March 29, 2012 – Second day in Mumbai, India
Our second day in Mumbai. The name, by the way was changed from Bombay a few years ago. Bombay, loosely translated means “good bay” in Portuguese…..
but most of the local folks we have met, still call it Bombay. It looked like this might be another day filled with transportation hassles. Inside the port gates there were several people soliciting for “tours”. We thought they were just taxi drivers who managed to sneak through security, but it turned out they are people who have larger cars, hired by the day for tours. Yesterday, when our plan was to taxi to the ferry, we told one of these guys to meet us the next day and he showed up! He took us in his car out of the port, to another car & driver out on the street. We feared a bait & switch, but it turned out when he put us in the hands of his “number one driver”, to be the best move we made in India. Baboo Singh managed to completely reverse the problems of the previous day and showed us a wonderful day in his home town. Our first clue was when we expected an initial tough price negotiation, instead Baboo said – “just pay me what you think my services are worth”. Astonishing based on the previous day’s experiences. Our second clue was when Baboo said, in response to my query about his turban – “Yes I am a Sikh Man, not a “sick man” but a Sikh Man” – great sense of humor! Baboo reviewed our list of places we wanted to see and off we went in his most comfortable, air conditioned Toyota SUV – whoopee!
Our first stop was Ghandi’s home. It was on a quite tree shaded street, quite unlike the Mumbai we had seen to this point. Ghandi lived here for 17 years, from 1917 to 1934, and was his residence for much of the period of his resistance efforts. He never owned the home, but rather it was provided by a friend.
The Ghandi house was filled with his books, spinning wheels, and hundreds of pictures and dioramas depicting various important events in his life. He is truly revered as a national hero here.
I like this quote from Ghandi – It is hanging outside his room (sorry about the focus).
Our next stop on Baboo’s grand tour was the laundry. This is a most unusual operation, unique in India and maybe in the world. This is a small part of Mumbai, maybe 10 acres in which all of the laundry of Mumbai is done. Laundry is picked up from retail laundry outlets, homes, hotels, hospitals, and restaurants, and transported by hand cart to the laundry, a maze of concrete wash bins. The laundry people work, live & go to school in the laundry. According to Baboo, everyone in Mumbai has their own unique laundry mark on their garments, so they all find their way back to the proper person.
Might as well get yourself clean at the laundry!
I took these shots as we were leaving the laundry. When we arrived, Baboo just stopped the car on the bridge, blocking one lane, got us out and walked across three lanes of traffic, balancing on the median as the traffic whizzed by in both directions – lose your balance & die!
Our next stop was at the hanging gardens – some gardens on a hillside, overlooking Mumbai and the bay.
Our next stop was more of a drive by picture shooting – it was the Parsee Temple, The Towers of Silence where the Parsees take their dead to be consumed by vultures, believing in a prohibition against burial or cremation. The Parsees, are sect which migrated to India from Iran about 1000 years ago, and in addition to their post death rituals, believe one must be born a Parsee, of two Parsee parents – no recruiting. They therefore are a shrinking population (around 100,000 worldwide). The Parsees are also noted as very honest and successful business people – their members including the Tata family, owners of a large number of companies, including Tata Motors, producers of the least expensive production car in the world, at $2500, and owners of Jaguar Motors.
Another phenomenon of Mumbai, in addition to the laundry, is the “lunch delivery”. For a small fee, this service picks up your lunch at your home and delivers it to your office. The lunch deliverers were all identified by white caps, and Baboo indicated they are part of a group, like a sect. They have a record of only losing one lunch per million delivered – pretty impressive. I would love to know if it is a company, a trade group, like a union, or what? Jason’s Deli without the automobiles!
Speaking of lunch – it is time for our lunch at The Taj, and Baboo dropped us off to be picked up after lunch.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Taj appears to be “business central” in Mumbai. On our way to the restaurant on the top, we noticed that the U.S. Department of Commerce was holding some sort of business conference – lots of security.
The restaurant turned out to be Lebanese. Lebanese food, in India with a guy who prefers Whataburger! But the meal was delicious.
Back on the road with Baboo, we asked him to take us to a market – not a market for tourists, but a market where the local people shop. He drove us to the edge of a market where a guide parked us, and then led us into the market, going to the specific shops for the things Sally asked for, and then aided in the negotiations – all for small tip. A very interesting approach.
After a quick trip to the postoffice, courtesy of Baboo this time, we found our way back to the ship.
If I had to judge Mumbai by our first day, it would not have fared well, but the second day was marvelous, all thanks to one person who offered a great service in a professional and courteous manner. Baboo Singh made our visit a real adventure and a gave us a pleasant day!
When we leave here, we begin our run across the Arabian Sea – home of the Somali Pirates. The ship is getting ready to repel boarders.