Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

The last day of the holidays… January 13, 2011

When you’re on holiday, there is always The Last Day when you very often feel restless, a day difficult to enjoy in full. Sometimes, when you’re on a low-budget airfare trip to Europe, the last day means getting up at four in the morning in order to catch a 6-ish plane back home via, say Amsterdam. So in that case there is barely a last day, only a bad start of the day. Travelling home midday is probably ideal; after checking out of the hotel there is nothing much left to do but to go to the airport and hope the tax free shops are good… Travelling home at six in the evening, well… it’s OK if the weather is warm and sunny and you don’t really miss a hotel room.

Travelling back home from India, well that can be a challenge. Lufthansa is definately worse than KLM. Lufthansa leaves Mumbai at approximately 3 30 in the morning. Now that means many hours to while away without access to a hotel room. KLM is slightly better, leaves Mumbai right after midnight. Given the fact that you should be at the airport 3 – 4 hours prior to departure, and that the taxi ride from say Colaba in the south of Mumbai could take up till two hours on a bad day – you better leave for the airport around nine in the evening. But what to do all these hours in between room check-out and departure….?

I was ready and prepared to go home on the 6th of November last year, but I had plans for the long and last day. But then my friend Joan called in sick in the morning. OK, I decided against going back to Bhuleswar market because I wasn’t sure  I would find my way around that crowded maze. Furthermore, it felt more hot than ever…and I knew from some days earlier that the market would be terribly crowded.
Better opt for a day in slow motion. Go to cafes, read, buy those last minute presents, eat, more coffee, read….

When I checked out, the hotel offered me a room for free a couple of hours prior to my departure, to relax and fresh up. Great! SUBA Palace knows how to treat returning guests!

Preparing for the American president.....

Next… When I came out of the hotel and took my usual right-left turn I almost got a shock when I entered Colaba Causeway. No market, no stalls, no vendors, almost no cars and hardly any people – and it hit me – of course – : Mr Obama was due to arrive the next morning and he was supposed to stay at the hotel only a stone’s throw from my hotel. But sweepers were plentyful, cleaning the streets where Mr Obama would never set his foot. And oh, beggars were obviously driven away.

I opted for the nearest coffee bar where I knew the coffe was good, and read for an hour (+ went to the toilet, a must whenever toilets seem nice and clean). When I came out I ventured down the causeway, left side southwards. Shops were open, but the causeway felt horribly deserted without the stalls. And it struck, something is not right when itæs not crowded…  And in the midst of Diwali, on top of it. I hope somebody told Mr Obama how much his visit hurt on an otherwise great day for shopping.

The Jehangir Art Gallery in Khala Goda, in the south of Mumbai.

I visited some shops, but my jhola felt heavy on my shoulder and I decided I needed another break so I set course for the Jehangir Art Gallery where I initially wanted to visit the famous Samovar Cafe. But it was closed because of Diwali so I opted for the art gallery itself. Jehangir Art Gallery is Mumbai’s most famous gallery, built in 1952. The art gallery is the most prestigious and modern venue for Indian artistes in the city. It is situated in Khala Goda (“black horse“), and area with many other art galleries. Visiting the gallery is pleasant for many reasons; the four halls are spacious and quiet and above all, it’s cool. And I needed to cool down!

In the second hall the paintings caught my attention. As well as the artist himself. Because in India, artists spend their days in the exhibition hall, talking to visitors. The tall man, dressed as a kind of dandy, was Yaseen Khan. Oh yes, I could sense his charm when he approached me. We struck up a conversation, and I eventually asked him if I could take a picture of him, because: I like to take pictures of people I meet and talk to. – I’m not peope, he said, I’m God… Well, I don’t know God, so he could well be. When I returned after taking a look at the exhibition in the next hall, he approached me with his mobile phone, put his arm around me and we stood there listening to Air by Bach. And thus said god bye!

Yaseen Khan - yes, I actually liked his art!

Outside the gallery I met some young people who seemed happy about Diwali in their nice Punjabi dresses. I made a halt and they asked me: – Do you want to dance with us? We talked for a little while and I thought of going for a walk towards Fort and the many books stalls at Flora Fountain. But decided against it, my suitcase was already 22 kilos. Instead I found a shadow and contemplated the traffic who holds everything in India.

Young girls enjoying Diwali outside Jehangir Art Gallery.

I don't know why really, but this always facinates me...

My very special handbag....

I took another stroll down Colaba Causeway and eventually found The Oak Tree, a shop I had read about. Many a time  have I wondered; will I ever find a handbag in my favourite color combination turqoise and brown…? And as I entered the shop, the bag hung right in front of me. The Handbag itself. Right color combination, right shape, right size. Before checking the price tag I made and estimation; and was more or less right. I wouldn’t be ripped off, it would set me back around 500 NKr. The handbag was designed by Mumbai designer Vani Gupta, and I’m sure I will never see another one. The shop was otherwise great, but I bought the bag only (I’ll give you 10 percent off the obvious owner said) and I went next door, to Theobrama, and celebrated my prey. Strong coffee and a sandwich. And I was ready to go home to Norway!