Prince of Wales Museum

13
Apr
2007

Now officially known as the impossible to remember or pronounce CHHATRAPATI SHIVAJI MAHARAJ VASTU SANGRAHALAYA, the museum is an odd collection of historical art of varying interest. I had time while the camera was being fixed yesterday, so I took a stroll through the museum. As with most such things in India, the admission price for foreigners is about 30 times (no joke) what is is for Indians.

I was most taken by the miniature paintings on display. Not only do they have amazing aesthetic value, they are an incredible documentation of the culture of the time.  The other exhibits that really grabbed me were the sculptures from Nepal and Tibet, and the Indo-Saracenic architecture of the building itself.

12 dollars!

12
Apr
2007

That’s about what it cost to fix my camera!  You may remember that I had dust in the lens, ruining nearly every shot and seriously impinging on my, er,  artistic vision.  The first place I went must’ve seen “money” stamped on my forehead, b/c they wanted to charge me 75 bucks. Since the camera was only worth about double that, it seemed a bit much. But then in the same area near CST I found a tiny shop. The turn around was only about 2 hours too. It is amazing to me that in India, sometimes small tasks can seem both impossibly difficult and ridiculously easy to accomplish in the very same moment.

American film about Indian family seen in India by American

11
Apr
2007

Sums up my late afternoon. Went to go see a sweet film called “The Namesake” about an Indian family from Calcutta that moves to New York. It was interesting for me to see the reverse culture shock (to mine) of the Indian family, and then a similar one for their American born kids who travel with them back to India.

The other thing I have to say is that there are some SWANK movie theaters in Mumbai.

Check again.

11
Apr
2007

ok, now I feel stupid. When I arrived in India 4 months ago, I was pulling my hair out about the map thing, especially not being able to use google maps. All I got was a message about there being “no data” for this city. After posting my new map find below, however, I then went back to google maps and voila! They have added maps of Mumbai sometime in the past 2 months. The internet is like that, moving very quickly (duh). Always check again, you may be surprised.

My Kingdom for a Map of Mumbai

11
Apr
2007

Ok, let’s face it: I don’t have a kingdom. But the problem of finding good maps in India borders on the extreme. No one seems to produce them. None of the main mapping sites like Google have any info that is useful. I can understand how difficult this can be in a city like Mumbai with almost no building numbers (most buildings have names), but the economic incentive should be massive. Today I was fortunate to come across this site that has the best interactive map of Mumbai I have seen by far. For the locals, enjoy.

What I’m reading at the moment

10
Apr
2007

THE POWER OF NOW by Eckart Tolle
This book, although it rehashes many of the ideas of Buddhism and Hinduism, is still refreshingly written and contains some very useful examples of how to achieve peace by resting in the now.

THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING by Sogyal Rinpoche
Fascinating overview of what Tibetan Buddhism believes about the stages of living, dying, death, and rebirth (the bardos). In particular, I was moved by the accounts of hospice work and showing the dying love and respect and helping them to deal with their physical endpoint.

MAXIMUM CITY by Suketu Mehta
The definitive non-fiction book about Bombay, superbly written. This together with SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts (which I finished 2 months ago) should give you all you the brain food you need to get a handle on Mumbai (and visiting wouldn’t hurt either, of course).

Good Luggage Karma

7
Apr
2007

Unbelievable. As the train was pulling out from Margao on its way to Mumbai, I was feeling pretty good knowing that I was taking a break from heavy travelling. Some guy making his way through the  car noticed me sitting in my compartment and came in to introduce himself and chat. We were having a lovely conversation, him telling me about working as an engineer for the railways, when suddenly to my horror I realized that I had left my large bag (the one with all my clothes, toiletries, mosquito net, etc in it) in the internet cafe of the train station. It was a lucky coincidence that I was with this fellow who works for the railways. In a few minutes, he had retrieved the number of the info booth at the station. I called and they went to check for my bags and then informed me a few minutes later that it was safely in the hands of the station superintendant. I called him and arranged to have the bag sent up on the next train. I picked it up this morning from CST station from the train attendant. I can’t believe my luck.

Travel Fatigue

5
Apr
2007

It’s been pretty non-stop the last six weeks.

Sometimes, all you want is to chill out and do nothing and stop moving. This is one of those times.

I decided to take a break, ignoring that little voice in my head that keeps saying “Don’t miss this golden opportunity to see stuff or things you haven’t seen!” I am heading back to Bombay tomorrow and will kick up my feet and relax for a week or two, with nowhere new to see, and no need to pack my bag every 24-48 hours.

You didn’t have to throw up on me.

4
Apr
2007

All I asked was “Where is the closest internet cafe”? Then the kid she was holding barfed up some milk like substance all over her, the ground, and my pants leg. That little incident aside, we had an interesting time in the tiny city of Ullal, 10km south of Mangalore. We stayed at a highly-recommended-by-the-guidebooks “Summer Sands Beach Resort”. The books listed yoga classes, bar, restaurant, lovely beach – It sounded like an ideal break for a day or two. When we got there we found the prices were double what had been listed in the book, but the place looked kinda nice so we took a room and checked in. Then it all started to fall apart. First we asked about the yoga classes or at least where the yoga room was and were told “no yoga”. Then we asked about the bar and were told “no bar. before, bar. now, no bar”. It was also way too hot in our non ac room. Each cottage was clearly built to hold in as much heat as possible, and were modeled off of ski lodges. As we looked around, we started noticing a large number of Christian icons and symbols, statues of Jesus and crucifixes, and quotes from the Bible. As the horror sunk in, we realized that the owner had undergone some sort of born again conversion over the last year or two and decided to strip the place of all that had made it lovely, starting with the bar. The yoga room, we surmise, was turned into the “prayer room” behind the front desk. (I kid you not. There was actually a prayer room.)

Later that night, the fun really began, as the resort was hosting a private “DJ” party prior to the wedding they would host the next day. Our room being in the neighborhood of 95 degrees (35 celsius), we had the windows open and fan full tilt. Of course we were right next to the outdoor space where the party music was blaring. We complained and got moved to an AC room in the back, and after yelling a little at the guy who asked us to pay more, we settled on it being their fault / we would not pay more and slept through the night in air conditioned bliss.

We are now in the city of Mangalore, where we will take a train to Udipi in a short while.

Mysore, Shmysore…

2
Apr
2007

We tried to reserve a train to Mysore (Lenica et moi) but as fate would have it (of course) everything was booked up. So we checked into other cities beginning with the letter “M”. Bingo! We are headed to Mangalore, then will probably follow the coast (or our other whims) and head north. We will also bid a tearful farewell to our lovely new friend Silvia as she departs for Delhi and Dharamsala (or Spain, she isn’t sure.)