When we landed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport – Mumbai , at the crack of dawn , that Monday morning , we were two hours late , thanks to the infamous KQ delays. Thankfully, the hotel cab was waiting. My colleague and I were going to be in India for two weeks – one week in Mumbai and one week in Delhi.
At Mumbai we stayed at Ramada hotel. Ramada is part of Wyndham Hotel Group , which is “the world’s largest provider and franchiser of a diverse field of travel-related products and services for businesses and individual consumers” according to Wikipedia.
This branch of Ramada was Ramada Navi Mumbai. Navi means “new” and therefore Navi Mumbai is New Mumbai.
There are many good things about Ramada Navi Mumbai – like the endless rooms, and the décor that makes you hate your bedroom. The food is wanting though. And when a Hotel doesn’t get its food right then nothing else matters.
Formerly known as Bombay, and chocking with population of 22 million people, Mumbai is the most populous city in India. If you wanted to build a house in Mumbai, you would have to demolish an existing house – and build a taller one.
Understandably , the air is heavy with pollution.
You know that vibe that, if you go to a shop run by a Hindu, as the first customer that morning, they must sell to you whatever you want at whatever price?
Well, it’s true.
Staunch Hindus believe, that if a customer walks into your shop, and they are the very first customer you are having that day, do not turn them away as they could be a god. And you must therefore sell to them whatever they want, even if their counter-offer is obscenely low.
About 80% of Indians subscribe to Hinduism making it the most prevalent religion, followed by Islam.
The red dot
There is something about India and the way they adore their culture – like the use of the Bindi. Bindi is the red dot worn on the
forehead and it symbolizes many things depending on which part of India you come from. Conventionally worn by married women, it symbolizes a prayer to the gods for their husbands , and also grants them place of honour as the guardian of their family’s welfare. The Bindi also represents ‘the third eye’. While a person’s outward eyes focus on the outer world, the third eye focuses on god.
Marriage and family
According to Indian tradition, it is a girl family who pay dowry to her husband-to-be’s family. A newly married lady adorns herself with numerous colorful jewelry, just to show the world how happy she is.
One of the enviable things about Indians is their close-knit family setups. It is very common for one to live with their family, even after they marry and have children. Also, several brothers can join up and build one big mansion where they live happily with their wives and children. Imagine that.
Have you watched the movie 3 iDiots? You should. In between laughing at the idiotic antics of these 3 friends in campus, and being taken in by the lengths they go to keep away from of the wrath of their paranoid college dean, you will appreciate how well this movie depicts the Indian culture – especially how awed the engineering discipline is.
It is every Indian parent’s dream, for their child to be an Engineer or doctor. Well, it is every parent’s dream – but for Indians, it is an obsession.
All that spicy food
“It is impossible to make Indian food without spices”, explained our hosts. Then we would order for “less” spicy. Indian food is not just food. It is culture. “Do you want to try something from the north or from the west today?”, a waiter will ask you. Every meal has a story.
Our hosts in Mumbai took us for lunch one day, at this fast food place.
“What would you recommend?”, I asked, staring blankly the Hindi names on the menu before us.
“Try this. This is not spicy. In English, it is called cream chicken” , offered our host.
And was love at first bite for cream chicken and I. For the subsequent lunches we had at that place I just asked for cream chicken. Some days I had it with roti; some days with nan (both third rate versions of what we call Chapati ), but it was always cream chicken.
Now, there is nothing in this world that tastes better. Okay, apart from Nakumatt Lifestyle’s Books first choco slice , before they changed their baker. And this heavenly desert we would often have after dinner, at Sarovar Portico, a walking distance from Ramada Navi Mumbai.
Indians place a lot of value to food. It is an important part of their culture. Every time we went for lunch or dinner, we would be asked severally by our hosts if we were sure we were full or we wanted something else.
Gateway of India
A visit to Bombay would be incomplete without visiting the gateway of India. Adjacent to the Arabian Sea, the gateway of India is Mumbai’s no. 1 tourist destination. We took a one hour refreshing boat ride into the sea.
When we landed at Indra Gadhi International airport after a week in Mumbai, I wished it was in JKIA that we were landing. But the next few days flew by. There was so much to do and we would leave our hosts’ offices late in the evening on most days.
On the day we flew back, we were taken to this this magnificent building that is the Bahai House of worship. It is an interdenominational kind of a temple. The Bahai house of worship is considered a holy ground. You remove your shoes like 100 metres from the temple and make your way in there.
Now , the Bahai house of worship is a tourist destination , attracting even more local tourists like those we met there a two of who who ran towards my colleague and I and begged to take a picture with us – because of our skin color!
We toured India gate (not to be confused with Gateway of India) as well – a historic monument that soldiers take turns to guard, 24 hours a day. Built in 1931 , this important monument in Indian history ,”commemorates the 90,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who lost their lives while fighting in World War I and the Third Anglo-Afghan War”.
Sunday 6:00AM 17th June, found me at Karibu restaurant at the J.K.I.A. I couldn’t wait to see my family. And unlike last time, this time, I bought me a Sari.