Opulence of India (arrival in Bombay)

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:32 PM

This ‘going back in time’ could fill a book of life’s adventures. A blog isn’t a book, but since our experiences in Bombay were the complete opposite of Bihar (like the other side of a coin), I felt like sharing this. That’s why there are now several posts on our visit to India. Travelling anywhere by train can be memorable, especially lengthy trips. When we reached Bombay (now Mumbai), we had no idea where to stay. All I had in way of plans was to experience the “Towers of Silence”. This is the site of the Parsi (Zoroastrian) funerals, where the dead are exposed to vultures, providing the individual’s final act of charity. All we had were the clothes on our back. We both wore sandals and I had a long beard of three months. We looked, to say the least, “dusty”, but welcomed the chance to stretch our legs.I noticed a sign “Art exhibition, upstairs, 1st floor”. That got my attention. Upon entering the gallery, we immediately felt out of place. It was an elegant ‘vernissage’, or opening reception. Ladies in saris, or dressed in latest Parisian fashions. Men in Nehru jackets or well-tailored suits with shirt and tie. And shoes, shining like mirrors.
It was like “Look what the cat brought in.” I focused on the paintings, which were mostly tropical still-life’s of flowers, and made some “comments”. A smartly-dressed gentleman came over and in Oxford English said, “Welcome. Who are you? Where do you come from? I overheard your commentary on the show to your lady. May I ask, are you an artist?” I replied, “Thank you, sir, we’re from Canada. Actually my partner is from the USA. We just got off the train from Calcutta, via Bihar, where we spent a week with Oxfam. And yes, you could say I know a little bit about Art.” His eyebrows went up dramatically. “Good Lord, my friend, did you say Bihar? I myself have never been there” but he didn’t react to my being an artist. “Bihar, my friend, that is some experience you must have gone through; and what are your impressions of India?”
Says I, “Well, yes, we had great adventures, a real eye-opener, but that all belongs to our nomadic nature.”

Where are you staying? Did you reserve a room somewhere?” I replied, “No, sir, this is our first time in Bombay.” “But Bombay is a huge city, and the lady surely must be tired and would like to rest?” He said he would like to be our Host and that he would like to show us the other side of India. Then he introduced himself and it turned out he was no-less than the ex-mayor of this great city! And all because of a curiosity to look at an art show, 20 minutes after arriving in Bombay. He gave us his card and gave some instructions to his chauffeur to take us to a hotel. The car was a black Mercedes limousine. We got into the car, and began our first real “sightseeing” of Bombay. The “hotel” was none other than the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel. So we two vagabond-looking people arrived, with no luggage, at the posh five-star hotel.

When we approached the Front Desk, a man came up to us. “Ah, you must be the people we are expecting”. Meanwhile the crowd in the lobby stared, curious about these new arrivals. We had entered their ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ and looked like we belonged in the ‘down and out’ quarters of the city. Although, I was wearing my star-ruby ring I’d acquired in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), much earlier in our adventure.

And thus began the chapter of “the other side” of India looked like. But that’s for the next post. Signing off, Henri

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