March 13, 2009

Another Friday the 13th!!! Nothing too dramatic happened today, however, so that is a good thing!!
We had an amazing tour today. Probably the best we’ve had thus far, actually. Ohhh…but, to regress…the breakfast at this hotel was superb! It had huge variety of everything and even had brown bread! Anyway, back to the tour. We had this petite little lady as our guide who was a wealth of information. And, she knew that we had had enough of temples and forts, so adapted our schedule to show us other sites! It was excellent.
After the Gateway to India and the Taj hotel stop, we went past the train station that was also attacked during the November attacks. The architecture was such that it seemed as though we had changed continents and were in Europe! There is definitely a strong English past here!! The university was just as beautiful. We weren’t able to go into either of these two places, but they were probably more interesting from the outside, in any case! We then stopped at the market, and it was very interesting. It was a food market and lots of different things for sale. Mangos are just coming into season, so mom was going nuts. Mom and dad actually bought a bunch of oranges and mangos to take with them to Goa! There were fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, candy, meat, and a pet market within the market! It made me really sad to see the cute little puppies in their little metal cages. There are so many dogs here, I don’t know how they all survive, really. They need a Bob Barker to come and start enforcing spaying and neutering their dogs!!
We headed through the city to do a drive by of the Jain temple. The highest population of Jains live in Mumbai and they own, exclusively, the diamond market in the country! They are very wealthy people! Another interesting population in the city is the Parsis. They almost all live in Mumbai (9/10 in the world) and are the individuals who believe in Zoroastrianism – the elements earth, fire, and water. Due to this, they have an interesting way of disposing of their dead. They cannot bury their dead because they worship the earth. They cannot burn their dead because they worship fire. Instead, they place their dead on a mesh covering a deep well. Then, they ring a bell and vulchers come and eat the dead bodies. When there are only bones left, the bones are disposed of into the well!! This population is also very wealthy and in India owns the TATA empire – which controls a lot of the businesses – the name is everywhere! However, because they can only marry within their religion in order to stay part of the religion, the population is quickly diminishing. We had the chance to drive by both the Parsis fire temple and the towers of silence (where the wells and vulchers are). The towers of silence are the only ones in the world!
Then we went to Churchgate Station to see the Dabawalas! It was an amazing thing to see!! The system is the following: Hot lunches that are made at home are picked up by one man and taken to the nearest train station on a plank with about 50 other similar tiffans. The man slides the plank into the train, where it will be picked up by another man at the central Churchgate Station. He then does this thing called “shuffling”, where they reorganize the hundreds of tiffans into regional locations depending on where the person is working. A third person then takes the plank and delivers the food to the workplace! I don’t remember the numbers of people that rely on this service DAILY, but it is an astronomical number. And, the Dabawalas, or “lunch box men” are 99.999% accurate! It is a profession that is handed down from father to son and has been in place for over 160 years! It was a phenomenal sight to be seen!
Afterwards, we headed to Gandi’s house. We had more time here than we did at the Gandi memorial in Delhi. There was an interesting diorama depicting his life over the years. I didn’t know that he wrote a letter to Hitler, right before WWII broke out – so that was my interesting piece of acquired information!
Then, we went to the Dobi men – the washing men. Another amazing sight! The laundry services are done by hand, in a generational profession, located in a slim-like area. The washing area looks like a series of cubicles that are partially filled with water. On the back edge, there is a stone ledge that is used for beating the clothes. Heavy-duty scrub brushes are used to get the marks out of the hems of pants and other trouble areas. I don’t really know how to describe what I saw because it was so mind boggling. Men would wet clothes in the water in the bottom of the cell/cubicle and then beat it on the stone in front of them. They would twist the clothing to wring it out before sticking it into a twisted rope to hang to dry. Another amazing system of organization exists here, as the clothes are not labelled or marked in any obvious way, yet the dobi man manages to take clothes from hundreds of homes and clean them and return them to their rightful owners with amazing precision. They have memories like elephants in this country. I did take some video of this because I just didn’t know how to describe it, so that is a bonus!
After the tour was complete, we headed back to our respective hotels to have a snack and go shopping!! We all had rupees to get rid of, so it was not stressful but fun shopping! We hit FabIndia again so that the other two girls could make their necessary purchases.
For dinner, we went to cafe Leopold – another site that was attacked during the November attacks! You could still see the broken windows and bullet holes in the walls! It was a little much, really…but apparently it is even more popular now than it was before the attacks! Go figure!!
Well, I am now on the plane…with an annoying guy sitting next to me. I don’t have any elbow room at all because my space is being invaded! Perhaps I will get an upgrade from Heathrow to Toronto. I could totally go for that. There are still many hours of flying to come…
Night
-Allison

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