Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Colours – colours…. March 19, 2012

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 8:38 pm
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I was going through the photos from my last trip to India and came across four women I met in Cochin (state of Kerala) last November. Well women…., they were dolls on dispaly outside a shop; dressed in mauve, and they were absolutely gorgous. It was impossible to pass, and I felt the urge to go inside – in search of more treasures. I wanted to explain the young shop assistant that I came in because of the dolls – but it was a dead end…. her English was poor and as much as I wanted to buy something to make her happy – I was going through “a million kurtas” – nothing could match the mauve creations outside. I could never wear colurs like these, and if I came home – wearing one of these outfits – well somebody would most definately have a fit. When buying clothes in India, one must always put on the homely specs and be sensible…. What looks awesome in India, most probably looks horribly out of place at home. But it’s not forbidden to watch and admire….

Colours have always been a reason, when people ask what it is about India that I like so much. Colours are everywhere in India, in many senses and many ways. I remember a wedding that was taking place on a street in Mumbai, near the Mumba Devi temple. The couple was very poor, that was all too clear. But the bride was dressed in her red wedding dress and she stood out on the dusty, grey pavement. She looked like a queen. The red saree did it for her!

Going through more photos, I found some from Crawford market in Mumbai. I like taking pictures of fruit and vegetables. It’s the colours, the shape , the way they are put on display… Like a piece of art! Or maybe is it music?  I think of the seller as a conductor, with his symphony of colours! And here are some of the orange-green movement….


Summer reading June 14, 2011

This summer has a set goal… I have to get rid of two piles of books in my living room. For a start I’d like to read these books. Secondly, I have to read them in order to justify new purchases on my next travel to Mumbai.

The Indian joint family closely observed by two female writers.

I had a whole week to myself recently, my agenda was full – but that was before I started Manju Kapur’s Home. I had just finished John Irving’s latest novel; Last night in Twisted River – 600 pages full of  John Irving’s peculiar characters – but you tend to get wary of Irving’s many words en route. Maybe that’s way I picked a small pocket book with the modest title Home. Kapur was unknown to me and the story itself might not be “prize material”… Set in Delhi, it tells the story of three generations of an Indian joint family. And the Indian joint family facinates me with it’s tangle of mothers, fathers, in’laws, children, aunts, nieces, nephews…. where everybody has his/hers place in a distinct hierarchy. The novel centres about the female members of the family; like Rupa who is unable to conceive and Nisha who is a mangli (bad horoscope) and her struggle to get married after a love-marriage was denied her. Instead of doing all the things I had planned, I found myself constantly curled up in the sofa – hours after hours – together with Rupa, Nisha, Rekha, Raju.. a cup of tea, a glass of pepsi or an espresso…..

India is on my reading list this summer...

Even before I had finished the book, I had decided on the next one: Desirable daughters by Bharati Mukherjee. From the title I could tell that this was another novel about Indian family life. And from the author’s name I knew she was a Bengali writer. The book is mostly set in California, but tells the story about three sisters from upper class Kolkata (Calcutta) – and the many flash backs paint an interesting picture of a Calcutta nowhere near the misery of Mother Teresa’s Calcutta. And constantly reminds me that Kolkata is number one on my “travel-to-another-city-than-Mumbai” list…. From a literary pont of view, this novel is more substantial than Kapur’s Home. The three sisters have a complicated relationship, and the fact that the eldest has an illegitimate child that appears on the scene after being a family secret for 25 years, gives the book a certain tension and moves the story forward. Being just half way through the book, I know that this is an author I will explore further.

So what should I read next… Normally I read two books at a time. One fiction and one non-fiction. Fiction is on my bedside table, the non-fiction by my side in the living room. – So what do you read in the kitchen, a friend asked… Certainly not cookery books…

I have several non-fiction books ready to read; the legendary City of Gold – The biography of Bombay by Gillian Tindall. A bit outdated perhaps, nevertheless a much quoted book. Secondly; Calcutta by Simon Winchester – because I’d like to go there during the literary festival in February every year. And then After the Raj by Hugh Purcell – because The British Raj has intrigued me ever since I saw the TV serial The Jewel in the Crown a lot many years ago. The adaption of Paul Scott’s novel is brilliant, and reminds me that I should read the book – not only watch it which I did again a year ago. I can’t help it but I could have died to step back into history to be a part of The British Raj – no matter how horribly wrong it seems…. This is a feeling I have been fighting against for many years, still, it remains after many trips to India. This particular book tells story about the Britishers that didn’t escape India, after The Raj ceased to exist.

When I have left the Indian joint family (at least for now) I will go on with Herman Koch’s Middagen (The Dinner) and then In the Kitchen by Monica Ali. I had never heard about Herman Koch, but my most valuable source of book reviews; Norwegian financial paper Dagens Nærlingsliv praised it highly some months ago. Most of the time, there is only one book review pr week, on Saturdays, but their taste for books is great and I have bought many a book on their recommendadtion and thought; where else would I have read about this book….

Hopefully Monica Ali won't let med down!

Monica Ali is famous for her novel Brick Lane, and her latest novel In the kitchen is supposed to be a follow-up to Brick Lane. A multi cultural hotel kitchen seems like the right place to be on a cool summer day in Stavanger because right now I can’t envsion myself lightly dressed with a book on my veranda! More so under a rug with a hot cup of tea….


Books in Mumbai April 13, 2011

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 6:32 pm
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Reading in the shadow...

There are several ways to buy books in Mumbai. There are street hawkers everywhere, they sell their books vertically or horizontally off the street. I always find it difficult to go past, always thinking one of them might have something exiting I didn’t know existed…. But most of the time they sell the same books. Booker prize winners are plenty among them.

Outdoor book market at Flora Fountain.

There is an outdoor book market at Flora Fountain, in the Fort area, South Mumbai. Insiders tell me the book market has lost its glory, and that may well be. Something tells me the market has been much bigger, and more of an attraction. The market has been there “always” and it’s not legal, of course. But it’s a nice spot anyway, and Fort is a great area. The books are stacked in piles and piles, it’s not easy to search through them without help. One could of course easily find the same books in a book store, save something really old perhaps – or a real gem… – but the heaps of books have a certain attraction. I’m not able to pass no matter how faded it is!

Of course....

On the last day of my visit I decided to pay the book market a visit, I was looking for books about Mumbai in particular. And everybody was eager to help, and I did in fact find the one book a book store told me was sold out from the publisher; Mumbai; City of Gold by Gillian Tindall. And I found many more books, but my suitcase was already 21 kg. But I was given a little stool so that I could leaf through a great book about The Maharajas, too heavy – but now on my shopping list for the next visit.

Arches at M. G. Road, these pavements are very welcome on a hot day!

On my way back to Colaba, I strolled down the pavements of M. G Road, under the arches that give you a bit of much-needed shade. And suddenly I became aware of a book store. I went inside, and was very pleased by what I saw. A spacious room with an open first floor. Beautiful interior and shelves, all dark brown. Books laid out on tables. The whole room was screaming, but in a soft voice: buy books……….  A man was constantly dusting the shelves with a big, soft light blue duster. I said to the nice, middle-aged man behind the desk that I couldn’t remember having seen the shop before, even though I can spot a books store miles away and I have walked M. G. Road many times. – We opened just recently, he said proudly, – three months ago. Kitab Khana it was called.

Another favourite in Mumbai: Kitab Khana.

And what’s more… at the back was a nice little cafe. The owner seemed to be everywhere, making sure the guests were well taken care of. Service was impeccable anyway. I had lunch there two days in a row; penne pasta, Pepsi and strong coffe. All tasted great except the Pepsi that tasted…Pepsi. Kitab Khana is on my “must visit again-list”. Definately!

Marine Drive April 10, 2011

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 4:37 pm
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Marine Drive in all its splendour....

Mumbai feels, most of the time, terribly congested, polluted, noisy, suffocating – words are many to describe the sad parts of this – in my opinion – fantastic city. But there is at least one place one can breathe freely. And that is Marine Drive. It’s a 3 km long boulevard in the south of the city, stretching from Mumbai’s Manhattan; Nariman Point to Malabar Hill, a posh residential area. It is a ‘C’-shaped six-lane concrete road along the coast, which is a natural bay. Real estate prices are among the highest in the world in this area

Family life at Chowpatty beach!

Since I prefer to stay at Suba Palace in the south of Mumbai, Marine Drive always comes as a relief after a long taxi ride from the northern suburbs. Yes, the traffic very often comes to a standstill here as well, but at least one can watch the Arabian sea on the right hand side. But at one point the taxi has to turn left and hit into the ‘jungle’ once more.

The highlight of Marine Drive is the beautiful promenade along the road where many  Mumbaikars take in a breath of fresh air and view the setting sun. The promenade is lined with palm trees. At the northern end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach. A friend of mine had heard of Chowpatty and wondered if she should bring her bathing suit. Well, rather not. I wouldn’t dare lower my body into the polluted water, neither would I think it suitable to appear in a bathing suit. But Chowpatty is good for observing Indian family life on a Sunday afternoon.

Young lovers enjoying the solitude...

The stretch from Colaba to Marine Drive is walkable, just head for Churchgate train station. I have found a good pizzeria on a corner, so that I can eat well and at the same time watch Marine Drive. Outside the pizzeria a young woman with a child resides, I don’t really think it’s her child, beside – I have seen her with different ones. She begs from the pavement, sometimes she walks out in the street to beg among the cars. I think she is given left overs from the pizzeria. At least I hope so.

Living off the streets...

Marine Drive is lovely during night, when all the street lamps resemble a string of pearls and forms “The Queen’s Necklace”.  The boulevard is full of young couples, maybe their one and only escape from congested living conditions and extended families.

The Queen's necklace.


Chimanlals April 7, 2011

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 5:58 pm
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Every second time I go to Mumbai I visit Chimanlals, the paper store. The very first time together with my friend Joan, and I thought we would never get there. The taxi was criss-crossing the area and we even phoned the shop to get directions. Little did I know at that time, that I could have walked from my hotel in Colaba. Because Chimanlals can be found in the Fort area, just off one of the big streets; Dr. D. N. Road. But I hardly knew Fort then. Now it’s a favourite.

If you’re interested in paper, Chimanlals fulfills all your dreams…. The store has been around for many years. Though formally incorporated as a Private Limited Company in 1974 it started their designs and manufacturing in the late fifties. We are of course talking about hand made paper, and the designs reflect to a great extent Indian art and culture. At the same time, I use many of the cards for Christmas. Chimanlals are exporting to many European countries as well as the USA.

India = colours….

The shop is quite small, and yes – you would have to know where it is because neither the door nor the sign is very flashy – and there are no other shopfronts are around. There are two rooms. The first room has loads of writing paper and cards on display as well as the cashier; a long desk with two people; one man – I’m not really sure of what kind of role he plays – and a woman who does the work… namely count your purchases and make up the bill.

The second room is filled to the brink. Here we have cards, gift covers, gift wrappers, gift tags, bags, boxes, collapsible baskets, desk organisers, note books…. It’s quite incredibe, really. Most designs are absolutely lovely. Cards are mostly solds in packets of five, and the cards then come in five different colours. Very often the print is in “gold” and what is more suitable for say a Christmas card than a red card with gold ornaments!

Take your pick….

The atmosphere is very calm, people wander around with their little trays where they collect one or many items… To say it’s cheap is an understatement. For a Norwegian wallet this is more or less free! Thus soooo tempting!

After my third visited I realised that Chimanlas doesn’t really come up with new designs too often. As a matter of fact, this time I didn’t find anything new at all. But it was worth the visit, because now I have Christmas cards, tags and wrappings for the coming Christmas.

Chimanlals can be found in A-2 Taj Building in Wallace street.

I visited Chimanlals on a very hot day. I had taken a cab from a shopping mall in Worli, and I had to give the driver all the landmarks given in my guide book. And with the help of many helping Mumbaikars, we eventually reached there – but! the door was closed. …. A young woman outside the shop said; well it IS 31 March today – as if there should ring a million bells in my head. – Taking stock day, she fortunately added. – But we will open at 2 pm. I felt a surge of relief, but realised I had almost two hours to spend in Fort on a very very hot day. But in Mumbai somethings always pops up. I found a brand new bookstore almost just around the corner, with a lovely little cafe. But that’s another story.


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!


India quick-fix November 26, 2010

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 7:50 pm
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Among all the things I appreciate about India, is how everything can be fixed, just like that. No fuss. No it-might-be-difficult. I arrived in India with a belt bag that had become too big. I like my belt bag, bought in Goa some years ago, made of genuine leather. So what to do?

You don’t have to walk long before you spot a shoemaker on the streets in India. They sit there quietly with all their well used tools around. We explained the problem, he put aside the work he was doing and without a word spoken he fixed my belt bag in five minutes. For almost nothing.

Smart and Hollywood, couldn't get better...

A week later, in Mumbai, I bought a jhola (a simple bag made of cloth). Joan and I was walking up and down Colaba Market, because I wanted that particular jhola, but the seller wouldn’t give it to me for 150 rupies and we thought – let’s find the same jhola elsewhere. Because that’s what very often happens; the same things are sold by various stalls. But, there seemed to be only one jhola of this kind…. Actually, we made it on our third try because Joan really knows how to bargain. But the next day, the zip broke down….and off to the nearest tailor I went. Because tailors are also found everywhere. I chose one I was familiar with; Smart and Hollywood (!) opposite Jehangir Art Gallery.
My jhola was examined, a zip was found and we agreed that I would come back a little later. The zip cost med 50 rupies (6 kroner), the work was free.

Colorful dresses at aseesa!

When you buy clothes in India, the magic word is alter. My favourite clothes shop in Colaba is aseesa. A tiny, tiny shop, always packed with people. They sell colorful dresses, every one a dream. I tried one, but found it to be too tight under the arms. – We can alter it Madam, no problem. Then it will fit perfect. We examined the seam, and well, I realised I would have to buy it if they altered it. But I said yes… So she whisked it away to a young man who disappeard to the back of the shop and asked me to come back in 20 minutes. Simple as that…. Everything can be made bigger, smaller, different – for free. So that you always get what you want…………


Bazaars of South Mumbai November 24, 2010

People tend to hate guides, I don’t quite understand. Yes is can be nice to roam around with no head and tail, but sometimes it’s nice to have somebody to ask and get first hand information. That’s why I had booked a tour with Mumbai Magic, to do their bazaar walk. It was me and Max from Australia and famous Crawford Market was our starting pont. The market houses a wholesale fruit, vegetable and poultry market. One end of the market is a pet store. – YUK – Imported items such as foods, cosmetics, household and gift items are plentiful as well.

Fruit in abundance...

Because of Diwali, all the fruit sellers were busy making fruit baskets – a popular Diwali gift. In fact I was rather surprised to see this, as sweets seem to play an important role during Diwali. I didn’t want to see more poultries-ready-to-slaughtered, but I managed to see some of the puppies. And well, they seemed slightly better off than the poultry I had seen in Colaba market some days earlier.

It was 11 am when we met and the inside of Crawford market was manageable. No sun and not too crowded. – It’s still quite early, the guide said reassuringly. But when we, after some time, came out and ventured further on to the cloth market  it was as if the whole area had exploded. Even the guide was overwhelmed, but after all – we were in the midst of Diwali. Just think about Stavanger or any other place the day before Christmas eve, people shopping like we were close to the end of the world.

I never tire of the colors....

But then we escaped into the Mangaldas cloth market, a world of colours. Again we got shelter from the sun… The market sells all kind of  fabrics – preferably wholesale. Having a stall here is priceless. As I was in the hands of a guide, AND a man…., there wasn’t really time to stop and admire and spend – something I hadn’t really expected. I just wanted to get an overview, and go back on my own some time because we had a tight schedule.

I was very curious about Zaveri Bazaar, the market for gold, silver, diamonds and precious gems. And again, it was Diwali and people were buying gold, as well. And even more so, this was The Auspicious Day for buying gold. The street was a little bit more than crowded, it was absolutely packed with people, cars, carts, bicycles – and the odd cow. Jewellers were lining the street. – Look around you, said the guide. – Do you see any police, guards, security? The shops have gold worth God knows how much, but security is scarce.

Pure gold... Anybody who wants to marry me???

A few years back I wouldn’t have given Indian jewellery even a quick glance… And if so, I would have said too much. I tend to like simple things made of silver. Something has changed though…is it called assimilation?
Have a look at an Indian bride, all dressed in red, red and white bangles, fabulous jewellery – it’s quite overwhelming, and I can understand Indian women’s addiction for gold. Myself I could never extinguish an imitation from a real peace of jewellery. But imitations are very common. An imitation would probably start to itch on my body though….
– Indian women think about gold as their birth right, the guide says. I’m thinking of adopting this birth right!

From gold to lotus....

I couldn’t resist asking the guide about beads…. even though I realised Max wouldn’t bee so keen… But we easily found beads in this area and I got a card from an interesting seller, promising myself to come back…. next time (when you already have 1,4 kg of beads in your suitcase, you simply do not go for more….). So we visited the Mirchi Galli (spices market), the Phool Galli (Flower Street),  and finally Mumbadevi Temple. Inside the temple area I came across a shop selling incense and what is called dhoop: incense powder. I got some really nice dhoop and have already asked friends in Mumbai for more…. Can one be addicted to a smell? definately!

Selling dried fruit, and isn't that little man just edible as well...?

What really made an impact was the cow shelter… the Panjra Pole. A shelter for homeless cows, where else than in India would you find such a place? They were well kept, sweet (!), all were named after godesses and came when called for (ie. they recognised their name). We fed them, admired the young ones and well, thought about the homeless people on the streets of Mumbai… How could we not! They were even protected from paparazzis; no photos allowed.

And then we came across a sadhu; a holy man.

These markets are really fantastic, don’t go for the markets aimed for tourists. This is where real Indian LIFE unfolds. I spotted a wedding taking place right there, on the street. A barber on the street. A cheerful group of women enjoying a cup of chai, – in the middle of their Diwali shopping? And an outdoor chapati bakery.
People are in general very nice, they don’t push goods upon you, you can really enjoy being the observer. After almost 4 hours I felt drenched, all I could think of was a shower. But wow did I enjoy…………….

Happy with today's shopping?

How can anybody resist buying mouth freshner from these smiling people?

Must be more fun to do your job out in the open than indoors! Chapati spot on!

Indian quick-fix on the street...

Specialises in green....


Mumbai local trains November 1, 2010

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 4:46 pm
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Most tourists don’t travel the local trains in Mumbai. Taxis and autorickshaws come cheap, and one doesn’t really bother to get to know the system of the trains. But if you really have to save money… or if you just want to have som fun… have a try.

There a re two railway lines running through Mumbai, Western Railways and Central Railways. The system carries more than 6.9 million commuters on a daily basis and constitutes more than half of the total daily passenger capacity of the Indian Railways itself. It has one of the highest passenger densities of any urban railway system in the world.

The women's compartment.

Together with my friend Joan’s son Tash we started out from Churchgate, the southernmost station, on a seemingly quite Sunday at noon. The trains have women’s compartments, but since we were a mixed couple we had to opt for the mixed compartment. Incidentially I saw a sign just as we we were boarding; some compartments are reserved for the handicapped and for cancer patients.

The train was filling up as we went along, every time I thought the compartment was absolutely packed, 50 more people boarded in a rush. I was lucky to sit, squeezed into a corner. Indian men tend to stare openly, so I had put on a cardigan which made me boil.

People wating at the station.

The train ride was no hassle really, but when Joan and I returned later in the afternoon, the fun began. We had boarded a wrong train and had to change only after one station. As the train came rolling into the station, everybody started to run along the train. And as we were going for the women’s compartment, a horde of women kept running…. and then jumped on the train before it had stopped. In open sandals and a long skirt I think I did nicely – for a beginner. At the same time people were getting out. The trains stop for only two minutes, so people are just frantic – to be in or out.

The compartment was really packed, – in my opinion, and most women were chatting away. According to Joan, the compartment was nowhere near packed…….
The good thing about India and its train culture, is that there is always space for more people. Nobody should be left out, the rule is – there is room for everybody. How good it is in terms of saftey, well…
The trains have no doors, that’s why you see people hanging almost on the outside of the trains. I was standing in the opening myself, allowing the warm air to embrace me. I never thought it wasn’t safe.
A lot of people live along the tracks in poor conditions. Defecating along the tracks is normal…. as well as walking along them – or on them. And children are playing. One has to see for oneself, really.

Women are shopping at local trains to kill time...

I can’t remember which station, but suddenly almost everybody went off – like a cowherd they were fighting their way out of the compartment. Indian women must be tough!

All sorts of bric a brac are sold on the trains; simple jewellerey for example. One easily gets bored on a train ride through Mumbai that takes more than an hour depending on if it’s a fast train or not. One might as well by some earrings for 20 rupies.


Colaba local market (South Mumbai) October 31, 2010

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 3:17 pm
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This morning I decided to go for a walk, just a Sunday morning walk. I ended up at the local market, and what a relief – I was not bothered by anybody. The Colaba street market, along Colaba Causeway, is different. It swarms with tourists, and you can’t take a single step without being offered something; Madam, look Madam, scarfs, pashminas, shawls Madam.. On top of it the beggars of course. You have to fight for your purse….

I represented no potensial byer in the local market, obviously. What would a tourist need grocieries for, or bric a brac for upcoming Diwali? I was left to myself with my camera, and people willingly answered all my questions; what is that for, how do you use this – and so on. It’s amazing these markets, and shops – the variety of goods is without limits.

I couldn't get my eyes off the powder... colours are amazing...

What was not amazing was the selling of chicken…. Half dead, they seemed to me, stuck in horrible cages, awaiting their destiny. People would pick one, the stall keeper would drag it out, put it on the scale and showel it over his shoulder for the next guy – who slit its throat. Hygiene seemed to be nowhere around… I just had to stand there for a while and watch. Surely I would be nowhere close to a chicken for the rest of the journey!

Made a big impact on me.....