Friday November 7, 1997

I was able to connect to the system last night long enough to set my options to forward mail and to check my messages. The connection dropped in the middle of updating so I did not get them all. I will try again later. I did not sleep very well last night. I went to bed around 8:00p.m. and awoke around midnight. I was unable to go back to sleep until around 6:00a.m. I managed to get a total of about 6 hours sleep, but it was fragmented. We checked out of the hotel this morning in preparation for the weekend downtown. The bill was Rs. 49,600 or about $1365. We checked our bags at the hotel and brought with us only the things that we would need for the weekend. We also have brought our laundry to be done over the weekend. This morning, I got to ride into work in an auto-rickshaw with Sundeep. This was a real experience… The price was only 20 rupees. (about $.60).You really get the full effect of the pollution, sights, and sounds… Today was another warm one, in the upper 90s.

In the afternoon, I was 'summoned' to the classroom. There, I found that they had arranged a surprise birthday party for me. There was a chocolate cake, and they gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was quite touched by it all. The people here are absolutely wonderful.. so genuinely warm and friendly, they feel almost like family. They have made the make the trip worthwhile and certainly very enjoyable.

After work, we got into the cars for the trip downtown to the Taj Hotel. It was 1 ½ hours through traffic congestion and ghastly pollution. The first thing that I did after checking in was to wipe my face. The wash cloth had black streaks on it…I can only imagine what the inside of my lungs must look like…
We were in two cars, each following the other. We were stopped at a traffic light, next to each other. Brian and Dave were in the other car. I rolled down my window and motioned for them to do the same. I then said to Brian, "Pardon me, do you have any cheap yellow mustard?" He was still laughing when we got to the hotel.

We checked in to the Taj. What a magnificent hotel and a class act! We were personally escorted to our rooms by a hostess. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 7:00 for dinner.

As Linda and her mother were still on the trip to Agra, Brian, Dave, Lisa, and I had dinner at the top of the hotel in the Apollo restaurant. Brian and I had rack of lamb, and it was magnificent. Brian, who has traveled extensively around the world, said that it was the best that he had ever had. I couldn't disagree. Dave and Lisa had a pasta dish which they said was quite good also. We of course had Kingfisher with dinner, and as a special treat for my birthday, I had cognac and Turkish coffee after dinner. For my birthday, I would have preferred to be at home, but I was able to share it with very good people.

The week has gone by quickly.

Saturday November 8, 1997

Last night, I again did not sleep well. I went to be after dinner, around 10:00 and was awakened about midnight by the telephone. There was no one on the other end.. I had difficulty going back to sleep, finally able to about 4:00. I did sleep well until 8:30 and feel reasonable rested, more so than earlier in the week. had problems sleeping.

We were met in the hotel lobby at 9:30 by Mohan and Sundeep who had driven 1 ½ hours into the city to be our 'tour guides.' Dave Wood is not feeling well and has elected to staying in today.

Our first stop was the Cottage Industries store which is run by the government. The prices are marked and no 'bargaining' is possible. On the other hand, you can be sure that what is in this store is authentic Indian-made goods and not some Taiwanese imitation. I purchased some wooden goods, a marble box inlaid with Lapis Lazuli stone, and some silver jewelry. By the time we got out of there, it was lunchtime.

We hopped in taxis to a restaurant called the Khyber. Mohan ordered some traditional Indian entrees of shrimp, chicken, and lamb. And of course the Kingfisher tasted quite good. We then walked back to the hotel, arriving at about 2:15 for a rest, as the heat was brutal. On the way, we saw a snake charmer with his 3 cobras. I took some pictures and tossed him 5 rupees. At 3:00 we were ready for more shopping and this time went to the area of the street vendors. Here, unlike the state-run store, you can negotiate the price. They are all very insistent and persistent, especially if you show even a spark of interest in their wares. They don't easily take "NO" for an answer. Brian says that the only way to disengage them is to offer them a ridiculously low amount.

The beggars are everywhere. Maimed and disfigured people, small children, young teens, and older women, usually carrying babies (even the young girls), will beg you for money. It's hard to refuse them as they are so pathetic. Brian told us that most of the begging is a scam, similar to prostitution. The beggars generally 'work' for someone to whom the collected money is turned over and they in turn get a small percentage (5-10%) of it. So, knowing that, to give them anything, as pitiful as they appear to be, only perpetuates their exploitation. They have very definite 'territories' and will not follow you past their established area. We were actually cursed at by one of them as we left her territory without donating.

Linda and her mother joined us for dinner. We again dined at the Apollo and we ALL had rack of lamb as it will likely be some time before we find it that tasty. Besides, we were all too pooped to want to go anywhere else.

The Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay

The lobby of the Taj

View from my room at the Taj

View of the Taj Mahal Hotel, old and
new sections, and the Gateway of
India from Bombay Harbor

More pictures of Bombay Back to Bombay, Day 4 Bombay, Day 6