Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Final, Final Mumbai Post...

Amy had one last day of interviews at the India School of Business - - and this was to be the longest day...she figured she would be there the entire day (about 8:15 A.M. until 5:30 P.M.).  There was no way that I was going to spend the entire time sitting in the hotel room - - even though the thought of going back out into Bombay's ridiculous traffic was starting to give me panic attacks!!  Aims got a ride with one of the other Deloitters, so - I had Ganesh, our driver, take me from the hotel back downtown.  There were three things that I wanted to see:  The main train station (at the "end of the line" - a beautiful English masterpiece known as the Victoria Terminus, see photo above left - a building that looks like it belongs in a backdrop for a movie set in London!), Gandhi's House (where he spent much of his time when he was living in Bombay), and the old Prince of Wales Museum.

The traffic began right outside of the hotel.  The biggest trouble with the Mumbai traffic (besides too many cars and too many people!) is the narrowness of the roads.  As you leave the Ramada Powai driveway, you find yourself on a narrow road, which it seems is the only way out!!  I knew from the day before that the main road that takes you south and into downtown Mumbai was not too far away...perhaps 3-4 km.  But that morning, it took us 45-minutes to get to the road.

The actual main-road traffic was not too terrible (that's about the best thing one can say about it!) - - but there was a stalled bus on one of the roads near the Gandhi House.  That'll mess up traffic anywhere...thank God that Ganesh knew what was happening up ahead and he was able to find us a clear(er) route to my destination!

The Gandhi House was really interesting...and quite moving.  Despite it being a museum now, it remains pretty much unchanged from the days when The Mahatma lived there...not to make too much of it, but - you could actually feel his presence there!!  The place was pretty crowded...there was a whole group of school children and their parents there...they were putting on some sort of reenactment/drama.  I wish I had gotten a photo of this...but the room was so packed I couldn't really get a good angle.  The kid who played young Gandhi had a painted-on mustache - - and he was pretty cute, I must say!  Some of the exhibits were hard to see because the kids were using the various rooms as dressing/staging areas - - and - I had to keep moving large stuffed backpacks from in front of signs so I could read them.

It was not air-conditioned in the building...the the higher floors were unbearably hot...so I cut my trip short.  There was no admission charge, only a box for donations...so I put in Rs. 100.00 and the man behind the desk seemed pleased.  Ganesh had waited outside the gate for me, and it was a good thing...I had attracted a crowd of hawkers and beggars - sort of like running a gauntlet.  I got to the car unscathed, and we took off toward the Victoria Terminus. 

I don't know if it was because of President Obama's impending visit, but there was literally no parking anywhere around the train station.  Ganesh told me that there was a parking lot (sort of - I think they would like to discourage people from bringing their cars downtown!) - but it seemed like a hassle to get to it - - so - I saw this next landmark in "drive-by" fashion.   It's really quite spectacular, but there's no way I could risk an hour of getting stuck in round-a-bout for an hour....

Then Ganesh took me to the museum...  also spectacular...but I gotta say, by Indian standards, it was a little pricey for tourists... For Rs. 700.00 you got admission (Indians got in for Rs. 50.00!) and a pretty good audio tour-guide.  The building is four stories...the first story had the coolest stuff - - old carvings of gods and goddesses - of course, taking any photos cost another Rs. 200.00 - so - I was told to put my camera away.  As you went up the stairs, however...the fact that the museum only had electric fans and no A/C became obvious.  By the time I got the the third floor (too bad...this was the floor with an entire collection of paintings of Lord Krishna and his life... ) - it was hot enough to soak my shirt with sweat!

I bailed on the fourth floor.  The time to leave the downtown area was at hand...and - sure enough - the traffic was horrific.  I got back to the hotel and waited for Amy to get back from her long day.  I took a nice shower...knowing that when Amy got home, we would have 2 1/2 hours to get to the airport.  The drive to the domestic airport was supposed to be 45-minutes.  No problem...right??

Sorry.  Wrong again!!  We were stuck in virtual gridlock for an hour and a half.  Even the flyovers were jammed with cars!!  By the time we got near the airport, there were businessmen in suits bailing on their cabs and running for the terminal.  I swear...if we had known where the terminal was, we would have grabbed our bags and run for it, too.  We waited at one signal through six full red-light, green-light cycles!!!  With a little bit of luck the traffic began to move, and the terminal was finally in sight.  We got to the Air India door with five, maybe ten minutes to spare....but there was a long security line (of course!)...and everybody gets a secondary search.  Looking at my watch and the departure-board, I could see that the "boarding" light was not lit.  I got through the men's line (the security lines are segregated by sex!) - - and Amy got stuck.  They ran her carry-on bag through the x-ray machine two times.  I walked over to her...and she was telling the security women that she was going to miss her flight if they did not hurry up!!  We had already called Ganesh back and told him not to leave the airport...we might just be needing a ride to a hotel nearby.  It was looking like we were going to have to spend another night in Bombay!!

Finally she asked a lady who looked like some sort of supervisor...just what the problem was.  They asked her if she had "any wire-cutters" in her bag?"  She said no, of course she didn't - - but they proceeded to take everything out of her bag.  Right about now...Amy looks about as p.o.'d as I have ever seen her in 12+ years of marriage - - especially when they took away the offending item - her nail clippers!!!!  To top it off, they left everything out of the bag and Aims had to put everything back.  She told me to run for the plane and tell them to hold the door!!  I ran down to the gate.  The plane was late!!

Here endeth the tale of our Mumbai trip.  It was my first - - and it shall be my last.  I'm pretty sure that Amy Suzanne feels the same way!!!

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