This Is India

IMG_9945How can anyone sleep? Way up over the Bay of Bombay is a thin slice of silver in the black sky, which reminds me I should stop looking out my window and get some rest. The sea glistens like thick molasses. It is 5am, and the in the darkness I can only just make out the gathering place beneath the triumphal arch of the Gateway of India. Under a dim street lamp a couple of dogs are curled up asleep on the seaside promenade.

The emptiness is silent—even the pigeons are asleep.

I’ve been here before. I know that soon India will wake up. I can hardly wait to start another journey. After an 11 ½ hour flight to Frankfurt, and a short change onto another flight 9 ½ hours to Mumbai, I’ve arrived as though by magic into another world.

It’s 5am and I am convincing myself that I should stay awake. There is long orange line stretching to the horizon, hinting of daylight. Slowly the sun breaks through the mist. A few small boats begin to quiver and move out to sea; a vendor or two push their carts into place beside the promenade. The dogs have changed their positions.P1050424

And my stomach is growling in anticipation of a breakfast of the sambar, masala dosa and coriander chutney that I’ve been dreaming of all year.

Now it’s 7am and the harbour and gathering place beneath the arch have come alive. There are a few little boats moving out to sea with fishermen standing in them casting their nets. A small ferry, the first of the day, makes its way across the bay to the 1500 year-old labyrinth of caves and Hindu temples carved into the rock on Elephant Island. In a corner near the arch a monk is emptying a large sack of grain for the pigeons and a large crowd of people gathers around them. A trio of men dressed in shorts and long shirts is facing the sun and beginning a yoga practice. Colourful women with their saris flowing walk along the promenade in small groups. The vendors have come to life.IMG_9974

After breakfast in the garden, I brace myself for the mayhem outside. I know with my sun deprived Canadian skin I’m like a sitting duck on the street and try my best to comport myself as a local. It doesn’t work. I am surrounded by the postcard sellers, giant balloon sellers and touts offering city tours “cheap cheap cheap.” I try hold my eyes straight ahead and (skilfully I think) work my way into group of teenage school children passing by. It’s a triple bonus. I’ve escaped the postcard sellers, am guaranteed safe crossing the busy streets, and I’ve helped the school children practice their English.P1050472

I love wandering up Chhatrapati Shiva Marg, slightly off the usual tourist pathway, past Mumbai’s 19th century colonial buildings ­–– the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Elphinstone College and the David Sassoon Library. It is a feast of colour. I don’t mind being enticed to step into the tiny women’s cooperative shops along the way that offer a stunning variety of hand-loomed textiles, embroideries and weaving from cottage industries in the surrounding districts.  P1050498

Late in the afternoon we settle into a quiet evening (in our palace hotel) with a yoga practice, especially designed for us by the “palace” yoga master, to help us “detoxify” the effects of jet lag.

Slowwwwly. Breathe in and out. Relaxxxxxx. Strechhhhh your body.


Sooooo hummmsa hummmsa sooooo.

This is where I am. India. P1050388