On Friday evening I had just about recovered for the previous night where a post work business meeting near Koregan park in an unassuming restaurant called Prem somehow got a little out of hand and Ayesha, Lianna and I ended up drinking vast quantities of beer and getting slightly pissed. Those of you more familiar with the drunken Claire will know from experience that my voice does tend to increase ever so slightly in volume after a few drinks. Given that we were sitting in a restaurant of families and couples and that generally India does tend to be more conservative, I think my contributions to the general topics of conversation may have been slightly inappropriate. As also may have been singing Disney songs incredibly loudly all the way home and having to tip the rickshaw driver as Liana jumped out the back as we rounded the corner into our main road and hopped in beside the driver announcing she was driving the rest of the way home as Ayesha and I were impersonating Jordan and Peter Andre singing a Whole New World in the back. Clearly reaching the age of 27 has done wonders for my maturity!
Anyway friday night in Deep Griha was the DISHA party for all the DISHA clients (people living with HIV) and their families on the terrace of the Tadiwala Road centre. The kids all did performances of Bollywood dance numbers, sang songs and read out poems (the little ones were so cute) and then we all danced like crazy for an hour on the roof with all the kids. My arms were completely dead by the end from carrying all the kids around whilst trying to be taught Bollywood moves by the younger girls. Good fun though.
This weekend after a Saturday morning partners meeting for Wake Up Pune, four of us, (Ayesha, Sarah, Lianna and I) decided to head off to the coast to the big city and spend the weekend in Mumbai. Love Mumbai, really fantastic town. I think it was the reaction I was expecting when I first arrived in India. Everyone has such strong reactions to the country one way or another but Pune is relatively unstressful and I guess I’d not felt polarised either way. Mumbai, however, I loved. We met up with Ben and Kev, a short and tall comedy double act volunteering with the same organisation as Ayesha and Lianna but they are teaching in a catholic ashram in an old fort an hour from Mumbai. After arriving on Saturday evening we had beers, amazing kebabs from a street stall in Colaba and then went in search of a bar to watch the rugby. Due to the “moral police” all the bars were closing before the game was due to start and by midnight we were starting to wonder if it was worth the fuss. Usually I love the rugby but having been in India during the whole world cup and hearing virtually nothing about anything except cricket I haven’t felt that bothered. We decided sod it and went clubbing instead, which given that England lost, was definitely a good decision. Instead we danced to cheese, rock, bollywood hits and hip hop in a heaving club called Polly Ester drinking suspicious looking shots brought by Ayesha and being taught moves to the recent Bollywood hits by the locals.
Sunday we spent a leisurely afternoon taking in the sights of Colaba and Churchgate in South Mumbai. We began with steak sandwiches (in a country where the cows are sacred don’t ask me where they get the meat) and cappuccinos in the strangely french-like Cafe Monegar. We walked around the impressive Gate of India and then strolled up to Churchgate past old beautiful colonial churches and the Oval which was crammed with groups of guys playing random games of Sunday afternoon cricket. After brain freeze milkshakes and waffles in Mocha Bar we walked up the length of Marine Drive with the sun setting behind couples strolling hand in hand along the promenade on one side, and art deco style buildings with bending palm trees on the other. We reached Chowpatty beach at the end, packed with families and locals sitting on mats on the sand, buying candy-floss and snacks and toys for their children. I tried Pani puri for the first time, small hollow thin pastry cups filled with chilli sauce and chickpeas…so so good.
We settled down on the beach to watch the darkening sky and rest for a while, Lianna got a head massage and all was good until we noticed the attention we had attracted. By now I am used to being stared at, particularly in Sri Lanka and in India. I’m even getting used to the unashamed slack jawed gawking you often get in India. But never, ever have I experienced anything like this. We all suddenly realised that there was nobody sitting on the sand around us because there was a thick semi circle two of three people thick surrounding us on three sides of local guys just staring blank faced at us. At least 50 people watching the six of us sitting on the beach, doing nothing. Eventually it was getting a little weird so we got up to leave and Lianna decided to film our ‘audience’ on her camera and tried to get them to say hello. They just stared. although a few waved as we said ‘goodbye, same time next week?’ Weird. We brought big balloons later and had a fight walking back along the beach, now that would have been worth watching!
Sunday evening we relaxed with an obligatory meal and drinks in Leopold’s which was handily right around the corner from our box-like hotel. Monday morning we had breakfast at Mumbai’s premier hotel, the Taj, overlooking the sea and then went to find Mumbai’s sex museum which was our other reason for coming up, research for work…no honestly! Sadly after me jumping off the moving local train at what turned out to be the right stop and the girls having to backtrack, our phones running out of battery and it taking 45 minutes to re-find each other, the museum turned out to be closed as it is moving location! So deprived of our adventure into India’s interpretation of sex we headed back on the train to Pune.
Finished reading Catch 22 by Joseph Heller on the train, I’d read it years ago when I was younger and couldn’t remember a thing about it. So much funnier than I remembered it being and the dialogue is simply genius!