Last edited by Simon Strijbos on Thursday 12 February 2015
My last day in Mumbai was too short to plan an all-day excursion. The plane left at 6am but unfortunately the trains stop after about 1am. I asked my hotel manager and he told me a taxi was the only way to get to the airport on time, unless I wanted to take a train at midnight and spend 5 hours at the airport. I opted on booking a taxi which I paid with my hard-earned 500 rupees from the day before.
"This is my Bollywood money," I said when handing the hotel manager the 500 rupee bill.
He tilted his head in amusement. "Oh, you were in a Bollywood movie? Which one?"
"It's called Once Upon a Time in Mumbai."
The hotel manager thought for a bit, then looked at his companion. "I have not heard of this movie."
"It stars Ajay Devgan, " I said
"Oh yes, he is very famous actor!" he said while he and his companion tilted their heads enthusiastically.
I got up early, showered, put on my clothes, had a quick breakfast at Manglore Naaz, then I headed off to Colaba. I waited for a while at the far corner of the street where the Salvation Army hostel was located, like Imran had told me, but nobody showed up. The street was deserted except for an occasional passerby, and at about 8.15 I walked back to the Salvation Army. A British couple stood there waiting and I asked them if they too were waiting for Imran. They were, except he had told them to wait at the Salvation Army hostel instead.
Some Indians gathered around us, curious as to what we were up to. I told them we were waiting for our pickup to Bollywood and showed them Imran's card. One of the men took the card from me without asking and said: "I call for you," while reaching for his cell phone. I could hear Imran responding to the phone call. The two men conversed in Hindi and after the phone call was over, the helpful Indian reported: "He send someone to pick you up."
After a few minutes, a trendy looking Indian man appeared in a shiny black Mazda with tinted windows. The three of us (me and the British couple) got in and were driven to another spot at high speed. Though it was still early and traffic had yet to get started, the driver nearly hit a few cyclists and pedestrians who were calmly crossing the road, not expecting someone to appear behind them at 70 km/h. The horn signal called them to attention just in time.
Yalong and I had agreed to meet at the Gateway to India at 8am to go to Elephanta Island.
Me and the woman from the hotel went for breakfast at about 7. Her name was Yael and she was born in Israel but lived in the United States.
The owner of Manglore Naaz recognized me from the night before and greeted me amiably. After we had been examining the menu for a minute, the owner came to our table. While Yael studied the menu for a little longer, I ordered some appam bread, an onion omelet and chai. The restaurant owner assumed we were a couple and, with me being the man, took my order as being for both Yael and me. He disappeared into the back of the restaurant without waiting for Yael to decide. We laughed in amazement.
I went on my way to the Gateway at 7:30.
Both Mike and me were under the impression, so informed by locals, that there would be a big parade for Republic Day. This turned out not to be true and we decided to move ahead our plans to visit Dharavi.
One of the largest slums in Mumbai, Dharavi was also the set for several scenes in Slumdog Millionaire and the former home of some of the child stars in the same movie. To get there we took the train to Mahim Junction and as soon as we arrived we could see the outskirts of the slums: rickety shacks built beside the railroad tracks.
From the bridge across the tracks we got an excellent, not to mention very confronting, view of Dharavi. Lines and lines of shanties around a few blocks of crumbling apartment buildings.
I met Mike again in front of the National Gallery of Modern Art. We agreed to meet there at 8:30 and I made sure to be there on time. Mike told me the day before about a German couple he had met in Mumbai. The three of them had agreed to meet each other one morning and spend the day together, but the couple never showed up.
The night before I looked up what buses we could take to Malabar Hill (106 or 108) but Mike suggested to walk there along the seaside. After examining the map we found that it would make a 4km walk from Churchgate along Chowpatty Beach to Malabar Hill. I agreed and we set off westwards straight to the Churchgate seaside. The walk to the seaside took us past two large maidans; long stretches of open green where locals come for a stroll or just to sit down in the grass.