Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hodge Podge

Day 396
I really wanted to see if I could deal with using the train in Mumbai. I did spend four years riding the New York City subway after all, how bad could it be? After a bit of a cue I had a ticket with a return. This was the last stop so there was no way that I could get on the wrong train. I stood in the same spot that most of the women were figuring that this would be where the ladies only carriage would be. I was right and soon I was off. It only took about 8 minutes for me to get to my destination, for about 8 cents return thats not too shabby.

My first stop of the day was the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. Interestingly, my clothes had already been here. A dhobi ghat is a place where clothes are washed. This ghat is Mumbais oldest at 136 years old and largest with 1026 open air troughs. I didn't realize that the washing troughs are basically on the streets in front of peoples homes. I was the only tourist standing at the photo opt spot and I had about a dozen people around me trying to sell things. They all clamored to be the one to share information about the ghat with me first. I learned that only men do the washing. I shot off a handful of pictures, even getting some kids swimming in one of the troughs. Even once I walked away the touts followed me, but most left quickly. One girl, maybe in her early teens, followed me for some time. When I wouldn't buy she asked if I would give her candy or money for candy. Eventually she left me alone.

Begging is everywhere here. I knew that the aggressiveness and the sheer number of people would just be staggering before I came here. I have decided to not give money to anyone. I can't possibly give to everyone and once you open your wallet for one person you end up with a hoard around you asking for more. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Most of the wider sidewalks seem to have people living on them. Sometimes they are cooking or collecting scraps of I don't know what for I don't know what. Walking to my next destination I had a small and very dirty toddler dancing in front of me with his hand out for some time. It was just heartbreaking.

After a short walk I arrived to the Hagi Ali Mosque. Unfortunately it was closed for lunch. The heat kills my appetite and I hadn't even noticed the time. The mosque is at the end of a long causeway into the Arabian Sea, it looks like it is floating.

I was pouring sweat at this point and decided to get a cab to my next destination instead of walking.

Mani Bhavan is the house where Ghandi stayed during his visits to Bombay from 1917 - 1934. It's a small place but very interesting. Thought provoking quotes were such as "I do not want my country's happiness at the sacrifice of any other country's happiness," lined the walls. Pictures of Ghandi were everywhere. Well, the same four or five pictures were repeated a lot. Some of his belongings were also here.

One room was made up of dioramas that depicted life altering events in Gandhi's life. One was confessing a crime to his father and requesting punishment, another showed him being thrown out of a first class train in South Africa. The most moving was the one where his wife died, he had known her for 62 years. Lastly, on January 30, 1948 he was shot and killed by an assassin.

At the shop I was asked to buy a book and I would have except that it was too heavy to carry all around India. I then had to find my way to the train station. Luckily there were lots of nice people around and they pointed me in the right direction. When I had gotten off the train I grabbed a chicken sandwich. Beef isn't eaten anywhere in this country.

The last stop of the day was the Prince of Wales Museum. The photo charge was rather high so I decided to just see what I could find on the internet later on. The collection was a bit hodge-podge, sorta like my day. Most of it was statues from all over India spanning a huge time frame with some badly preserved European art thrown in as well as a painting of Abraham Lincoln. I've been trying to learn about the various Hindu gods and was writing down how to tell them apart when I discovered some rather interesting ones. Some of the lesser gods are always depicting in the middle of sex with their other half. You can tell which god is which by the position!

By now I was dripping with sweat and I tried to cool off with some water in an aircon shop. That didn't work very well so I ended up just going back to my hostel and taking a cold shower, that did the trick. I had dinner at Leopolds again and then went back to the hostel to sleep. I was too tired for anything else.

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