India Gate- You can't tell in the photo, but the ocean is right behind it.
The Taj Hotel, where there was a terrorist bombing a couple months back. It seems like it's up and running again. The only difference is that there's guards and barriers all around the perimeter and a big chunk missing out of the top side- well, it's covered up by something so I don't really know what's going on there, just guessing. My hotel is a couple of blocks away from here but not nearly as glamorous.
Flora Fountain- Just about every novel I've ever read that's set in Bombay refers to Flora Fountain. As you can see, it's very pretty even though it's not on. I would like everyone to appreciate that I stood in the direct sun in ridiculous humidity to take this picture.
Here's a funny bus- they are everywhere all over India.
A paan-wallah! I bought cigarettes from this old man and he was mixing a bunch of stuff together (see all his ingredients?) and I watched him for a bit. Paan is like a chewing tobacco that a lot of men walk around with in their mouths. I think it's got beetle nut in it? I'm not really sure to be honest, but it turns the teeth red from the juice and people are spitting it out in this impressive arcs. It really seems like an art the way they spit so far. You can see red streaks on the streets and sidewalks everywhere you go and that's what it's from.
So, I was watching the paan guy and I started asking him what stuff was; he didn't speak English but he made me a little bit to try. It made my mouth tingly and when i spit it out it felt like I brushed my teeth to the 80th power. Apparently there is regular paan and sweet paan. Sweet paan comes in a leaf (look on the left of the pic. under a red cloth) and the regular stuff just goes straight into the mouth.
Here's a shot of one of the crumbling mansions in the neighborhood I'm staying in. Doesn't it look like New Orleans? The weather is really hot and really humid, just like New Orleans in the summer. There's a lot of big trees with vines hanging down, and in the Colaba neighborhood at least, there's a lot of giant houses that seem to have been converted into different stuff. My hotel, for instance.
Yesterday I went to the Hanging Gardens in the middle of the day- stupid idea with the heat. I guess I thought with a name like Hanging Gardens, there'd be a lot of big trees but as you can see, there aren't. So I found a spot in the shade and waited out the sun for a bit. It's a really pretty garden and it was nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.
You can't see it, but to the east of hear, there are these things called the Towers of Silence. It's Parsi tradition that when someone dies, they put the body in a tower, stripped of their clothes, and let the vultures eat them. So there were tons of vultures in the sky in this area. I kind of like the idea- no embalming with chemicals and you go back into nature. There has been some controversy over the tradition though, because of course this is taking place in the middle of a major city and people are worried about the possibility that the vultures will drop pieces of body in the city. I don't know if there's much to that, though.
And finally, the Gandhi museum. It's in this house where he used to live and work. There was a photo gallery and a bunch of dioramas that demonstrated the important things in his life. It was kind of nerdy but cool. I learned a lot about Gandhi, like: he lived in South Africa for 25 years. Also, he has said that if he had to die by the bullet of a madman, he would have an open heart and the name of God would be on his lips. So when he was assasinated on the way to a prayer meeting, he actually bowed to his assasin.
Yesterday I saw Slumdog Millionaire and it was really good. I recognized a lot of the places in the movie. A couple funny things about going to the movies here are: there is an intermission in the middle of the movie for 5 min. or so; before the movie starts, they play the national anthem and put an image of the Indian flag waving up on the screen. Everyone has to stand up for the anthem; and you get assigned a seat in the theatre. Also, apparently it's cool to bring your 3 yr old to a somewhat violent movie, because the people next to me did it. The kid of course wasn't interested in the movie at all (despite the Oscars) and instead babbled and knocked the seat around throughout the course of the movie. Luckily I was so mesmerized by the dancing images on the screen, having not watched tv for four months, that it didn't bother me at all.
Today is my last day in Mumbai, then I fly to Cochin in the state of Kerala. I still have a long way to go before I get to Nepal so I'm going to take a couple flights around India. It's relatively cheap- only around $100 for a domestic flight. I can't believe I only have a couple months left in my trip, and even more that I've already been gone for four! Well, until next time...