Walking the streets of Mumbai during monsoon season is like swimming in sweat. Dodging cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, bikes and many, many people, the scent of incense blends with fecal and curry. Mothers holding infants paw at us for money, as do children roaming the streets, and we must pretend that they are invisible. Mare and I have a nice room with air conditioning and free buffet breakfast…strange feeling. Outside, a sign reads, “Poverty is a State of Mind.” Not sure how to process that one.
On the other hand, the intrigue of this historical island city truly overpowers the senses. Multicultural and religious influences from the 2nd Century BC abound. Victorian, gothic, neo-gothic, art deco, and modern buildings mingle…as do the rich and poor people of this city of 16 million, 55% of them living in slums. Mumbai is home to the Dharavi Slum, the largest in not only India, but in all of Asia.
I donate a copy of my novel, “Broken Collar” to the David Sasson Library, which has been promoting knowledge and learning since 1847. This library houses a collection of very rare books. Okay, my book is rare, really, I mean certainly it is the only copy in India…and sales, they are extremely rare!
Hard to imagine how so many poor people survive, sort of like the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which sits along the Arabian Sea and thrives, after being restored from a terrorist bombing five years ago.
“I give you deal on a rug,” a “tout” says. I try to explain that I don’t need a rug. “No, no, come see my shop, good quality.”
“I travel with a backpack,” I respond. “I can’t strap a rug on my back.”
“Just come see, sir, just come see.”
He continues to follow me until some religious guy hands me a small mint. “It’s a blessing, I bless you.” He proceeds to tie a maroon and yellow string around my wrist, and then dots me between the eyes with red dye. “You make offering for blessing.” I explain that I have no money on me, and he eventually walks off, irritated. I laugh while watching Mare simply ignore everyone. She has a gift for that. I do not.
Mare and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary with dinner in Mumbai. It feels like we are sharing the same dream.
Yes, I eat street food and taste my way through the fruits of many cultures. Mare abstains from the street stuff. She is much wiser than I. It seems that one of those fruits includes a giant parasite that is traveling with me to Delhi.