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29 October 2005

to make sure it wasn't dead

i'm still in the process of adjusting my standard operating procedure here in india. i think i'm generally a friendly person and so it's very difficult to completely ignore a smiling stranger saying 'hello' on the street. unfortunately, that's what must be done. 99% of those who are saying 'hello' inevitably steer the conversation into a business transaction. i'm considering making up some small cards with the following message:

'i mean no disrespect, but i'm not interested in visiting any stores, taking any tours, or giving donations. if you've said hello for any other reason or you were genuinely interested in becoming a friend, then please accept my apologies for ignoring you. best wishes.'

of course i could always take a less diplomatic approach:

'hello, friend... friend... hello, friend...'

'if you were my friend you would know my name... now fuck off.'

as i was walking to a restaurant for breakfast, a man quickly shouted out 'hello, i'm from bollywood.' i ignored him and ducked into the safe haven of the restaurant. when i emerged an hour later, he was still there... again 'hello, i'm from bollywood and we're casting extras.' i stopped and asked him for identification and he produced a flimsy business card which provided four phone numbers and the name of his casting company. i told him i'd be interested but that i was concerned about the validity of his offer. we talked for a few minutes and while he sounded genuine, i was still skeptical. i gave him my name and he told me to meet at a restaurant at 0800 tomorrow. i planned to do some research before the meeting.

back at the hotel one of the staff told me i'd received a call from dhl and that there was a problem with my shipment. blick. i gave them a call and a woman told me that the value i'd given for the package was too high [?], that dhl would only ship packages valued at a maximum of rs20,000. she asked me to return to the office to change the value of the package... [sigh]... i agreed.

i'd made the call from the hotel lobby and there i met australian lee. i mentioned that i'd just been recruited for a bollywood film and he said he'd been as well. he said he'd shown the business card to the hotel staff and that they'd said they'd seen it before. i felt better about the offer; at least i'd know one of the other recruits. we made plans to go out for a drink later in the evening and then i was off to dhl.

arrival; change the value; done. i hadn't planned to walk back into that area of town again but decided to continue on in the same direction in order to see mani bhavan, a house in which ghandi had lived and worked, now housing a museum.

i stopped to watch some boys play cricket in a park. cricket is gigantic here. onward, i saw an interesting sign and stopped to take a picture... something to the effect of 'if you park in front of this street we will deflate your tires.' ha. some men saw me taking a picture of the sign and obviously thought i'd mistaken the house for mani bhavan... i walked over and asked them to point me in the right direction and they obliged, laughing.

i really enjoyed the exhibits in the small museum and definitely learned a lot about ghandi's life. such a gentle and peaceful man. many pictures and copies of letters that he'd written, one to hitler in 1939 imploring him to stop the progression to war.

i left mani bhavan and decided to take a different way home. the guidebook map i've been using is not very detailed and most of the streets are not named. i decided on a general walking plan, codename: walk south, and started off. within ten minutes i'd already lost track of where i was on the map but felt i was still headed in the right direction... south.

i found my way to a giant outdoor market... food, clothing, jewelry... completely packed with people. scooters and motorcycles everywhere. dogs sleeping on the sidewalk. i even passed a sleeping cat on the sidewalk and took a pic... amidst all of the horns and foot traffic... sleeping... i couldn't believe it and took a closer look to make sure it wasn't dead. ha. shops appear to be highly specialized... one selling just long metal rods... one selling just electric motors. the best word to describe this city continues to be 'intense'. there is just so much energy... so many people... so much traffic... so many foreign sights. as i walked on the sheer amount of incoming energy was overwhelming and i almost gave up my walk to hail a taxi. i decided to walk on for another half hour to see if i could locate one of the main streets and figure out where i was. eventually i came upon the charni road train station and remembered that it was on my map. on the map the train station was very near the water... i got my bearings and discovered that i was in fact walking due north, not south. somewhere in the marketplace i'd gotten mixed up and had lost my sense of direction.

i walked back along the water and caught a lovely pic of the sunset. finally i made it back to colaba, but not before seeing some interesting flying creatures. are you familiar with the scene in indiana jones and the temple of doom where dr. jones says 'those aren't birds, sweetheart. those are giant vampire bats.' yep... that size. no kidding, these bats were huge.

lee had left a note on my hotel door... he was taking a nap and wanted to meet up later. i left a note on his door letting him know i was going to grab some food and that if he woke up he could meet me down in the restaurant. leopold was packed and i ended up sharing a four person table with an indian named ranajoy. as we were talking about my travels, a man at a nearby table, tom from england, overheard us talking about vietnam and leaned over to offer his thoughts... he'd traveled there and had had an amazing time. i asked him to join us... lee eventually showed up... and the four of us had dinner together.

after dinner, lee, tom, and i decided to head to a local bar called 'gokul' where i drank much more thank i'd intended. fortunately, the hotel was just around the corner.

yet another day of intensity in mumbai. i really hope i'm doing an adequate job of conveying how frenetic this city is. i'm slowly adjusting to the frantic pace and i think it will take some more time before everything seems less foreign. i wonder if other indian cities will be so overwhelming.

posted by paul on Sat 29 Oct 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)

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