My plane had hit the tarmac just as soon as I had read the last page of Norwegian wood. This isn't relevant though. What IS relevant, is that I was reading shantaram previously. Mumbai... Or Bombay, as a lot of Indians seem to prefer to call it is great at first impressions. Flying over the slums just meters from the airport grounds. A city of its own covered in tarps, street signs and just about anything else that could be used as makeshift fortifications for a family home.
But I mustn't skip too far ahead in my adventures! I had spent just under a week in rishikesh where the Beatles found their inspiration for the white album. I'm a little hazy on the details but I think the story tells of how a Beatle or two stayed at an ashram practicing meditation and yoga with some kind of guru. After a while, John Lennon decided it was all just a money making scam. He wrote a song about his experience. 'You've made a fool of everyone'. John chickened out and decided to call the song sexy Sadie rather then the name of the guru.
Rishikesh is relaxing mostly. A completely dry town. No bars or pubs or beer in restaurants. I could smell hash almost constantly, though. The town is divided by 2 rope bridges populated by cheeky monkeys. One day a couple of girls had bought a bag of mangos only to have them snatched sneakily from behind. Some yoga, felafel, shopping, momos and a head butt from a cow and I was pretty satisfied with my experience of rishikesh and ready to move on.
Delhi has mostly served as a central hub in order to catch trains and buses to other destinations and this time we were catching a plane to Bombay so back to Delhi we went. Not much to report on my third time in Delhi. I got one of the girls to buy me nose rings because only gay people and women wear nose rings and I couldn't be bothered trying to explain that I wasn't gay to a man in a cloth. For dinner we ate at a restaurant with a line out front. Probably the best food so far. Had a thali to sample the different curries and followed it up with a south Indian coffee. One of the best coffees I've ever had. A man came and transfered the coffee from one cup to the other as an elaborate method of mixing in the sugar. The next morning we hired a van to take us to the airport. The driver pulled the old 'OK, you want to go to terminal 3? That's ages away, extra.' We saw right through it though and we continued. Just outside the airport we were pulled over by traffic police for having one too many passengers in the van. A complete joke seeing as some of the cars held over 10 Indians and nothing was said. A quick 'fine' (bribe), and we were on our way.
Now as I said I had just finished reading shantaram. It's a book about an escaped Australian prisoner who arrives in Bombay to live out the rest of his life here. He visits a bar call Leopold's where he starts his new life of crime in India. I am unshowered, dirty, sweaty, wet and itchy after staying a night at the salvation army dorms. I am thinking Leopold's might just be the perfect antidote.
Tip of the day - just because its free doesn't make it good. Also, nothing is free.