At the risk of jinxing myself, the initial rush of “What the fuuuuuuuuck are we doing here?” seems to have subsided, and the constant barrage of traffic, beggars and hawkers in Colaba is starting to feel, well, normal. It’s interesting how quickly you can adapt to things. Of course, one dose of Delhi belly and I might be a lot less comfortable about India, but fingers crossed, all is fine so far.
*crosses fingers, toes, and anything else crossable*
Been doing the tourist thing for the last couple of days – been to see…
– The Gateway of India: a huge triumphal arch thingy erected by the British in the mid-1920s – suitably imposing and predictably awash with people wanting to sell you giant lightglobe-shaped balloons and other entirely useless stuff;
– The Taj Hotel: so big that it takes up an entire block and is virtually a mini-city in itself – just the thing if you’re the sort of person who wants to go to India without going to India;
– Haji Ali’s mosque, which probably deserves an entry of its own – one that I’ll leave til later;
– Victoria Station, the High Court, and various other buildings which are architecturally fascinating, although it gets difficult to get excited at grandiose architecture when it’s smack-bang in the middle of a city where 60% of people are homeless.
More interestingly, we also went to a 1st birthday party, thrown for twins born to a woman who lives in Nasir’s little enclave – unfortunately, their names escape me, perhaps because they’re so similar (Alitha and Talitha…. maybe). For the party, they closed off the entire street was closed off, festooning with balloons and stage-set type arrangements decorated with fairies and signs saying “Happy birthday!” Someone got hold of a sound system, the entire neighbourhood turned out, and it was fantastic.
I was interested to see that, in this little corner of Bombay (and I suspect most of India), raising a child seems to be kinda a collaborative effort. The twins’ mother is Nasir’s neighbour, but they seem to spend as much time at his house as they do at hers. This is also true of the rest of the local kids, who seem to wander in and out of each others’ houses to eat, play, and sleep. There’s a palpable sense of community, one that seems to be on the way out in Australia – I remember growing up in Albert Park, there were the vestiges of a similar camaraderie amongst the longer-term residents, one that we were lucky enough to be included in, but it’s all gone now, and we seem to be going the way of London, a city so transitory and impermanent that no-one knows their neighbours. Or, indeed, themselves.
Anyway, it was a cracking party – the Bollywood music was blasting, there were people everywhere (including heaps of kids, who danced as happily as anyone), Leila and I seemed to make quite an impression by getting up and dancing, and a good time was had by all. Funny to think that in Australia we take ecstasy to achieve a similar effect.
That’ll do for now. Gonna hang out at the hotel tonight and watch Man Utd – Chelsea on satellite TV. I could get used to this place…