A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

"You Live Here, Madam"

So says the guard on a tree-lined street in one of the most posh parts of the city, just ten minutes from the former red light district and what Good Broker (Broker #3) called “the slum” where I was last week. My dear friend and now neighbor helped me house hunt, and this Good Broker, who even went with me to collect my things from my former place and told them he was with the police so I could at least get my deposit back, found a fabulous flat for twice the price and ten times the quality. I share my room with a working woman, and the other two rooms have two college women per room; three bathrooms and a kitchen complete the picture. I can still walk to the office, to Chowpatty beach, to the beautiful Hanging Gardens Park, to local markets and the train station, and I can cook (which will be more useful when I get internet at home and can stop frequenting the free wifi Veg Falafel place). Decorating with what I have, below.

Saturday I went to a Halloween Party at the American Embassy. Dubya and a swarm of secret service agents were at the infamous Taj Hotel, but oddly he didn’t show. I dressed in a black slip with a boa and sign that said ‘Freudian.’ It was the cliché of Westerners in India: rich, corporate partiers; friendly, yet not my scene in the US either. Mostly the Indians I’ve befriended are more my speed. Getting in touch with alumni, and their connecting me with even more friends of friends of friends has acquainted me with such wonderful people, and I’ve met a few other fun friends on my own. Picture of the Taj, not the dark rooftop party not conducive to photography.

However, the Americans did teach me one vital thing: in a Borders-like bookstore called Crossword (walkable from my new flat) is the only map of Bombay. Now as I walk or am driven around by taxi drivers who pretend to be lost, I follow in the book to better learn this city where road signs are for new Hindi names instead of the British names they’re known by--and the book even has landmarks, since that’s how most people navigate. Typical directions begin with, “In (neighborhood), do you know the ___ near the ___ restaurant? How about the ___ store?” My current landmarks are: I’m one block from Gandhi’s former Bombay home, now a free museum, and one block from a restaurant called Café New York.

On the weekend my friend who laughingly attempts to help me with Hindi pronunciation, and I were wandering around Colaba, past cricket fields and sketchy markets swarming with flies where vendors snot into the street, and we ran into a work colleague of his who introduced his companion with a, “This is my girlfriend,” the way you’d say, “This is my bike.” Saturday morning as I sat on the very busy Marine Drive reading the Times Of India to the sound of the Arabian Sea, a man pulled over his sports car and walked over to me to try to convince me to go for a ride in his car. This is not atypical—and I dress very conservatively. I have also gotten, "Are you working today?" and "How much?" and other gems. On the other hand, India Vogue may be entirely focused on the import of wedding fashion, yet the models are realistic-looking. Beauty here is epitomized by fair skin, long glossy hair, and a ‘toned yet soft’ body. All models have a little bit of gunch on them. I also get daily “health tip” text messages, like ‘Fat should not be totally eliminated from our diet as it is required to maintain a healthy body. Avoid saturated fat’ or ‘Women Problem – You will get a great relief from menstrual pain, if you have a gooseberry daily.’ Yet women are expected to work and still do cooking and care-taking at home, which is no different from the reality in the US. In general, the wealthier and more educated my surroundings, the more Western clothes, preference for Hollywood over Bollywood movies, English speaking, more powerful women--and air conditioning. Even in liberal Bombay, India is an interesting mixture of an evolving culture vis-à-vis sexism.

So if last week was the bottom, this week I’m climbing back up, complete with my first celebrity sighting, Aishwarya Rai, former Miss India, now a very wealthy and famous Bollywood actress, in the recent Steve Martin Pink Panther movies. She had a press conference at the Vie Lounge where another kind Colorado alum took me to dinner. A poor picture of her to the right.

Thank you warmly to everyone who reached out during my rough week with emails and calls, and to all the kind locals who dropped what they were doing to help a freaked-out American. The adventure continues...

Posted byValerie at 2:54 PM  


Julie said... November 6, 2009 at 7:03 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Valerie said... November 30, 2009 at 12:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.

Post a Comment