Thursday, day one in Mumbai. Indian Interlude II is staying in the same hotel as on our first visit, so we have a familiarity with the local area. A late-ish breakfast – spicy potatoes, spicy omelette, spicy tea – and we hit the streets. Within 15 metres of the hotel door we are offered a tour of Mumbai, I lie through my teeth and say I have been to Bombay many times and have already seen everything.
Mumbai is sunny, warm, and humid.
Colaba causeway is a long street. One side is filled with shops and eating places, and on the edge of the footpath, stall after stall after stall of books, clothes, perfumes, scarves, jewellery, religious idols and bongo drums. And more besides. Each and every shop keeper and stall holder tries to get your attention, including a sideline in foreign exchange.
We’re headed for an ATM to withdraw local currency. ATMs are often in a small room, complete with security guatd, and withdrawals are limited to 10,000 rupees. First stop, Titan World. Titan is an Indian company with multiple brands and lines of business, including Indian made watches with more designs than you could wave a stick at. When your domestic market is one billion people you can be creative, as there’s bound to be someone who likes what you’ve done.
Titan World has air conditioning, truly a blessing, and having established our credentials as serious customers we’re offered something to drink. The first thought is cold water, but without being exactly sure where the water is coming from we opt for masala chai instead. And an excellent cup of tea it is too. Ian buys a watch which Kerry says belongs to a gangster.
We move on to the shopping arcades of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Kerry buys a silk top at a price only someone staying in the hotel could afford, and commissions two copies of the shirt she is wearing. Kerry invokes the ‘price per wear’ rule with regards to the silk top. Ian is thinking about having a tailored suit, however the staff finally confess that the fabric is not wool and cashmere as labelled, but wool and polyester, so the deal is off.
We take lunch at the French / Belgian restaurant of our previous visit, and then opt for rest and air conditioning back at the hotel.
At night we head back to the causeway, looking for a t-shirt which caught Kerry’s attention in the morning. We fail to find the shop, and figure it must be one of the handful which have finished trading for the day. We get a taxi (an experience in itself) to a restaurant in Churchgate, called Samrat, where we are the only foreigners dining. More on that experience later. After dinner we take a short walk along the road to see the street-food sellers packing up for the night and to get a taxi back to the hotel.
The driver does not know our hotel, or the street of our hotel, but he knows Colaba causeway, so off we go. He drives like a maniac, and the thought occurs that we have inadvertently joined in a murder-suicide bid. Remarkably, both we and the taxi get to Colaba in the same condition we left Churchgate.