Our first look of India was in Mumbai, where the big Kala Ghoda Arts Festival was taking place.
Here’s the story of how I met...the story of our 3 brief yet intense days there.
(mid february 2015)
Welcome to India - इंडिया में आपका स्वागत है। -
Mumbai means «Mother» according to the Marathi etymological source. Marathi is one of India’s 860 languages. Mumba means «Goddess» and Aai means «Mother»
After a little bit of digging we start to grasp the overwhelming size of this megalopolis. Mumbai is the capital city of the Maharashtra Indian state. It’s also the most populated city in India, and the 9th in the world! A 2011 estimation puts it at 12 million inhabitants, going up to 18 when counting the suburbs.
Safe to say, things are booming in Mumbai!
Also, for those interested, it’s the Los Angeles of India, the city where cinema is born. Bollywood produces more movies each year than its American counterpart, making it an easy winner for the "most movies a year" award.
This homage to Dadasaheb Phalke 1870-1944) is a striking example of the movie industry’s importance in Mumbai. As it happens, it’s also the biggest painting mural in the whole country. (I learnt this titbit while writing this article) just achieved last December (2014) during the 4 weeks of Street Art Festival of Mumbai.
That being said, we couldn’t dwell in this immensity (or should I say immense-city...yeah, I’m not even sorry for that one) for too long.
Firstly because of the overpriced accommodations.
Secondly because we had planned to leave for the city of Jodhpur by land as soon as possible, a solid 981km trip North.
Rajendrakumar, a Couchsurfer offered to take us in, but sadly, his professional obligations didn’t allow him to host us...let alone meet with us. Being the perfect gentleman, he paid himself for a nice room in the Gathkopar district. It may not mean anything to you, dear reader, but to us it meant a lot: it’s close to the airport and next to the subway.
This benefactor we’ll only know by his voice dealt with the issue in the best way we could hope for considering the situation, and kept in touch the whole time, giving us precious advice and checking in on us very often.
Gathkopar is not the prettiest part of the city but we thankfully left it to visit Juju beach by night.
There’s an amazing little café there, cutely named Prithvi Café. It hosts a theatre, modest in size, but big in quality and demand : often playing great European (mostly Italian and French) classics, without forgetting to honour Indian play, translated in English because subtitles are still complicated.
The restaurant itself sits outdoors, and the food they serve is very tasty, adding to the already particular charm of the place.
As we later learned, Prithvi Café is a popular rendez-vous point for students, young executives and Indian tourists staying in Mother city.
The Juhu area is the highlight place of a discreet Jet Set as well.
We often write about Tuktuks,Too often? Unpossible! In all fairness, this kind of information may come in handy for those of you planning to travel across Mumbai (and others big cities of India to some extent).
But first things first. In India, «Namaste» (Hello or Greetings) is rarely used when dealing with business talk or transactions. «Please» is reported missing and «Thank you» might even be less heard, in those cases, if at all. Actually the word for «Thank you» doesn’t even exist properly.
This has nothing to do with manners, but is rather a deeply rooted in the Indian society’s traditions. Thanks to these guidelines, verbal speech becomes less relevant and needed than body language and gestures.
With all that in mind, back to our tuktuks. Say you approach a tuktuk driver with a «Namaste»,and a nice smile, asking politely if he can drive you to Juhu, "pretty please". Oh, he will be courteous, will smile his teeth out, and will start your nice little chat by charging you 4 times the usual price. Don’t even think about mentioning a meter, he will ramble on about how useless it is, and will close the matter by firmly stating that no one uses meters anyway.
«So how do I deal with tuktuks» you may be asking with imploring eyes?! Have no fear, Tatup is here!
The golden rule here is to remain completly detached. You don’t ask politely for a drive, but instead casually drop a simple interrogation like «Juhu»?
If he’s in the mood, the driver will tilt his head to the right (signal for you to hop in) and will start the engine. Usually -at least for Mumbai-, he should start the meter at that time too. If not, a simple «Meter» will suffice.
When nearing your destination, he will ask a question you most likely won’t understand. It’s time for you to give precise directions «Saint Joseph church, Prithvi Café».
When leaving, a small tip will be far more appreciated than your best smile.
And you now know, at last, how I met your...how to deal with tuktuk drivers.
The exposition takes place each year in the historic districts of the city, displaying the typical Victorian Gothic architecture (silent but sturdy witness of the British era), skilfully blended with the also traditional and more ancient indo-mongol style.
A good example is the Railway Headquarters Office
The Gateway of India
The roofs of the Maharashtra Police Headquarters
The annual Kala Ghoda arts festival is one of the most important multi-cultural event in India; it takes place in February.
There are 400 art event stretched over 9 days, and the entrance is free for everyone
The best part for us was to blend in the students crowd, delighting ourselves in the surrounding colours and the scents of spices and incenses.
Delphine shows an obvious interest for this typographic art.
As for Nirvan, he gets street-food shops selling pani puri, but we’ll cover those in an upcoming in-depth article.
These few days were supposed to allow us to get a SIM card (getting one takes about 24 hours at best).
But we also planned to buy out train tickets to Jodhpur! Well...Now we’ll know we should have just gone with one of the the travel agencies, despite them charging 50 more rupees than the usual fee. As a foreigner, getting a ticket is a hair-pulling chore.
As a silver lining though, we got to discover sleeper buses, which we ended up taking. A nice find really!
Next stop: Jodhpur, blue city of Rajahstan.