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As the Wind Blows

Bombay - Mumbai - Bombay

INDIA | Wednesday, 29 February 2012 | Views [1345]

Second class ladies compartment during non-peak hour traffic

Second class ladies compartment during non-peak hour traffic

I’ve never politely eaten so much food before in my life! When you visit people over here, they don’t seem satisfied until you’ve eaten a whole meal (the size of at least two whole meals in Australia) and had seconds. Thirds would make them even happier. I suppose they must think it’s an insult to their cooking if you don’t take huge portions of everything, or maybe they just thought I looked underfed. Either way I’m overwhelmed by the hospitality everyone over here displays. You can turn up on their doorstep in the middle of the night without letting them know and they’ll still welcome you with a big smile on their faces and try and force you to eat a mountain of food.

The biggest tourist attraction in Bombay is the train system. Visit the Gateway of India, the Hanging Gardens, the Zoo, by all means but none will be more fascinating that the train system.  Ladies in colourful saris all packed into the first class ladies compartments (the ladies in the first class compartment are dressed in a more westernised manner and are never ‘packed’), men sandwiched and hanging out of the men’s compartment, hawkers (from little boys to mothers holding their babies) selling their wears on trains and the railings between each compartment really does make you feel like you are in a zoo.

I’ve seen the standard Mumbai tourist attractions on my last visit and after being a tourist for a sustained period of time, I enjoyed being like my travelling companions on the coach trip and spending more time shopping and eating (even while politely having third helpings the food’s delicious). My travel journal which had, until now, being filled with tickets from local tourist attractions, is now being filled with receipts to saris, bangles and clothes. After a year of living on a strict budget and only buying necessities, splurging on pretty things doesn’t seem so bad.

Speaking of sari shopping I recommend everyone do it at least once, or see it being done. It’s an elaborate process whereby when you come in and sit at a long table and shop assistants pull out sari material after material from neatly stacked shelves and drape them all over the tables. (I feel really bad for the people who have to re-fold the mounds of materials). Once you’ve narrowed your selection down, they drape your selections around you so you can see what looks good on you. Then you decide which ones you want to buy. After that they cut off the sari blouse component and you get a tailor to stitch one for you. I won’t bore everyone with my traumatic experience with tailor making my sari blouse, all I can say is get it done by someone who’s business it is to make sari blouses. First world issues, I know. After all of that, I hope I get an opportunity to where my saris.  

What else can I say about Bombay? Oh yes the mosquitoes. I’ve always been allergic to Bombay mosquitoes every since I was little. I thought I had done reasonably well to fend them off at night by completely covering up, but they decided to go for the one part of my body that was exposed - my face. Let’s just say, with eight or nine big swollen and threatening-to-turn-bright-red lumps all over my face, I looked a lot like Disney’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I suppose the mozzies thought that if I could have second and third helpings, so could they.

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