Friday, February 6, 2015

Cultural observations in India

Mumbai is an explosion of sights and insights. And in two weeks of being in vans multiple times a day with multiple drivers, not one used GPS.

I did not learn till my ninth day in Mumbai that my hotel and the school I was in India to speak at were in the suburbs. Looked like city to me!

My ride from the airport:

An eye-opening walk on my first morning:

I went to an ATM where this sign greeted me:

Looks like I picked the wrong week to start carrying a cutlass.

I withdrew 3,000 rupees, which is $50, which might last me the whole trip with some to spare. For example,
for my host who invited me to lunch, I bought four roses for 40 rupees

…which is about 64 cents. (I tried to give her 200 but she refused to accept it.)

At a chain supermarket, big vats of grains:

I bought one item. Though the cashier was at a computer, for some reason she handwrote my receipt:

At the school, I was given this bag, whose pattern includes a swastika:

But the swastika had a (non-sinister) significance long before the Nazis appropriated it.

In a restaurant, I could not be sure which bathroom door to use. You probably can:

I learned of two types of marriages, arranged and “love” (meaning the couple chooses each other as is common in the Western world). Couples who want love marriages sometimes must go against their families.

I find it charming how many young men walk around with an arm draped around a buddy. This affection is not just for walking:

People—including colorfully dressed women—without shoes doing road work:

What some claim is the largest synagogue in Mumbai and one of the largest in all of Asia:

Some of the damage may be monsoon related.

This man is not holding a strange table tennis racquet. It’s an electric bugswatter that zaps mosquitoes midair—complete with sparks to mark the time of death:

A longtime friend who is Israeli and who lives in London happened to be in Mumbai for part of the same time as I was; one afternoon, we met at the Four Seasons.

What a stark contrast from the top of the hotel to the scene right across the street:

When stopped in traffic in certain parts of town, raggedly dressed, barefoot children approach cars and gesture for a handout by pantomiming eating. It is, as you’d expect, heartbreaking.

This sign announces rooms with or without AC. I was in India at the most mild time of the year (warm, not sweltering, and not humid), but from what it sounds like, I can’t imagine being here in the hottest months and opting for no AC. (Maybe it’s offered as a cheaper alternative.)

Here is a mutton shop with the mutton still walking around outside:

College banners hang on a wall at ASB, and I was happy to see Brandeis among them:

One sign we passed in a car too quickly to photograph: “No Parking: Tyers Will Be Punctured.” Can’t say they didn’t warn you.

One night two of the teachers took me to dinner at a Western-style restaurant whose design was transporting. I felt like I was in the video for a-ha’s “Take on Me.”

I accumulated more than the usual bulk of gifts so had to leave a few things there. One casualty was a pair of sneakers. I had had them for a while, and though they were still fine for walking, they were past the “suggested mileage limit” for running, which was their primary purpose.

Since they were in relatively good shape, I offered them to the young man who cleaned rooms in my hotel. He did not appear to speak much English and he called in a manager who did, and who explained that I had to write a note stating that I gifted the shoes to this employee...presumably so he could not be accused of stealing.

More scenes that caught me:



1 comment:

Ms. Heeru B. said...

I enjoyed reading your reflections about ASB and India. Looking forward to your next visit and another adventure.

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