Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mumbai, India

I'm not really sure what I expected to see upon our mid-February arrival to the city of Mumbai, formerly called Bombay.  Perhaps part of me envisioned the colorful, flamboyant, glamorous imagery of "Bollywood" mingled with lavish Shrines and Mosques.  And the other part of me anticipated the dirty, dilapidated, despair found in overcrowded slums.  For the most part, my expectations were accurate . . . India is a country of extreme contrasts.  Being on business travel with Bob, meant we would be treated like royalty, and experience the best of India to the degree possible during our short stay.  And we are truly grateful for the many kindness showered upon us in the way of accommodations, food, and gifts.  But it was difficult to experience that level of comfort while witnessing the rigid social distinctions created by the caste system.  Although I had been warned, I was not prepared for the incessant banging of beggars on the car windows at every stop along the road.  Women with unclothed babies on their hips and young children with hands outstretched for money at every bend nearly broke my heart.  Whether they were begging for themselves, or under duress as slaves to another, I could not tell.  I had to try to convince myself that is was for the best that I had no cash nor food to give.  How I wished I had carried bags of candy in my purse to distribute to those poor sweet children, if only to see a smile on their faces!  There is goodness among this people, but how can God bless a nation so devoted to idol worship?  The light of the gospel of Jesus Christ will surely dispel the darkness and bring a brightness of hope to this nation someday!

One thing I didn't anticipate seeing, was the lush green park that awaited my first gaze from our Westin Hotel window, and the lush green farmlands we saw later in our journey.  Nor did I believe that Mumbai would have many of the characteristics of any modern city.  After Bob's morning meeting, we had just a half day to get a glimpse of the best of Bombay.  Here's a sampling of what we saw on our way to The Gate of India, including the impressive British inspired train station, a beautiful bridge, and a mosque on an island in the bay that can only be reached during low tide.

The Gateway of India is located on the southern tip of Mumbai that opens to a view of the Arabian Sea.  It was constructed in 1924 to commemorate the visit of Britain's Kind George V and Queen Mary.  Near the arch is the famous Taj Mahal Hotel.  Much to Bob's chagrin, while visiting the arch, a "Holy Man" in white robes took my hand and wrapped several strands of yarn around my wrist, gave me a blessing and painted a big red dot on my forehead.  I was just getting into the spirit of India, but I think the guys knew that from this time forward they would have to keep an eye on me - I was marked target!  With all the washing I could manage that day, that darn red spot could not be entirely removed.  I guess I deserved it!  (By the way, it was the Indian family that asked me to be in their photo - not the other way around!)

Leaving the Gate of India put us on path through the city that took us beyond the tourist point of view, although we were still in a wealthy part of Mumbai.  We drove to a park called "Hanging Gardens" where you can get a nice view of the coastline and beach.  But I think the people are the most beautiful site in India.  Without doubt, the traditional Indian dress for women is the most lovely in all the world.  The colors and detailed ornamentation of their fabrics are stunningly feminine and flattering!  We stopped for lunch as a popular Indian buffet, which gave us a chance to sample small portions of all kinds of Indian dishes.  Bob has had some unpleasant eating experiences in India before, but everything we had this trip was fabulous!  During our week in India, we sampled foods from several different regions and we really liked it all.  And, despite all the horror stories, we never suffered from "Dehli belly" or had sinus problems with the air quality.  Thankfully, Mumbai did not have  much smog the day we there, and we were very careful to about what we ate and avoided ice and unsealed bottles of drinking water.

After lunch, we headed to the domestic airport to catch a two hour flight to New Dehli.  I thought the airline had a pretty clever logo!  I took a photo of Indian lettering, which I found to be quite interesting.  I was excited to be on my way to the capital city of India.

 New Delhi, here we come!

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