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NEXT TOPIC PLEASE

Written on: Monday January 28th, 2008

A journal entry from: ASIA PART II

Colaba district, Mumbai

Oliver Hotel

Back in Mumbai, staying at Oliver Hotel in a windowless box, with shared toilets that make you want to vomit as Renata would describe. In my opinion, they are not that bad, I'm just happy with my plush velour makeshift coffee table bed... Really!! Renata, from the Cezch Republic, has been out of commission and was still not feeling well, so I thought it would be more comfortable and I let her have the bed for our brief recharge here in Mumbai.

We spent the last several days in Matheran, a hill station atop the Sahyadris mountains. It's a two-hour journey on a little toy train that takes you to the top of the mountain. Upon arriving, it doesn't take long to appreciate one of the many spectacular views of the Deccan plateaus. In Matheran, the temperature is cool, the feeling is quiet and the air is clean as there are no motorized vehicles allowed, leaving only man-powered rickshaws and horses as the main modes of transportation. It sort of felt like the wild west minus the cowboys and chaps, oh and the fact that we were still in India. So when we weren't learning how to gallop and trot on the horses we were being attacked by monkeys. It was a startling experience and I felt completely helpless as a monster-sized monkey latched onto my bag and would not let go. I refused to surrender my bag, as prior to this attack another cheeky monkey had made haste and literally stole Theo's beloved knapsack. At the time it was all too dramatic, was I about to part with my new camera for fear of being bitten by a rabid monkey? I spun the vicious creature around several times before finally flinging it off me, but alas in Renata's direction, who then had to fight off the nasty creature. It eventually let up and we tore off in the other direction and decided that that was the end of our sightseeing for the day. Overall, we had such a nice time together, away from traffic and the city noise and we also met a funny American couple, Jennifer and Sam, who we later discovered were also victims of the Mad Matheran Monkeys.

Mumbai aka Bollywood, cleverly termed this as it is the epicentre of India's giant film industry. So what better place to watch a Hindi film, regardless of the lack of subtitles. Our pick, 'Taare Zameen Par' which translates to 'Stars on Earth', an absorbing drama about an autistic boy. The film was at times melodramatic, but the acting was impressive and the soundtrack was moving. And even though it was in Hindi, their actions and facial expressions revealed the entire story. It was near-to-impossible to hold back my tears and I found myself several times breaking down along with all the other Indians in the theatre.

It's three a.m. and I just arrived back at our guesthouse from a night out with Dash and Kiran. Theo left for Holland this evening and we shared a cab en route to the airport so I could scoop the rest of my belongings that I had left in Santa Cruz. And so my night went like this, on the way there was a vagrant walked in front of our car and was struck by our cab driver. Invincible and unharmed he kept on walking without even looking back. On the way back, the rickshaw that Dash and I were in, got struck by a car. Obviously the other driver's fault, but this is how this scenario played out. Two policeman pull up on a motorbike. There was a lot of shouting in Hindi that I couldn't understand. Our driver pulls over to the side, the police think he is making a quick getaway, and next thing you know, our driver was getting the beatdown on the side of the street. Several smacks over the head and a few knees to the groin later, they casually sent him away to drop us off where we had originally intended. I can't say much about the Indian justice system and those policeman, but I felt sorry for the rickshaw driver and his bruised body. Somehow I felt even worse when we paid him the Rs 20 for our fare and accepted that this is how it is here in India. The rest of the drive home was quiet but the streets of Mumbai were not. "He'll be okay..." Dash reassures me, "...next topic please".

 

From Rae-Lee on Feb 22nd, 2008

I love hearing all your stories Dianne, do tell more! Miss you!! P.S. Your pics are phenominal! You are gifted!