Monday, September 27, 2010

Requiem and Reunion

The internet is an interesting place. Earlier this year, when Bing came out, I was checking out the interface and typically try out a person's name. I decided to search for my ex-husband's name. Typically nothing comes up because he's the kind of guy who never wants to be found. Anyone who knows him can understand why. He wasn't a very nice person. On this day, however, his obituary was the first link on the page. I was shocked, and clicked through to find out that if it really was the same person. No one in his family had contacted me, even though he had passed away in early January.

I immediately searched for his second wife and connected to her via Facebook. Turns out he was on his third wife, also on Facebook. I connected with her to find out the details. It's a pretty sad and grim story so I'll spare you the details. The good part about it is that the second wife had been a good friend of mine once and through our ordeals of being married to him and now dealing with his sudden and unexpected death, we've been able to patch up our friendship and find closure in a very unexpected way, from opposite sides of the planet.

The internet is a profound tool for connecting the unconnected. Expats are historically disconnected... from their culture, their families, their language, and time zones and faraway locales can make even the strongest and most assured people feel lost. The internet enables us to stay connected to the people we love and even reconnect with those we never expected to hear from again.

Goodbye, Steven. In our time together, we did some amazing, sometimes crazy things and I will always cherish those times. You did, however, do some unbelievably bad and hurtful things to some very honest, even innocent people that didn't deserve it. It's time for us to move on. Fair thee well.


I just returned from a momentous trip to Mumbai and Pune, which brought me back to a place I left 35 years ago with a promise to return right away. Life got in the way, and when I decided four years ago that I had to either drop everything and make moving back my priority or resign myself to never returning, I made the choice to return. Four years ago I moved back to India, but to Kolkata. Then I moved to Gurgaon. Still not managing to see Mumbai or Pune again. Finally, just before my 50th birthday, I pulled a "Nike" and just did it.

I contacted the family I lived with in Mumbai and gave them my schedule. I contacted my best friend, Jason, another crazy American expat, who moved to India at the same time with his family. Both of these people now live in Pune. Both told me to come down whenever I wanted. I booked tickets in the overnight train. Will and I packed up the pups and sent them to our housekeeper's house (thank God she loves dogs!), then waited for Yu Yu to finish up at the office and we headed to New Delhi Railway Station.
Delhi is crammed with Commonwealth Games Signage
New Delhi Railway Station

Platform 2

Platform 2

As usual, way too crowded.

We were excited to be heading to Mumbai. We headed down on the Rajdhani Express which would get us into Mumbai early the next morning.
Will on the train to Mumbai.

Will and I arriving in Mumbai.

Our first stop was Leopold's Cafe, a place where many foreigners congregate, and the people who love (or prey on) them.

Will's first hamburger in a very long time.

After Leopold's we walked over to the YWCA where we were staying while in Mumbai. It's centrally located, cheap, and clean. It's very close to many of the places where I used to hang out a long time ago. Fortunately, many of the places where there, while others had changed significantly. This was also the part of the city that had been attacked back on November 26th, 2008 during the Mumbai terrorist attacks. The waiter even asked Will if he'd like to see some of the bullet holes, as Leopold's was one of the places targeted. Ten people were killed and several more were wounded at this location. Back in the day, this was the place to sell your passport or get a forged one. Travelers could also learn which of the dealers in lanes surrounding the joint had the best hashish and at what prices. Now, there are Wanted posters in the bathrooms with pictures of suspected terrorists. This is also a place written about in a popular book called "Shantaram", written by an escaped Australian convict who lived on the lam in Mumbai for years. Now they sell his books and souvenirs. (I admit it. We bought the overpriced tee shirts.)

Taj Hotel, where we drank hideously expensive tea. It was quite worth it, though...
After settling in to the hotel, we arranged for a car for the next day, then headed out to explore the area a bit. We walked over to the Gateway of India which is located right next to the Taj Palace Hotel and Tower, another site of the Mumbai bombings. More than 200 people were taken hostage and (I believe 160 plus people perished) during the takeovers of the buildings targeted. The Taj today, looks pristine.

The next day,  our car showed up and the guide drove us to Sir J.J. College of Architecture, which looks tiny compared to my memories of the place.

Yu Yu taking photos of Sir J.J. College of Applied Arts
Rudyard Kipling House. I didn't know it existed when I attended here in the 70's.

Rudyard Kipling House

After that we motored on towards Chowpatty Beach, which had changed dramatically. Now there were a few buildings on the sea side of Marine Drive. Before, we used to go there to watch Sadhus being buried up to their necks in the sand or lie on beds of nails, grab a pau bhaji or samosa and watch the fire breathers and animal acts. Now the place seemed, again, much smaller, and had a sort of amusement park set up. The bandstand was gone. We picked up a few stones and a shell to bring home.

After Chowpatty Beach, we headed up Malabar Hill to the Hanging Gardens, a place I spent many an afternoon with Ashok after school.

Across the road is another park, which gives you a great view of the city.

After that, we headed north towards Bandra to see the Haji Ali Mosque. I love this place, especially for its location, a few hundred yards out into the Arabian Sea... They used to have the most amazing Sufi singers there.
We then drove over the Worli Sea Link, which is a super cool bridge. :-)

At this point, we were starving and asked the guide to recommend a good restaurant for seafood, especially Bombay Duck and he suggested the Goa Portugesa Restaurant in Bandra.

We liked these barbecued prawns so much we ordered a second.

The alcoholic beverage here, the Lake Water Snake is a kind of like a Mojito with cucumber in it. Lovely and refreshing.

Garlic bread, Prawn Peri Peri, and I forget what the other thing was. Everything was great.
After a wonderful meal, we started back to South Mumbai to watch the sun set over the Arabian Sea.

Great end to a very emotional day for me. Reliving some of the highlights of my memories of India was really amazing. I felt totally at peace watching the sun set and ready to head to Pune. :-)

NOTE: The photos here were taken by the crappy camera on my Blackberry. Better photos can be found on my Facebook Album at: