First Night in Mumbai
As I’m writing this from our Mumbai hotel room, we are greeted in the morning by a symphony of honking tuk tuks cutting one another off outside, quite different from chirping birds back home.
Yesterday we embarked from JFK airport in New York to our connecting flight in Heathrow in London and then on to Mumbai. The first flight was via Virgin Atlantic and the second was via their subsidiary Jet Airways. Both planes were very comfortable with plenty of food, drink, and in flight entertainment. Something just feels right about a flight attendant with a British accent asking “Would you like some more Johnnie Walker and coke, sir?” as you watch Sacha Baren Cohen learn to strum his khrum for the first time in The Dictator. All in all it was two of the most comfortable and enjoyable flights I’ve been on, smooth cruisin’ all the way to Mumbai.
But then as we passed through customs and headed to the luggage carousel, we experienced our first dose of frustration in India. The intercom blared “Chris Sakowski and Gabriel Bernard Grace please report to baggage claims” as we discovered that our checked luggage decided to take its own holiday in London.
So we headed to a nearby hotel where we learned that not everything in India (especially the Western Zone of Mumbai) is as cheap as we would think, bartering the hotel attendant down to 6,000 rupees for a room from 8,800 rupees, still close to $110 for the night. (This is an absurd amount of money for the same place where a 40 minute autorickshaw cab ride costs less than $4). Hopefully we will be able to recoup this loss from Virgin, but on the bright side we got to chill with some very cool neighbors.
Since it was the middle of the night and our biological clocks had no chance to adjust, we decided to see what our neighbors were up to since they arrived just before us. Max a Sri Lankan, and Soyug, an Indian, were eager to share their stories and bottle of Sri Lankan Arrack (pronounced Iraq), a spirit made from coconuts. Max had flown into Mumbai that morning in order to meet a girl named Nikita he had been talking to on Facebook (he poked her and they randomly started talking, I guess now he’s trying to ‘poke’ her for real). Apparently Nikita is friends with Soyug, who graciously offered to meet and show around Max, whom he met for the first time just hours before our encounter. We sipped on Arrack and laughed about how funny the movie Delhi Belly is (which I saw for the first time on the flight from London), especially the part where Tikan uses orange juice to “cleanse himself” after his latest battle in the bathroom because the apartment is out of running water. This movie dropped the f bomb like it was going out of style, which is unheard of in Indian cinemas where movies traditional blank out cursing and don’t actually show any kissing (I guess their nudie films actually have storylines). Having a normal conversation with these two entertaining guys, it became apparent that there is a definite shift towards a more Western culture in the Asian youth.
After many hours filled with laughter, we decided to retire for the night and conclude our first foray in India. And so the adventure begins…