Monday, May 16, 2011

Some Say Bombay... We Say Mumbai

Mumbai is an unadulterated example of socio-economic contrasts. There are tall buildings with extremely lavish homes kept up by a legion of domestic help and a few yards away are people living in huts in extreme poverty, amongst piles of garbage and stray dogs and cats. However, we not only witnessed these conditions we became part of the cruel conundrum. We, once again, were enjoying the good side of life. Yet, if there was any partial balancing of inequalities we did find ourselves subject to Mumbai traffic.

Though we traveled in an air conditioned luxury car the experience took its toll on us. There are traffic lanes but most drivers do not use them very often. Speeding and aggressive driving is coupled with the sudden stop and go due to the traffic and bumps in the roads. Blowing or honking of horns “is compulsory”.

Further, all sorts of moving objects other than just cars use Indian roads; humans who never learned to look both ways before crossing a street, sacred cows and valuable goats, ox carts bringing in a cotton harvest, farm equipment traveling in the wrong direction, motor bikes carrying as many as an entire family, antique bicycles, three-wheel auto rickshaws, “goods carriers”, and buses packed not just to but beyond capacity.

It seemed like we needed a respite from the anxious and hectic … after all, this is also a vacation! Rather than make the two days in Mumbai a race to see everything we decided to take advantage of the comfort and services of The Oberoi, Mumbai. Adding to the juxtaposition theme, The Oberoi, Mumbai was one of the targets of the 26th November 2008 LeT terrorist attack and only reopened in April of last year.

While The Oberoi has never failed to exceed our expectations, this time they went beyond that and surprised us. A few hours after we had settled into our room we heard a knock on our door. Opening the door, Gus was presented with a birthday cake and a bouquet of roses. The hotel, at check-in while copying our passports, discovered that it was Gus’ birthday… incredible attention to detail.

The Surprise

That night we celebrated with dinner at the hotel's Indian restaurant, Ziya:
Seven Course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings


<>The tasting menu:
Wine Pairing
Amuse Bouche
Champagne, French
Grilled Fiery Fish, Banana Leaf Wrapped
Chenin Blanc, India
Tandoori Wasabi Lobster
Pinot Grigio, Italy
Sundried Tomato Chicken Tikka
Valpolicella, Italy
Lychee-Ginger Sorbet
Champagne, French
Prawns Two Ways
Chardonnay, France
Achari Lamb Pasanda, Seekh Kebab
Merlot, South Africa
‘Mishthaan’ Capsule
Vina Esmerelda, Spain


Falling Behind on Her Wine Pairings

B'day Boy

Twelve Minutes before the Stroke of Midnight
The next morning, after a delicious breakfast, we headed out for a tour of Mumbai. The highlights of our drive-around included:

Marine Drive by Day, Golden Necklace by Night
Jain Temple
Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens

Dhobi Ghat is a well-known place in Mumbai. The washers locally known as Dhobis work in open to wash the clothes from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals. There are row upon row of open-air concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone.

World's Largest Outdoor Laundry

We also happened to pass some Dubbawallahs who are people who deliver tiffins from their clients’ homes to office locations on bicycle, handcarts, etc. with amazing accuracy and efficiency, despite many of them being illiterate.
Gateway of India

Taj Mahal Hotel

Victoria Terminus, India's Grandest Train Station
Upon on return to the hotel we enjoyed:

Our next stop... Aurangabad and the Ajanta and Ellora Caves.

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