India 2016: Bombay — 26 March

Partly because Derek and I had not gotten a proper tour of Bombay the last time (in June 2014), partly because DaveRisner wanted a real city after the old-world charm of Varanasi, partly because I had always wanted to take in Bombay — in my mind until this trip the one city in India I thought I could live in — we were quickly up and out from the hotel. A massive city with over 18M people that embraced much of western culture while still paying homage to its traditional eastern values, Bombay was a melting pot of old and new. An important and strategic seaport for the reigns of the Indian dynasties, Portuguese, and English rule, Bombay had always known an elevated status among Indian cities.

Leaving the Hotel Marine Plaza enjoying our view of the Back Bay, we turned right from Marine Drive going away from the water towards the other side of the peninsula. We soon found ourselves walking through an intramural field where several cricket matches were going on. Before long, after refreshments, we made our way to the immense Gateway to India, overlooking the Arabian Sea, a short thirty minute walk only two kilometers from our hotel. Built one hundred years ago, very similar to the India Gate in New Delhi, I would later find out that the Gateway to India was Mumbai’s largest tourist attraction, originally it was the place where English viceroys and governors landed upon entering India. Unfortunately however, in the past thirteen years, it was also the site of three terrorist attacks.

Other than walk around and take pictures, and admiring the structure for what it was, we were soon wanting to head elsewhere. Hopping into a taxi, we made our way through the Indian traffic across the southern portion of the peninsula, along the Back Bay northwest to the Haji Ali Dargah, a famous mosque and tomb located on an islet off the coast of Worli (one of the municipalities in the city). Visited by 80,000 people (tourists as well as locals) a week, the six-hundred year-old structure could only be accessed during low tide. A narrow causeway almost a kilometer long, not bounded by anything other than the poor begging for food and money, rendered the mosque an island during high tide.

Upon entering the area, we were greeted by all sorts of shops adorning the path leading to the causeway, selling all sorts of things from shoes (which we bought upon leaving) and sandals to clothing to trinkets to food. Inside the mosque, we saw all sorts of people, some singing devotional music, many just socializing. Quite a buzz permeated the entire area. We soon left once again, eventually landing back at the rooftop bar (Dome) of the Hotel Intercontinental, enjoying a beer before our night would eventually start.

Our friend Dev whom we knew in the States had connected us to one of his close pals Jeetu. Our night started with a feast hosted at the Cricket Club of India, hosting tables and tables of unbelievably delicious Indian food on the grounds of Brabourne Stadium — dal, chicken curries, naan, papadam, tikka masala, biriyani, aloo gobi, tandoori chicken, etc. — not to mention cuisine from other parts of the world. Satiated, we went up to the bar. And before long, DaveRisner was giving #FreeHugs to the population. The three of our found ourselves on the dance floor, moving to clubby Indian music, having the time of our lives. Jeetu took us on a wild night from one club to another welcoming the end of the night and entry into the morning. Indians loved to dance; and no one stayed on the sidelines. Dancing was an active sport with everyone participating; and their music was simply infectious incorporating new and old, eastern and western. At one point, Rihanna took over the dance floor with her music. And we enjoyed every bit of it.

By the time we were ready to call it, the streets had gotten quiet. It had been a long, long time since the last time we had spent a night clubbing. I guess that what you do on a weekend night on the town in Mumbai.

Tomorrow became today. And soon we would be in Udaipur.

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