24 September 2013

Mumbai, India - (5)

Now we head for the Prince of Wales Museum to "try" and soak up some culture.
Yeh right - it is difficult but nothing ventured, nothing gained. The taxi fare of 100 Rupees (most probably a rip-off!) got us to the door of the museum just as the rain came down.

We waited under shelter, like idiots, as nobody told us that there were umbrellas to use to reach the entrance.

The museum has 3 floors of art collections such as Nepal-Tibet, Krishna, Chinese and Japanese, European paintings, sculpture, weapons, coins etc.
The foundation stone was laid by Prince of Wales (later KIng George V) in 1905 and is a heritage building and landmark of South Mumbai.The museum opened to the public on Jan 10, 1922 wit various collections plus the Sir Ratan Tata bequest. The Tata family are well-known and very wealthy - Tata vehicles are even available in South Africa.
The Natural History section is superb, spoilt only by a group of Primary (Called High School) kids who were sooooo noisy we could not even hear our audio head phones. They were all very smartly dressed in uniform, with name tags and photos, all wearing sandals but, oh my goodness, what alot of chatter at the top of their voices. The teacher telling them to be quiet had absolutely NO effect! Even the museum chap tried to move them along....he did not succeed. Rather a pity that such smartly dressed kids from obviously wealthy backgrounds can be so disobedient when all the signs say "Silence Please" We had to wait for them to leave to enjoy the exhibits.
Have you ever seen a "saw" fish? It's the most amazing looking sea creature with a huge saw in front of it's body. Don't think I would like to encounter one of those in the ocean! Forget the magician trick of sawing somebody in half, this would be the real deal!
Indian 1 Horn Rhino's also faced near extinction until measures were taken to increase the population. The conservation program in India and in South Africa (White Rhino) are mentioned here for their efforts in saving these magnificent animals.
We found the history of Karl Khandalavala most interesting. A lawyer by profession, he became an Indian Art Collector and had close links with the Prince of wales Museum. He was asked to source art for the museum and then stopped collection for his own use. He was also a great photographer and one numerous awards. His collection is now in the gallery where he spent many a Saturday afternoon, such was his love of the arts.
A video in the Prechand Roychand gallery was totally fascinating as it showed the history of the art of painting for mobile temples. This huge painting is taken from village to village. Today this art form includes words and more colours than the originals - however, it needs to be preserved for future generations.
We decided to walk back so that we could get some exercise and experience the noise of Mumbai again!!!!! The noise is so invasive that I can't even concentrate on taking interesting photos of people, cars, shops etc that we pass. It's all encompassing noise that assaults the senses to such a degree that one walks like a zombie! There is nothing like this anywhere in Europe, USA, SA and certainly not in New Zealand (peace and quiet!!) or law-abiding Australia. There are no rules of the road and most roads are packed, with truly only about a centimetre of space between cars or bodies. How there are not more accidents, I have no clue. Apparently, in the monsoon season there are many accidents - thankfully, for my sanity, the rain is no longer too much. Whew!
We had hoped hoped to see the Kala Ghoda Pavement Art which is on either side of the Jehangir Art Gallery but this is closed until October ( after the Monsoon Season) I suppose no self-respecting artist would want his/her work ruined by the rain?
As we did not find the Colaba Causeway on our Saturday outing, we decided to walk back to via this route. These stalls of full of cheap trinkets and clothing and quite claustrophobic. We did buy an elephant for 300 rupees for my elephant collection at home. Gorgeous and ornate, he will rule the other elephants when he gets back to South Africa! The beggars all seem to be women with children, sitting on the pavement. I was eventually tempted to use rather strong African swear words - just the fact that they did not understand these, seemed to have an effect! I won't repeat them here!

Although the Internet reckons that the area around the President Hotel is not so safe we have found all the areas so far to be hassle free. Wherever we have walked there has been no problem even though we stand out like sore thumbs - white faces and with a Nikon camera slung around my neck! Many of the buildings look like total slums, yet they are not. It's a crazy place, a noisy place and the Indians themselves are all over, shopping, eating, buying and driving.
We spotted a Driving School called "Good Luck" - yep, I think the bumps and scratches on the car are testimony to the crazy driving in Mumbai and India. Quite frankly, I would think that no license is required - nothing could equip one for driving in this country - hence the fact that foreigners are not allowed to hire a car without a driver. Driving in India, without being born in this country, would be the fastest way to voluntary suicide.
Indians, please come to South Arica - you will LOVE the way we drive - we don't hoot very often, we tend to obey most of the rules of the road and we can be very polite!!! Capetonians, your driving is SUPERB - I love you all!!!!!
Our laundry arrived, delivered in a briefcase and with cardboard in the t-shirts. Service!!!!! Singita Lebombo, a fantastic hotel in the Kruger Park of South Africa,  can learn a few tricks from the Taj Group! Joking - Singita is very special and our memories there will never fade.
For our evening meal, we decided to catch a taxi to Leopolds - famous in Mumbai. This is right in the Colaba Causeway area and was packed with locals and a few Westerners. The menu is under the glass on the table so sometimes you have to read upside down. The noise is incredible as the buzz of conversation competes with the honking horns in the road outside. If you are in the mood for a romantic dinner, this is not the place to be. If you want tasty food at a reasonable price, then it IS the place to be. Our waiter was very helpful and I decided on a vegetable curry called Makhanwala  while James chose Butter Chicken. Served with some Naan Bread, it was delicious. Leopolds also serves huge "tower of beer" at 1400 IR - needless to say, we stuck to a glass each at 180 IR! No need to fall over in Mumbai! The cakes and desserts are scrumptious - the Chocolate Ecstasy was just that - so rich that I could barely finish it, despite James stealing a few mouthfuls.
There were plenty of taxi's outside so we opted for one that said 80 IR (the fare we paid to get to the restaurant)
At our destination, James handed over a 100 note and was told "no change" So he counted out his smaller notes and made 60 which he then offered the driver. Suddenly, change of 20 miraculously appeared! We were not impressed by this tactic - however, only fair to say that this has happened to us whilst taking a taxi to Cape Town airport so it is obviously a ploy used by taxi drivers world-wide. Why they would want to annoy their fares to such an extent, is beyond me. Mind you, in Mumbai you never get the same driver - this last one was extremely surly and spoils the good experience that we have enjoyed from others in this city.
The streets at night are even more crazy it seems than during the day with far more people walking, riding and just being out and about. We even saw a gent sitting on the pavement having his ears cleaned by another. How gross is that? Funnily enough, I have only seen one taxi driver open
his door and spit! Even more gross!
On that note, back to our cool, clean hotel room......to read the latest in the Indian Newspapers:

The Mumbai Mirror, the Bombay Times and the Times of India are delivered to our room daily. They make interesting reading and show us that problems are really world-wide and so is good news.
Some snippets:
Armed with lathi, constable beats back 10 train robbers
In a first, chemist is booked for not having pharmacist!
Ragpicker stumbles upon woman's partial remains near sea link
Free Seminars across the city to help students study in USA
Rehearsing teens spark real dram on Marine Drive ( this happened across from the Inter-Continental Hotel where the Pakistan Judicial Commission is staying!!)
Study: Drug-resistant TB in city air, families clear yet kids affected.
Irrespective of faith, 12 year old cannot be wife.
Grad steals mobile, blackmails owner - love this one - in SA they just re-sell them at bargain prices!
Wheelchair bound Deepa Malik (43) will cover 2000 km across 6 states in 10 days in a car designed by students from Sathyabama University, Chennai
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. "Keep it simple, stupid" Kiss Principle
Ad - 2 months later, 7 kilos lighter and a plan that finally worked. SMS Slim to .......!
Ad - Get going in your own Innova for a perfect holiday (Toyota)
Ad - 30,000 cars sold, 30,000 lived changed - Honda
You have guessed - it is raining today so more time to read these fascinating glimpses into Indian life in Mumbai.

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