Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lucknow, Bombay/Mumbai, Goa

I headed out to Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. I spent a fantastic week with my uncle, who is of nearly 80 years. He shared with me incredible stories from his time as an ambassador for India in Kabul, Afghanistan. I learned that pre-Soviet-invasion, Kabul was a marvelous and modern capital. I flipped through the pages of his yearbooks from the former American institute in Kabul which enrolled students from every corner of the planet (the US, Japan, Egypt, India, South Africa etc). I perused through countless pages of my uncle's charmingly disorganized photographs which documented his road trip across the US, all the way to Berkeley, California, in a 19** (year forgotten) Lincoln. Aside from my grandiloquent uncle, Lucknow offered fragrant and buttery kebabs, the most select collection of literature at the Ram Advani bookshop, and opulent palaces. What else might one expect from a capital of Mughal past?

While in Uttar Pradesh, I reached Benares (a.k.a. Varanasi), about six hours away from Lucknow, to take a dip in the holy waters of the River Ganges. The river was serene and the dip was invigorating. In the days previous to my arrival in Benares, Mumbai was under terrorist attack, and India's capital cities, including sights of religious significance such as Benares, have since been under tight watch. Benares was heavily armed with officers in all visible corners of the city. Upon attempting to enter a popular temple, I was halted and interrogated by 12 or more six-foot, fully-armed, and intimidating officers. To gain entry, I was demanded to somehow prove my blood was Hindu (with a litmus test?) and was eventually denied entry to half of the shrines. My mother was distraught. I was entertained (and, without question, shitting in my pants).

Ironically, then, following Lucknow, I flew south to Mumbai (against the wishes of all my relatives, given the recent terrorist attacks). Mumbai is awesome. Mumbai is amazing. Mumbai is cosmopolitan and international and young and fresh and happening and tropical and laid back and glamourous and delicious and always awake and I just could not get enough of all the amazing caf├ęs and strolls along the Arabian Sea and anti-climatic celebrity sightings (Raveena Tandon, Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt etc) and all ingredients that make for an amazing vacation. Mumbai is frenzy is sexy is a lifestyle is all things a vacation orders. Shopping is prime in this town. Peoples from every corner of the world visit and reside in Mumbai, making it truly cosmopolitan. The entire city has a very tropical-Londonesque feel with cobblestone streets and palm trees. My ultimate neighbourhood of choice is Bandra where I would consider spending a good portion of my life. I watched my all-time favourite Bollywood romance, Dilwale Dilhunia Le Jayenge (1993), at the infamous Maratha Mandir Theatre, which has been playing the flick everyday at 11:15am for over 13 years now!! And will you believe me when I tell you that the cinema hall was sold out?! At the then age of 18, this movie inspired me to backpack Europe. Muah to Mumbai.
Finally, for eight glorious and sunny days, a friend and I reached Goa with to celebrate the new years 2009. Cocunut was the order of all meals. We greeted Goan sunrises with papaya and watermelon topped with freshly grated coconut, daubs of curd, and warm honey and we savoured Goan sunsets with spicy cocunut curries and crispy rotis from the tandoor oven. The sun sand sea were most therapeutic. We rented a bicycles and trekked along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea until we reached the most southern edges of the Goan coast line. We spotted a quaint church nestled in the hills of a village across the river. We paid a grouchy fisherman 20 rupees to row us to the other side. We docked on the opposite side of the river and the fisherman gave us 30 short minutes to visit Jesus in the hills before he was prepared to pull anchor. On the bike-ride back home, 100s of baby crabs rose frantically from the surface of the sandy shore to catch a glimpse of my bright yellow shorts.

*images have been captured by myself


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Anonymous said...

yeah rt the boi who fell in love wit bombay lol