Mumbai

Posted on March 4, 2014

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Yesterday I learnt a new acronym. NRI. Sounds like a terrorist group but it’s not. Neither is it a political party. It stands for Non Resident Indian. That’s what I am.

In Mumbai this gives you status and clout. T picked me up from the airport yesterday afternoon and gave me an almighty bear hug lifting me off the ground. He moved out here seven years ago permanently to start a property developing company. I talked at him at hundred miles an hour to fill him in on what’s been going on in my life for the last five years while gazing out the window from time to time.

His flat is in mid town – an area that is ‘up and coming’ and his place is on the 23rd floor. The view out of the window looks a little bit like ground zero before it was regenerated, but it gives you a terrific panoramic of the skyline. There are several big hotels in the neighbourhood – Four Seasons, Shangri-La which is now called something else (possibly Palladium, but I could be wrong ) and another posh one right opposite. There is also the Phoenix shopping mall rising from one of the former-derelict sites.

Last night was another heavy one. It was bound to be. We jumped into a cab and hit Colaba which is downtown near the water to see Gateway of India at night. It was lit up and looked glorious. Opposite is the Taj hotel which was targeted in the terrorist attacks and close by the main train station which was also attacked. Security by the water front is very tight and there are metal detectors everywhere.

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The outside of the train station resembles a cross between Notra Dame and St Pancreas, it was built by the British and has a gothic look about it in a wonderful red brick. Brief sightseeing over….we stopped at several low key pubs for beer with terrible music (who still plays Boney M ‘Brown Girl in the Ring’?) then headed to a Mumbai institution – Trishna. A lovely man from the wedding recommended it to me and T gave it the thumbs up. I was not disappointed. The food was fantastic. We ate yellow split pea dhal, boiled rice, de-shelled crab cooked in garlic butter and huge tiger prawns drenched in a thick garlic and coriander sauce, divine. As we stepped outside in the hot and humid air there was a paan whalla.

“Oh my god we have to have one!” I pipped up excited. We ordered two and I watched fascinated as he picked up various bottles and spoons.

“I do hope his fingers are clean,” I whispered as he made a circular motion on the leaf. Et voila! After a minute or so he handed it to us in napkins, fifty pence. They were delicious, better than the ones i ate in Delhi.

Then we ended up in an Irish pub, which had no Guinness – how the hell is that possible? It was Karaoke night and full of young trendy pretty 20-somethings who couldn’t sing for toffee. The cat calling had me in hysterics. It was like being in a room full of X-Factor rejects. As we propped up the bar taking in the scene one young man started to bust out some Jacko-type moves in front of me.

“He’s doing that for you, you know,” winked T. Then turning his back to me he said to the young guy, “Man you’ve got all the moves.”

I slapped T hard on the arm. “Don’t be twat,” I hissed. After I couldn’t take any more wailing and laughing we downed our pints and staggered out.

Next stop was the rooftop of a swanky hotel bar where I ended up meeting some very wealthy Mumbai-ites. We are talking obscenely wealthy – filthy in fact. They were pleasant enough, but not my crowd. The dj was spinning some amazing music, the only reason to go back because the bar bill was steep. T of course picked that up despite my protests.

The decor reminded me of Hong Kong, very plush. White leather sofas, dark mahogany, slick. I’m meant to be headed back there this evening. A friend of T’s is taking me to a women only event. She’s a Bollywood actress and it’s a Jimmy Choo party. I’m slightly dreading it because it’s a fashion crowd. Let’s hope they are not all vacuous or I will end up getting seriously wasted to get through it.

We got home relatively early I think around 2am but then we cracked open a few more beers put on some loud music and I was jumping around on his marble flooring until 4am. Clearly the Ozzies from the wedding have rubbed off on me.

This morning did not start well. Baaaaaaad head. My own fault. Oh well at least I’m less inclined to have a bender now. I’ve come back to Colaba this afternoon. I’ve already had a so-called holy man grab my wrist, wrap several coloured threads around it while reciting a pray; then placing a hand on my head, a tika (red dot) on my forehead; a flower and sweet into my palm and then ask for money. Cheeky bugger! I suppose it was too good to be true to be singled out for a free blessing.

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At this very moment I am eating a tofu, brown rice and broccoli lunch with coconut water at the Taj. I’m trying to put some nutrients back into my body. This place is incredible, I’ve never seen a hotel quite like it. The pool area which is only for residents looks amazing. I was allowed to go out and have a quick peek, but couldn’t get a table outdoors. They also wont share their wifi password, that’s only for the guests – stingy b*****ds.

The pit stop is before I hit the boat. I’m taking a ferry for an hour to Elephanta Caves which is an island where there are historic 7th Century caves filled with Shiva statues and monkeys. My stomach seems to have settled now after what was a bumpy hot taxi ride for 40 minutes. That only cost me £1.20 I’m expecting this lunch to be more like thirty quid.

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Posted in: India