The attack monkeys of Elephanta

In Mumbai's shocking gridlock, your definition for words like "close," "quick" and "convenient" must, by necessity, be adjusted. But so must your definition of "house" and "home." Lots of words in India take on new meanings. Soo and I had some free time Friday and wanted to pop out to see the sites, so we jumped in the car for the "quick" trek through Mumbai traffic to Colaba on the south side of town, and from there to Elephanta Island. "Quick" by Mumbai standards means a mere two hours in traffic. Colaba is the sea-side Mumbai district home to such landmarks as the Gateway to India and Taj ... [Read More]

What a country

The sight of a human body hurtling through the air after colliding with a car is one I’ll probably never forget. I’ve wondered during past visits to India how more people aren’t hit, given the endless mass of pedestrians and automobiles sharing the same space. So today, as if on cue, my colleague Joy and I walked out of an office building just in time to watch a man attempting to cross the far side of the road end his days as road kill. The impact shattered the car’s windshield, and the man, after which a small crowd gathered to calmly inspect the carnage. After a substantial wait, filled with ... [Read More]

Suddenly the sea

As is the norm when arriving in a new Indian city, Soo and I exited the massively crowded and disorganized airport in Chennai and looked for the driver sent by our hotel to collect us. Contrary to the norm, he wasn't there. We searched the entire area around the domestic terminal, then walked down to the exit for the international terminal and searched again. Still, no luck. We called the hotel and asked the whereabouts of our driver. They put us on hold, then connected us with said driver, who promised to arrive "in 2 minutes." Twenty minutes later he showed up, in The Smallest Car Ever Built, and proceeded ... [Read More]

The things we take for granted

In the Western world we take it for granted that when we flip a switch, the lights will come on. A headline in today's newspaper breathlessly proclaimed that if all goes well, Bangalore, India's IT capital, could, in two years, enjoy electricity 24/7! It would be, the article said, "a dream come true for Bangaloreans." In the Western world we take it for granted that one day, maybe, we'll meet someone, fall in love and decide all by ourselves that we want to get married (half of which end in divorce.) In India up to 90 percent of all marriages are arranged. (Only one percent end in divorce ... [Read More]

Delhi: New, and scary

The Indian government has lately been busy changing the names of some of the country's best-known cities, dumping the ones adopted by the British when India was part of the Empire in favor of more "traditional" Indian names. In 1995 Bombay was changed to Mumbai, though 15 years on most Indians still call the place Bombay. Calcutta became Kolkata in 2001, and three years ago Bangalore became Bengaluru. Before all this Delhi became New Delhi. Ha! Take that silly British! NEW Delhi! How's that for traditional Indian! Today, Soo and I toured New Delhi, most of which is very old, and some of which is quite impressive. I noted ... [Read More]

Horny at the Taj

Love can make you do many things. It can make you laugh. It can make you cry. It can make you build the Taj Mahal. The epic tale surrounding the construction of the Taj has all the trappings of a Hollywood fiction – tragedy, romance, betrayal, murder – but this fable is true, and is one of history's great tragic love stories. The story goes that at the ripe old age of 15, Prince Khurram, who would later become Shah Jahan, fifth Emperor of the Mughal Empire, married 14-year-old Arjumand Banu Begum, and fell desperately in love. He gave his beloved the name Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace,) and ... [Read More]

The stink, the smog and the superbug

Long-time readers of this blog will recall that India was not absolutely my most favorite place ever. Some have suggested I was perhaps a tad harsh in my descriptions of India, and my colleagues here were less than thrilled with what I wrote. So this time around I determined to have a better experience, to find the beauty in this ancient land, and to write glowing blogs about my experience. Wups. We’re not off to a terrific start. While waiting to board our flight to Mumbai Soo and I noticed a foul stench creeping over the entire area. It was something akin to what you’d get if you took ... [Read More]

Winning life’s lottery

  “You’re so lucky to be American.” These words, spoken to me by a cab driver in Mumbai, have been kicking around in my head for nearly four weeks. He was right. I saw and experienced many amazing and beautiful things during the last few weeks in India and Asia. I also saw places of almost indescribable poverty, and met courageous people struggling in circumstances anathema to most Westerners. Most of us lucky enough to be born in the West can’t really begin to imagine what life is like in the slums of Mumbai, can’t understand the circumstances that would force an intelligent 25 year old woman to drop out ... [Read More]

Air India

Knowing that I’d spend most of today in the air I expected to have little to blog about tonight. Fortunately, Air India was willing to provide plenty of fodder. Today was my first flight with Air India. Today was my last flight with Air India. I arrived at the Mumbai Airport at 5:45am for a 7:45 flight to Shanghai and proceeded to the Air India check-in counter. The young man behind the desk glared at me as I passed him my ticket and passport, then glared at my e-ticket for several minutes, before furiously typing something on his computer. He glared at the computer for a few moments, ... [Read More]

Delhi Delightful

Gene Hackman’s character in Crimson Tide famously said, “I don’t trust air I can’t see.” He’d love Delhi. I awoke this morning in a stunning suite at the fantastic Le Meridien Delhi, threw open the shades of my 16th floor bay windows, and stared out at my own reflection in the smog. I’m not that pretty in the mornings; it was a disappointing view. I was assured by my driver that the heat would soon burn off the smog (is this really a win?), and we set off for a day of meetings. Within minutes of leaving the hotel with my colleague, Kaushik, something remarkable occurred to me: ... [Read More]