Welcome to Bombay!/Mumbai!. When people were speaking English, they always said 'Bombay'. I did hear some people say 'Mumbai' but I didn't understand what else they were saying when they did.

On arrival at Narendra and Rama's place their number-one-household-help-man made us Fresh Pomegranate Juice. He cleaned up the pomegranates and squeezed out the juice through cheese cloth.

It was Fantastic as was every single bite of food here.
Narendra and Rama's driver and car took us on an afternoon tour of some sights in Bombay.
This park just cracked me up. You can see the topiary bush in front of the flowering tree and there were many more of these bush-animals around, and many elegant Ladies.
My favorite part was that the ladies were dressed in their colorful and formal saris or Punjabi style outfits but wearing big old western-style walking shoes instead of the traditional sandals, and taking aerobic power walks like a TV commerical for an exercise video.

They cracked me up. I was standing still, with Buckets of sweat Pouring off my Entire body (it was more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit with what I would swear was more than 100 percent humidity) and they were just marching off like it was a gentle Alpine Spring day.
We had gone back to the flat for a rest and then dinner. The driver took us out again that evening. This is the Gateway Of India built at the main docks in 1911 to welcome Queen Mary and King George V.

Obviously it is night in this picture. Not so obviously it was Still 100 degrees. Can humidity exceed 100 percent?

Never before nor anywhere else I went in India did I experience this combination of crushing heat and breathless humidity. It actually changed my whole body chemistry. I had always been so prone to heat stroke such that my head would pound, my blood temperature would rise to boiling and I would be physically ill from the heat. Bombay was so relentlessly so hot and so humid for so long my body just decided to learn how to sweat.

After this day I actually think I ccould survive more heat than I would have ever thought possible without having to go to the hospital.
The Haji Ali Shrine.

You can't tell from this picture, but to reach the shrine you have to walk a very long distance on a narrow jetty, out through sea marsh, onto a promontory, and the path often floods over and makes access or return impossible.

The dried and steamy sea marsh, the crowded open fires and run down food stalls, the most in number, most aggressive and most pitiful looking beggars, the destitute families living on the path itself - it was a challange. Of everywhere I went this was the only place I would say you have consider if you are up to it before you choose to include the Haji Ali Shrine on your tour.
This is the seaside view from Narendra and Rama's flat. They also have a cityside view and when you open all the windows and run all the fans, and then sit Under one of the fans you can get a nice little cross breeze going.

First you see a bright blue roof in the very foreground, then an aqua blue swimming pool in the middle ground and just past that what you can't see is the sea. This is a very, Very chic-chic location!
The Jain Temple, considered by guidebooks to be the most impressive temple in Bombay. The temple was full of worshipers and serious devotees doing their real life, unlike so many of the tourist places I had been visiting. So as to be as low-profile as I could manage, I took most of these pictures by just holding the camera at my waist and hoping for the best.
This is a Hindu temple also in very active use, and I think it was called the Babulnath Temple. The use of water for worship was the most memorable aspect here.

The cup-like parts in the smaller tower towards the front of the picture are used in specific ceremonies a few times a year. The priests fill the cups with candles or oil lights and they burn through the night. During the rest of the year the priests keep water in the cups, for the birds.

The man is grinding sandlewood to make the paste that decorate the foreheads of the worshipers and with which the faithful mark special places on the idols.
Along the path leading up to the temple, many stalls such as this one were selling temple-visitation kits containing coconut shells, flowers and sugar. You used the shells to dip up water, the flowers to lay on the idols and I don't remember what they did with the sugar.
The central room of the temple. There was a lot going on here. There were women sitting on the floor in front of small wooden tables where they had made intricate and hugely time consuming designs from rice. When one woman got up, another would take her place, sweep the first woman's designs away and start again. People were chanting in prayer, ringing bells and gongs, anointing the statues with sandalwood paste, and making various gestures I didn't understand.

The Jains are a branch of Hindus with many of the same stories and gods but in addition, they have another intricate cosmology of martyrs and saints and gods. Like the history and the language and the geography and and and, I didn't get it all quite straight...
Gandhi's birthday was the next day so we decided to check in on a library and small museum dedicated to his life and work. It was set up in a house that was Gandhi's home from 1917 to 1934.

The place was absolutely packed with school kids and every single one of them was adorable.
That afternoon we flew to Aurangabad, spent the night and then the next morning took an all day tour. I thought we were going only to the justly world famous Ellora Caves but the tour turned out to be a much more elaborate affair and a total blast.

The tour was a municipal operation - this is the city's main bus terminal - and it was especially entertaining because I didn't have any preconceptions of what to expect.
We had seven stops on the tour and this was the first, the medieval Fort Daulatabad. The story is that it was invincible to attack and only defeated by treachery. The compound is surrounded by several huge thick walls, built on the top of a high steep hill, too steep to scale and ending in a wide deep moat with crocodiles and drawbridges and heavy iron gates fitted with long spikes to keep elephants from ramming them.

Then after all this there are false paths, underground tunnels and secret doors to keep attackers from the center of the fort.

This was a huge plaza where the faithful gathered to hear words from their leaders and to pray.

The guide was fantastic. He ran the tour mixing Hindi and English explanations so seamlessly no one ever lost track of what was happening.
Inside, where those people are walking.
And at the very end of one corridor was this scene. The women are praying and they have water, flowers and sandalwood paste for their rituals.
Medieval ruins - could be Medieval ruins from anywhere.
There is a man and woman down there waving. I waved at them hoping they would wave back so I could take this picture. It turns out they were with a large family and we ran into each other several times during the walk, with much waving and bowing and smiling. Near the end of the return trek they had all gathered under a tree and as we walked by they called out for us to come over. Come here! Come here! Let us take a picture with You! It was a very smily, warmhearted moment.
Walk, walk, climb, climb, walk, climb. We did Great! And so many pictures of this place. I concluded that the forts (which include palaces and temples or mosques and etc.) are Must See tourist stops.
Our bus was the one with the green top. Did I mention no Air-Con? This bus had No Air Conditioning and it was HOT out there. Oh well, just another chance for my newly released sweat glands to get a workout.
Ooops, where is this exactly? I do remember these women were not in our tour but waiting outside of a shrine where women were not allowed.
The mosque of Aurangzeb's Tomb (I think...).
The town.

I don't have a picture from the Ghrishneshwar Temple, no photography allowed, but going there was a very big deal for Hindus as it is one of only twelve, and the last, of the temples in India where a certain manifestation (the jyotirlinga) is said to be 'self-oriented', which means it presented itself and no person made it. It looked like a stone about the size of a shoebox and is a powerful phallic symbol.

Being in the presence of these lingas is one of the (very!) few occasions where women take precedence over men. The men had to let the women enter the shrine first and they could not go in without removing their shirts, which they all did, to my great amusement.
Bhadra Maruti Temple. This is the only Maruti temple where the stature of Maruti is in a sleeping position instead of the usual sitting position and for this reason alone it is a very holy place. Women were not allowed into the main shrine area although we could easily see from the surrounding platform. The piles are of brightly colored powders sold for ceremonial use.

Every wish you make here is supposed to come true so I made a bunch of them. I'll let you know.
This is one glimpse of the Ellora Caves. There are in this complex temples and monasteries built between the 5th and 11th century by first the Buddhists (5th-7th century), then the Hindus (8th to 10th century) and lastly by the Jains (10th to 11th century).

'...the carvings in the Buddhist caves are a serene reflection of the Buddhist philosophy, but in the Hindu caves they take on a certain exuberance, a throbbing vitality. Gods and demons do fearful battle, Lord Shiva angrily flails his eight arms, elephants rampage, eagles swoop, and lovers intertwine.'
We only saw selective caves because the area is quite large, taking literally hours to walk and according to the guide there is a lot of duplication. It was indeed fabulous.

The man in the foreground above, with the orange cloth over his head, (did I mention the heat?) is the guide. He was amazing in handling a really diverse group with sometimes conflicting goals and doing it all in Hindi and English without a hitch. At the end he did not at all jockey for a tip - he just hopped off the bus without even an opportunity for tipping and based on the cost of the tour, he couldn't be making much.

I was thinking, this guy is great, I should turn him on to our Mercury Tour representatives but Rupa said forget it, people just don't change jobs so easily and public bus guides don't get jobs with foreign tourists.
Except in Bombay those three western-looking young men next to Rupa were the only western-types I can remember seeing for the rest of the trip.

Those three guys were backpackers who had met at the youth hostel and decided to take the tour together. One was a student from the US who was here for a six month internship, one was from New Zealand out for an adventure before Real Life began and the last was from Belgium, and he said he was just on-the-road for as long as his money held out. They were strong and eager and young and I took a great delight in their company.
A wall of the cave below. The carvings tell the story of one of the great Hindu epics and there are many more like this.

And on another and yet familiar topic - remember all those traffic stories, more to come? It seemed that same way of maneuvering holds in more than just driving. Rupa and I were sitting in one of the front rows of the bus and the backpackers were in the back. You can see from all these stops, we had to get out of the bus many times. As the bus slowed, everyone stood up and pushed in one solid mass to get out but I am congenitally incapable of pushing so we just waited. The kid from the US invariable stopped to let us out, clearly a case of learned behavior, and he did his momma proud.
This picture and the shot above are part of the the Kailasa Temple (cave 16) which is, according to the brochure, the largest single monolithic structure in the world. It is unique in its method of construction. They started digging in solid rock from the top and just kept on digging down. It is three stories deep and even inside the rooms are heavily carved.
We made a few other stops, one at a watermill built in 1624 and still active grinding corn for the poor, and another stop was this place, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara. Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is a mausoleum built in 1679 by the last Mughal emperor for his wife. Notice any similarity? Pretty lame though.
Since the guide had nothing positive to say about the faux-taj we decided not to spend the money (something like five dollars for foreigners, a very lot of money here) but to walk down to the mini-town and find water and shade. The man in the middle of the street there is selling limeade, which he makes to order by squeezing limes into chipped ice and then adding about a pound of sugar. I bought a bottle of water across the street, drank a few gulps and then asked him to just squeeze lime into the bottle, which he happily did. It was Delicious, Refreshing, Perfect!
I couldn't resist these colors.

Regarding Airport Security: if the number of times one is patted down has anything to do with it, we're taking this country is Serious about airport security. Everyone was searched And patted down Three Times, from when you entered the terminal until at last boarding the plane. And the list of things you can't carry on was a foot long including even batteries. You can't take pictures in airports or in airplanes, even out the window.
Our hotel had this small park-like setting separating it from the mass of life on the road and the hotel, although modest, was actually wonderful. The room was perfectly clean, cool (you pay, like, double, for the Air-Con), the bed was comfortable, the bathroom was big and well built.

There was construction everywhere (we didn't actually learn why) and the roads were paved a bit down the middle but not enough for the traffic and there was no kind of sidewalk at all. And because of the dense traffic, every kind of locomotion from walkers and whizzing scooters to gigantic construction trucks, the noise and dust was really quite overwhelming. The hotel was a most welcome oasis.

There was another oasis - the restaurant where we ate dinner both nights. It was a tandoori place and everything Everything was delicious.
We flew back to Bombay where the driver again picks us up.

We stopped at this church because Rama recommended it. It's the largest church in Bombay.
Narendra and Rama's flat in Bombay. Here and at Rupa's place too you couldn't leave the bathroom without being dressed perfectly decently. It's a lifestyle thing because, I decided, there are always a lot of people around.

Here we had the main household help, a man who had an assistant both living on the premises. They made drinks and snacks all day long, served the meals and did basic household chores. Then there was the full time cook who made really wonderful meals mid-day and dinner. And the fulltime driver. A different person came in to clean the flat and Another different person cleaned the bathrooms. And someone else took care of the pressing and laundry and people were stopping by all the time to drop off or pick up one thing or another, and not to mention the friends and relatives. It's very different...

Narendra and Rama are Jains which means they are more strict in their food selection than even Hindu vegetarians. (Not all Hindus are vegetarians but that's another story...) but you wouldn't know it by the variety and quality of the offeings.

The British have this expression, they say a thing or an experience is 'brilliant'. I could string a bunch of adjectives together but actually I think this does the trick. Everywhere, the food was Brilliant!
This is the area just outside Bombay. Here are saltwater marshes and inlets that rise and fall with the tide. Scattered through the marshes were camps of people with their fishing boats alongside.

For some reason I had no expectations as to what rural and agricultural life would be like during this trip and as it turns out there was A Lot of it. I passed through miles of well tended, tidy, robust looking fields and apparently quite effective techniques for growing and gathering food.

Anil also told about a project that literally built the economy of huge parts of the rural landscape - a governement initiated program to support production, processing and distribution of milk and milk products.
Meghan and Lassie, at home.
A totally typical market. This picture and the one below express a lot about my own experience with food in India. It was 100% fresh, clean, appealing and delicious.
I was taking some pictures around the market and these guys called out to me, 'Hey, Over Here, I'm better looking than That guy, take My picture'. Really.
From the front of Rupa and Anil's home. That's the maid Gita, and the dog Lassie seeing us off.
These are what people here call gypsies. It does seem they are on the move and always in the company of great herds. They wear the most fabulous red clothes!

Very recently there was a huge earthquake not too far from this area, in Kutch, that totally, completely destroyed most of the cities and towns sending many more of these people onto the road. The area was so badly destroyed that the Lonely Planet guide book suggests you might not be able to find any accommodation.

(get the numbers)
more. We are on the road to Mount Abu where we will spend a few nights enjoying the relative cool of a hill station.
Just irresistibly exotic.
The Palace Hotel also called Bikaner House because it is the converted summer palace of the Maharaja of Bikaner. There were several of these converted palaces in Mount Abu. At Bikaner's they had not yet done Any refurbishment in the main building. They told us people like to feel they are in the palace as it was. It wasn't 'as it was' because they hadn't done one bit of maintenance for what seemed 100 years. The rooms were huge but everything was terribly run down and peculiar.

The servant's quarters on the other hand, were beautifully redone in classic style, big rooms with great shapes, wonderful floors, modern bathrooms, and Air-Con. We were very pleased to stay there.
An interior courtyard at the hotel.
Hanging from these trees are Hundreds of giGantic bats. Why are they out in a tree during the day? At sunset we happened to be strolling around the lake when they flew out in a cloud of bats, darkening the sky. People were standing around, stunned into silence.
A snack...yummm.
The front of the hotel, our chariot awaits. Anil did all the driving, and his good cheer and calm approach to the madness that is driving made me feel pretty sure I wasn't going to die.
Taking advantage of sunset views is a must-do when visiting Mount Abu as here is the only hill station in Rajasthan and the closest hill station to Gujarat. These women began gathering early to stake out a good spot.
Smile! (Anil, the only man in India who doesn't smile for the camera.)
Oh yeah, we are adorable.
This happened often. I'd be checking the camera to see how the last shot came out and one guy would notice, he'd call out to his friends and more and more would gather looking over my shoulder and they would say Me Me take a picture of Me. Then they would see the playback and just seem so tickled.

This group was totally taken with the whole process and hung around us, forming and reforming into different poses and configurations until Rupa finally shooed them away.
There is an extensive valley down there below the dusty thick air.
Nakki Lake. The town is rather small, maybe 20,000 residents, and is clustered around the lake. There is the traditional tourist Shopping of course, and boat rides and street food and the walks here are very lovely.

The actual main attraction is the Dilwara Temples, no photography allowed. '...among the finest examples of Jain architecture in India. The complex includes two temples in which the art of carving marble reached unsurpassed heights.' It's true, the carving is so intensely detailed and complex and covers every surface from as high, low and far as you can see. Absolutely Amazing.
The dining room of our hotel and our personal alcove where we ate all our meals. They asked us in the morning what we wanted to eat for dinner, almost like they had to go out shopping...

This was an a-la-carte place but 'traditional' restaurants (and airplanes and trains) offer two choices: Veg and Non-veg. Non-veg means you get a few bites of chicken or lamb in one of the several dishes included in the meal.

On the Saturday we arrived there was one large business group from Gujarat having an event here but the next day we were the only guests. Tourism has been reduced to disaster levels for many here.
And yet AGAIN I couldn't stop with these road scenes.

We are moving in the 'wrong' lane passing the truck on our right, there's a truck broken down in the 'wrong' lane, cows, tractors, pedestrians.
Adding camel carts to the mix.
And speaking of camel carts. This is a brand new road, not even finished yet, meant, actually, to be a highway, but you know, the camel Is the king of the road.
A step well.
And more lavish detail from inside the well. Who would think you'd bother?
King of The Road.
Oh yeah.
Here we were driving through Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat where we passed by several streets that make up a neighborhood of places like this. Behind the statues are the homes of the families who make them. You can imagine the colors.
Night driving. How do they do it?
Anil in their factory. He had this vision - a compact, low energy consumption, low cost clothes dryer based on the dehumidifiers they already build. His idea is that in places like Bombay people hang their washed clothes outside from windows and balconies but since the humidity is so high it takes for Ever for them to dry. By the time they do get dry they might be dirty again from the dust and exhaust of the city. Current dryers take a lot of space, use a lot of energy and are expensive to buy and run so...

It was cool to see all the bits hooked up with measuring devices and all to watch how a product goes from a vision to reality. Oh boy!
Here are the young folk (Tanya and her boy-friend, not boyfriend exactly because you don't get to have a Boyfriend, but you can have plenty of boy-friends and this sure looked like Tanya's number one boy-friend to me) getting ready for a night out to celebrate the goddess festival of Navaratri. Navaratri actually lasts nine nights and every night those with the strenth to go on, go and dance all night long. Except this year. This year because of the previous week's terrorist attack the powers-that-be tried to shut down the festivities by 10pm. What a laugh. Usually you start getting dressed around then!

The costumes are based on the traditional Gujarati clothes and you must be properly dressed to dance at the best Garba parties. Bare feet is part of the costume.
Rupa scored tickets for us to watch at the biggest and most exclusive dance in their town, where Tanya and her friends would be. The place was setup in an enormous field and you can just begin to guess the crowds from this shot.

The smoosh on the lens is sweat. I caught this shot but then we had to haul ourselves all the waaaay back to the car to drop off the camera because security was so tight and No Pictures Allowed.

The dancers moved in ever widening circles with one circle going counter to its neighbors and reminded me of folk dances from many countries. These kids dance and dance, and barefoot at that!
These pineapples are Wonderful. The guys use special very thin bladed machete style knives to clean it up so that when you bring it home you just slice that baby into rings and Eat It. Yuummy.
Rupa was so sweet, she fixed me up my own personal toilet paper dispenser. Two actually, one for each bathroom.

TP is just not how they do it. This is a G-Rated diary and I'm not going to tell you how they do do it. BYO-TP, but the guidebooks do ask you not to flush the paper because the whole plumbing scene is not prepared for such object. So TP is not how they do it and I was Just Too Old to change. I didn't even try. I am a little disappointed in myself, not to even try, but I have forgiven myself. You're forgiven too.
The Rest badly done Family Pictures not yet fixed...
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