Postcard from Mumbai

MUMBAI, INDIA: One day I will get back to New York and sift through my all belongings. If nothing is ruined, especially personal papers and such momentos, somewhere in a box buried deep there should be a postcard from India. It will be from the mid 90s from DL, who I was dating at the time. I distinctly recall that postcard being of the Taj Palace Hotel, a national landmark of India and its colonial past.

Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai
Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai

At the time I was unaware of what I was looking at, India seemed so far away. It would take years before I even thought about getting my first passport and traveling outside of the US, and probably over a decade from that time before I even considered trying to work outside the US. Even as much as two years ago I would not imagine living in India. Travelling here for holiday – it was “on the list” but not at the top. Continue reading “Postcard from Mumbai”

The Cow That Anne Bought

UDAIPUR, INDIA: Taking up her usual perch at Rainbow Cafe, Rosie is easy to spot, it’s the best seat in the house after all. She has a constant reservation of two alcoves which overlook Lake Pichola. I don’t plan to spend my entire evening at Rainbow but the charm of the lights dancing on the lake from the other side and flickering of fireworks keep me planted. Seems like as good of a place as any to spend my Diwali night.

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

We are joined by another local expat about 45 minutes after I arrive, Anne Vilsbøll. Anne is a Danish artist and lecturer whose made her second home here in Udaipur for as long as Rosie. Anne has a curious way about her, reminiscent of the Europeans we used to meet in the early 90s down in Key West. They are a breed of expat I have not seen since, except in rare glimpses like Anne. The world has changed since those carefree days. Continue reading “The Cow That Anne Bought”

Udaipur Notes

UDAIPUR, INDIA: I’ve come to realise that all airports in India are 45 minutes to one hour away from where you are headed. The Udaipur airport is a nice drive away from Udaipur itself. Landing into the tiny airport the stewardess announces “you can find your luggage in carousel number one.” Mind you, there’s only one carousel.

Airport Route
Airport Route

An easy drive into town, not the long speeding drive of Varanasi, the taxi took me pretty much to the doorstep, no easy feat in the old towns of India where ancient roads are too narrow for cars. I say nearly, it’s about three minutes walk up a winding path to where I am staying, with scooters and motorbikes whizzing by. I could have opted for one of the well-known five and seven star hotels, but I’m not quite the millionaire yet. Instead, I chose an AirBnB home stay. I have my own little studio rented from a woman who goes by Rosie. Continue reading “Udaipur Notes”

The City of Shiva, or Holiest of the Seven Sacred Cities

VARANASI, INDIA: The airport is a ways out, took about an hour for us to get near to Varanasi, partly due to the traffic. I was surprised by how far out it is. The car drove to northern edge of Varanasi where I was taken on a boat docked on the Ganges. Greeted by a sweet young woman who offered me a cold towel for my face and hands, placed a strand of Shiva beads around my neck, offered me cold water and a sweet yellow drink to refresh myself as we traveled down the the river. As we drifted past the various Ghats she told me what each one was.

VARANASI, INDIA: I still feel that India does not have much to offer beyond the religious and five star services one comes across in their travels. To walk around the cities you find the desperately poor, repeated over and over again, the squalor and begging, the hustling for money is so prevalent. You try to see the culture and the arts, none of that seems to exist now but everyone wants to capitalise on it, something seems missing. Where is it? There may be more to what meets the eye but if you are not a local it is difficult to see. Being hounded every minute you walk outside to purchase unwanted trinkets and faded postcards from every man, woman and child on the street is the memory you are left with.

Sleeping monkey man
Sleeping monkey man

I feel a captive of the hotel – although it is a beautiful one. The little monkey man outside the window looking in from his naps with understanding eyes. You want to pet them but you know they can be vicious. No need to tempt them. It could be very different if I were a man, or traveling with a man I expect. I would not get as much harassment. This was once a king’s palace, the place where I am staying, on the Ganges, my exotic prison from the heat, the begging and the poverty.

Continue reading “The City of Shiva, or Holiest of the Seven Sacred Cities”

When I feel stupid

GURGAON, INIDA: Did I do the right thing? Why else am I an expat if not to learn from being in a foreign land? Why should I have these expectations that a driver need to speak a language that is foreign to him and not that of his country? Why couldn’t I just learn a few words in Hindi?

GURGAON, INIDA: Okay, maybe not stupid… that is just my cheap clickbait headline. I do feel silly, and sad… and actually, yes, I feel stupid.

Why? That’s a bit of a story, a story that begins prior to my landing in India.

So when I landed I had a driver pick me up… he was funny, youthful if not a bit overly confident, and well-spoken for a driver. When I say well-spoken, I mean he spoke very good English. I was skeptical because he insisted I remember his name and “make a good reference” about his driving and customer service to his employer, the vendor hired to provide car services to our growing Gurgaon based workforce.

Continue reading “When I feel stupid”