was feeling considerably better and had not had an 'episode' for over 12 hours. This was our last day in Mumbai as we were flying out late that evening so we had lots of ground to cover. We were also making dinner for Balram and Saloni so we had to be back in time to get dinner ready. We headed our early for our first stop-Dhobi Ghat, the largest outdoor laundry place in Mumbai. Chances are if you send out to have laundry done in Mumbai they will bring it here. There were rows of little private handwashing stations and loads of laundry hanging to dry. Quite impressive if not a bit labor intensive but that is India. Next we headed to Chor Bazaar to find some bargains which we did not although we tried then back towards Balram and Saloni's so Jessica could buy some food for dinner and I could check us in for our flight online. I had also discovered the first-class train car on our ride in which is the same as the others but less crowded and 10 times the price. I opted to ride it on our way back and was pulled off the train when they did a random ticket check at one of the stops. I protested, the guy did not seem to care then put me on the next train through. Since Jessica and I were riding in sepearte cars(she was still riding in the ladies) she did not know this happened to me. Fortunately, there was a train about 5 minutes after the first one so I was not far behind. We split up outside the train station so she could buy food. We met back at the apartment and started making dinner only to have the power go out. This woudl have normally not been too big of a deal since the burners still worked but she was making a pesto sauce which required a grinder run by electricity. It did not appear to be coming back on as we prepared dinner so she improvised and made a reall nice sauce with the pesto ingredients. We had a really nice candlelight dinner with Balram and Saloni and had a chance to talk about their lives and ours, play some cards, etc. They were really nice to us and we felt very at home with them. Balram actually had a brother who lives in Sterling Heights (Detroit), small world! So after dinner we cleaned up, packed and said our goodbyes to Balram and Saloni. We headed off the airport for our 2:30am flight to Frankfurt.

So my loyal readers (the few that are left!) this is it, the last blog from the year long journey. I am not going to wax poetic here about the year I think I have done that periodically in my blog. But a few parting words: There have been lots of people and places that I have written about in this blog. I hope it was as entertaining to read as it was to write. Thanks to all for supporting the chronicle of our journey around the world. Additionally, I know I speak for both of us when I say the year would not have been the same without meeting and befriending many intelligent, caring, honest and interesting people during our journey. If nothing else this year has once again reaffirmed my belief that despite the occassional jerk or jackass, people are genuinly good even without sharing a country, culture or language.

I hope to begin a new blog as our journey continues when we figure out where we are going to live and what we will do once we get there. Until then, keep on traveling and celebrate life one place at a time...

Tags: commuter train, india, monsoon, mumbai

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