The first market we stumbled upon (literally, and luckily, since the streets were confusing and we were hopelessly lost) was Crawford Market, where piles of fruits and vegetables and hundreds of scrawny live chickens in wire cages are for sale. We were watching our feet as always to avoid dog dung and blood-red patches of paan spit on the streets.
Our heads were spinning from the crowds, the dust, and the sun, so we decided to hail a taxi and head to Mumbai’s fanciest residential district, Malabar Hill. This neighborhood was definitely a different city, with fewer people on the streets, tall trees providing shade, and walls or gates around tall apartment buildings with British-sounding names. We wandered until we found Banganga Tank, a huge rectangular man-made body of holy water ringed by stone steps and scattered with pigeons and ducks. There’s a pole in the middle that is considered to be the center of the earth. We sat in a shady spot for awhile, watching boys swimming and splashing in a far corner of the tank.
We ate dinner near our hotel at a trendy place called “Relish”. The modern scene inside was worlds away from the India we’ve seen so far. The restaurant was packed with well-dressed mostly Indian clientele out for dinner on a Sunday night. Girls wore jeans and t-shirts. The couple next to us, probably in their early 20s, were sharing a pot of cheese fondue, feeding each other across the table. Kanye West played on the stereo. We ordered Mexican lasagna and a thin-crust pizza topped with paneer and spicy chilis. Kingfisher beer and Sula (Indian) wine were actually printed on the menu (in most places, you have to ask if they serve beer, since most Indians don’t drink it and many restaurants don’t have a license, it’s all a bit secretive…). I asked the waiter if it’d be possible to get an iced tea without sugar (there are heaping spoonfuls of sugar in most drinks here), and the reply was “Yes madam, it is possible, but it will not be tasty.” I ordered my iced tea sugar-free anyway, since I knew he was wrong. It was very tasty.
We topped off our evening with a late Bollywood movie. It was all in Hindi, so I didn’t understand a word, but Mohit translated about half the words for me, and I enjoyed the dance scenes and jealously ogled the women’s beautiful outfits. The plot was a ridiculous “arranged marriage gets re-arranged” which Mohit would normally never have paid for tickets to see.
Back on the mainland, I shopped up a storm at the street stalls of Colaba while Mohit relaxed. We hung out for awhile at Leopold Café, where the Mumbai terrorist attack happened a few years ago. The place was lively and packed, you’d never guess its history, except for the armed security guards screening our bags and two suspicious holes in the concrete walls that looked eerily about the size of bullets, though we couldn’t be sure.
We hailed a taxi to take us back to our hotel, and our young late-night cabbie spoke perfect too-cool-for-school English. He says to Mohit “What are you man? You look like some kind of Indian, man. Where are you from, man? America? Ohhhhh….America. I see so many cocktails from America. The ladies there all like the Indian men, yeah?” So I learned a new word- cocktails. As in, Mohit and I are a mixed drink. Cool, man.