"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware." Martin Buber
At the end of June I'm off again, for three weeks at a university in South Korea and a visit to Kyoto, Japan, then in August we will be in Guatemala looking at one of the world's greatest challenges: how to grow a lot of food sustainably on small farms. Come along!
Sunday, October 21, 2012
India 21: Heartbreaker in Mumbai
Give it a
day and Mumbai will break your heart.
My day in
Mumbai began at 1 a.m. after the plane I was on shuddered to a stop at the end
of the Bangalore runway, turned around and checked in for repairs.Arrivinglate in Mumbai was no big deal however compared to the assault of the
taxi guys.Bangalore’s hustlers are guppies
compared to these pirhana’s.
My cab took
me along some ugly miles and past people sleeping in the street under the
glaring lights of an underpass, exactly as expected, but we sped on.After being taken to the wrong Ramada, I was
welcomed by a peerless staff of the right one and safely in bed by three.(I postpone until the morning finding out
whether Notre Dame beat BYU, fearing the worst as usual.)
afternoon I’m to have lunch at the home of Mrs. Jyoti Tanna, a close friend of
a Boise neighbor and friend of mine, Catherine Scott.(She’ll be the subject of a future blog)I’ve got a little time before
Jyosi’s driver picks me up—a driver yet!—and decide to take a little walk.I discover my hotel is on a thin strip of
land with a beach facing the Arabian Sea to the West and another across the
street to the East.Take your pick.
I’m soon in
what I’ll call a food court: a couple dozen brightly lit stalls, most with
giant griddles and giant woks and young men furiously chopping onions, greens
and tomatoes and other stalls with massive menus of sweet things.I’m tempted but head toward the water
thinking, I give urchins who come up to me a few coins, then a few pieces of
paper worth 20 cents American.However
I was flush with large bills because I’d just come from an ATM.So when more children arrived making the
familiar hand-to-mouth gesture for hunger; when they were joined an old woman
selling stamps to adorn my body with dye; and when child-mothers arrived with
children on their hip, all saying they are hungry, I retreated to the food
court.Would you like some lunch, I try
no.What the kids want is in the stall
next door that serves the Mango Kulfi Falooda, a glass of juice, red syrup, some fruit and a
big scoop of mango ice cream on top.I
believe I bought 13 of them.But grandma
got the juicy looking stuff on the griddle along with four big rolls and so did
four or five little children to whom I did not offer the drink option.In beating a retreat back to my hotel I had
to break away from a new trail of kids who had heard the news.
that night I went back to the stalls and took this picture of the one with the griddle and had a good
time with spectators and sellers at the morning’s event.Just as in Kerala the beach was
full of families, kids on tiny rides and a crowd admiring a sand sculpture of a
Again, I am tempted
by the food.How
dangerous could it be?But again I
turn away and have a simple but excellent vegetarian meal across from my hotel.Coming out, I thought about going to the CocoBerrry yogurt shopt next door but lying on the sidewalk outside were a
woman and a child.I had seen them before
going in, the mother sleepy, the child playing.Now the child has her tiny arm across her mother’s head and both were asleep.A tiny movement of that arm threw me into
tears and I can not stop crying until well after I got back to my room and they are with me still.
I took this
picture of me above, them below, and it feel exploitive or a crime scene but getting closer
might be worse and this is what I saw.I’m
carrying health bars bought in bulk at the Boise Costco and leave some at their
feet. I tuck some paper money under the child’s arm where I hope it will be
found and not stolen.
from my hotel to Jyoti’s house earlier that day went by Dharyi, a slum that I know by name from
what I’ve read, the largest slum in Asia by someone’s reckoning.I’ve been in the slums of Caracas long years
ago, seen Brazil’s flavelas and a lot of poor places in Africa.But just driving by Dharvi was so transfixing
that I sat at attention and Oh My God came out under my breath.Maybe I’ll be there tomorrow, I don’t know.
But that was
driving by, a slum voyeur safe in Jyoti’s car.Here was a mother and child and all I could ever do for them would be to
leave something, the way you might leave milk for a cat. Mumbai is filled with families and mothers and
children just like this. I’m thinking about an earlier post, the one about tattoo
on the heart.