Colaba-d (Day 1 in Mumbai)

Selected to present at a conference in Mumbai!

I mean could things get any better?!

If you like traveling, then this was golden! Atleast, it was for me!

This trip had ‘First ever solo trip’ written all over it!

I booked my flights well in advance. Ibibo had some crazy deals going on. I booked my bunk at Zostel, Mumbai for 1.3k for three nights. And, I was set.

Midnight flights are fairly cheaper than the morning ones, so if you have anyone to pick you up, book these. If you’re willing to doze off at the airport, book these again.

I landed in Mumbai at 4am on a cold Thursday morning. I slept for a bit till I got uncomfortable and then decided to head to Zostel. (I wanted an early start to the day, you see)

Zostel generally let’s you stash your luggage, use the washroom and be on your way. 5:30 am I was on a tuktuk to Andheri, and the city was already awake. I was checked in at 5:50am (They were just so sweet!) And after a little freshening up, I was on my way.

I was adviced to take the Metro to the local and head to Colaba from there. Not being too sure about going on a local, I took a bus.

Do. Not. I mean, just do not, even in your wildest of dreams take the bus from Andheri to Colaba. It took me three hours to get there. (I won’t complain here because I met the sweetest old lady who became my tour guide and told me how to brave my way around the city)

If you’re in Andheri, or elsewhere take a can or a local. The autos don’t operate here. The region from Sion onwards, doesn’t allow tuk-tuks. My roommate at Zostel belived that it was because Mumbai was reclaimed land. It wouldn’t be able to best the brunt of additional vehicles.

Reports online claim that the reason could be political. A dude on Quora said that roads in South Mumbai are narrow and curvy and tuk-tuks wouldn’t be able to navigate (Have you ever been in a rickshaw? They’d balance on two wheels if they had to)

One article sounded more down to Earth, it said that the traffic was already bad with vehicles taking far too long to move an inch. Adding rickshaws would only make things worse and harder.

That apart, once I was at Colaba. I was awed. I was flattered. The place and the architecture was everything that I imagined and more.

I roamed around under the canopy of trees in the narrow bylanes of Colaba till I got on the main steet. From far away, the place was an absolute sight to watch. Taj Mahal Palace on the left and the Gateway on the right flanked by the noiseless sea.

The place was crowded. Tourists flooded The Gateway. Photographers flocked the place and the uncles who print your photo in a jiffy waited for a customer to click.

This place just did not disappoint.

After spending a while here, I shopped. I shopped to my heart’s content. Remember to carry cash here. Some of them accept Paytm or Google pay, but most of them prefer cash.

While here you can always eat at Leopard Cafe, which is a name iconic in itself.

I got quite a few trinkets here. An antique compass, a magnet, a few dress, and what not.

I realised after my shopping spree that I was running out of time. The sweet old lady I’d met earlier, had warned me to take the local back but to do the same before the rush hour began.

I still wanted to visit a few churches and the Afghan Church was quite a distance away. I went instead, to the Cathedral of Holy Name. The place was all peace and quite and much needed tranquility in the city that never stopped or slept.

I then walked around a bit looking at all the colonial era things that the city had to offer before I got to the local that took me back to my stay for the weekend.


The Temple Trip

We left Bangalore at around 6am by car. Mysore was about 3 hours away. 
On the way we stopped at Adiga’s for breakfast. Shivalli and Maddur Tiffany’s are also commendable and hygenic options. The prices at the Adigas on the highway are literally twice, compared to what we find in the city. We paid ₹33 for a coffee that costs ₹15, you get the point. 
We reached Mysore at around 10am, and headed straight to the Shrikanteshwar Temple on the banks of the river Kabini at Nanjangud. The temple is open from around 5:30am to 1pm, and reopens again at 4pm.
Said to have been built by the Cholas, the temple is an ode to mythical story where Shiva drinks the poison while churning for Amruta. 
We’ve been coming here every year for the last 25years, and surely, a lot has changed. The area near the idols which were once open, have now been barred. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see devotees doing the ‘Tula Bhaara’. This is a ritual where a person sits on one side of the weighing scale, and the other side is filled up with grains or jaggery, till both sides are balanced. This is one ritual that never ceases to amaze me. 
The entrance to the temple is free. But the queue for this is quite long. So there’s always the special enterance option, which costs a few more bucks.
In the recent years, the place has become more populated, so more restaurants have cropped up. There is ample parking space all around the temple. There is also a bath complex close by. 
Once Nanjangud was done, we headed up to Chamundi Betta. The place was crowded, with hardly any space to even breathe. As with Nanjangud, Chamundi Temple had a general enterance which was free, and a special enterance that Costs ₹25, and a VIP enterance that costs ₹100. The enterances that you pay for helps you cut the queue.
Built in the 12th Century, the temple marks the victory of Durga (Chamundeshwari) over the demon, Mahishasura (who’s statue you’ll see at the entrance of the hill). 
The temple was crowded. Even with the queues, you can see people pushing and falling over each other. You’re hardly allowed to get a ‘darshan’. As you’d be blocking the others. 
There are a lot of shops around the temple, where you can buy trinkets and religious offerings. There are parking spaces around the temple as well. There are also tiny bakeries some hotels, coconut water stalls, and sugar cane juice stalls near the temple. 
The temple is open from 7:30am to 2pm; 3:30 am to 6pm, and again from 7pm to 9pm. 
Post Chamundi, we headed down to another lesser known temple. This temple is that of Chamundi’s sister, Sri Jwalamukhi Tripura Sundari Temple. Legends have it that if you visit one sister, and not the other, she’ll be furious and misfortune awaits.
Since the temple is lesser know, it’s much quieter, the crowd is sparse. 
After a stopover for lunch in one of Mysuru’s vegetarian hotels. Mysuru Mylari and Om Shanti are two of my favorites, do let me know if you have other recommendations. We picked Om Shanti today. And we waited a good 40 minutes before we could get a table. 
Bidding adieu to Mysore, we headed back to Bangalore. On the way back, we visited the Nimishamba Temple in Srirangapatana.
A little temple on the bank of the river Cauvery is about 2 kilometres away from the Sangam. We sat by the banks of the river for a bit, enjoying the cold breeze. But this was cut short by people dumping garbage all around us. 
Heading back, we stopped over at Kamat Lokaruchi for dinner. This is my absolute favourite. It has the best ambience. It gives out immense village vibes; the little bags of onions used as decor, the cow shed, the dimly lit sitting space, they’re something the city could never offer. You can order from a range of South Indian cusines, I always pick the jollad rotti (with extra butter, ofcourse) and palya. 
We reached Bangalore back by around 8pm (Thanks to Bangalore traffic for always making sure that we reach late). 
-You can reach Mysore by flight or by buses from Bangalore. Once in Mysore, you can hire cabs that will take you to these places. 

-The total cost of the trip for four of us, would be approximately ₹4000. 

-The charges include food and fuel for five people



I didn’t want to go today, it was so far; I could have skipped, I had attendance too. I was sleep deprived and an hour long ride on a crowded bus would just make the mood crabbier and the body tired-er.

After drowning myself in self pity and pointless ranting, I went anyway; I got off the bus and waited for someone to cross the road where the traffic never seemed to stop. A bunch of people from the railway station came and waited as well. I hid between them- their fruit and fish baskets, huge cloth bags, and the children most of them were dragging. They didn’t realize, and I crossed the road feeling proud of myself like I’d accomplished something on a miserable day after all.

Bangalore weather is a bitch; the sun shines as bright as it does on a summer noon. Correcting myself, Bangalore has only one season- summer. I walked to the up the path and I turned right, I saw the garage and a few chickens in front of it, grease and oil all over the road along with little pieces of rags.I was close to the school now, I couldn’t walk, I froze.

I felt someone nudge, I looked. A little boy stood next to me and smiled at me. “Hi putta! School-ge barthidiya?” I asked him, he nodded. Slipped his hand into mine and walked with me to the yellow building.

I racked my brains to remember his name. I couldn’t. I knew his brother Rashid. He was the kid who’d hit me the week before, I had a little bump on my lower back because of that. He was a little kid, maybe three, who ran around like a tornado. His voice was raspy when he spoke and he cursed, so much. And he climbed on everyone he saw, and he liked being carried and turned around till he got dizzy.

He would run up to me and climb and kiss me on my cheek, the snort on his nose would not be wiped and I would hope it didn’t get on my cheek. And then he would have a moment of great affection and he would hug me and almost choke me. He would make me carry him and walk around the huge playground. Once, twice, thrice.

But his brother was different. I was standing inside the dimly lit classroom, and I still felt the little sand-covered hand in mine. I wondered what he did to get his hands and legs that dirty. He was just standing next to me, not asking for a sheet to draw, not asking for a puzzle, not asking to go back into the ground and play. 20150131_150827

And then he said ‘draw’. He didn’t talk much at all, he didn’t run, he didn’t do anything. I got him paper and colours and sat next to him as he started to colour. He had big eyes, he didn’t wear any shoes, they were as dusty as his hand. I reminded myself to sanitize my hand before I ate anything. But then again, these kids didn’t even have water to wash their hands.

I sat next to him for two hours without speaking a word, I didn’t fall asleep. I sat there and watched him fill colors into the drawing in front of him. He occasionally looked up and smiled at me. Before I left for the day, he slipped his little hand into mine, told me he wanted to walk around the ground and I did that with him. And then I bent down and hugged him, I wasn’t much of a hugger, never was.

Something in me snapped and I hugged him tighter and kissed on his hair. His hair was soft and I tasted sand on my lips. I wondered what he’d climbed on or where he’d fallen that he was THIS covered in sand.

I slipped away, saw a flicker of sadness flash across his face. It went away the same way it came. And I left promising to come back next week.

I wondered through the week if he thought of me,or if I he would remember me at all. I missed a week and I went a week later.

He slipped his hand into mine and asked me why I hadn’t come the week before. I told him I was sick and he seemed concerned. He asked me to guess his name, I told him I didn’t know. And he asked me mine.

“Niveadha, but call me Nivi” I said.

“I want you to call me Vishal” he said.

His brother came running up and I felt his fingers dig into my palm for a second before his hands slipped away. Rashid climbed into my arms and abused him in Urdu and called him Zuber.

“Vishal kanno, Zuber alla”, I corrected him. He looked at me chocked me with a hug and ran away. I told him I’d call him Zuber too and he walked away.

He climbed on the compound surrounding the ground and walked to the far end of it. Stood on the far end of it, he walked faster on this compound than I could run on the sand. When I went he hid behind the concrete, at first I thought he was playing and then I told him it was too hot so I was going back inside; I thought he would follow but half way into the ground I realized he wasn’t.

He just hid behind the cement compound, I was scared to do to the other side. I was scared of the other side because it was almost 10 feet above the ground. These kids were used to it so they would sit there like they were sitting on a cliff. I waited he peeped once, saw me looking and hid again. I ran back and he ventured further onto the other side, I peeped from this side and apologized and asked him to come back. He wasn’t.

I went out of the gate on to the road and he got off and went into the other ground. I wasn’t suppose to leave school so I stayed and we just looked at each other for a long time. I gave up and I went in and he didn’t come back in that day.

The week after, he was alone. He had forgotten about me calling him Zuber, which was actually his name. He slipped his little palm, cleaner this time into mine and told me about him. I listened and we spent the rest of the afternoon putting together a Pinocchio puzzle someone had donated. He smiled often, lost in another universe. He wore the same orange shirt week after week.

He was from Bombay; he never wanted to go again to Bombay. He was in Bangalore; he didn’t want to stay in Bangalore. He was in 4th grade before, now he was in 2nd. Rashid didn’t come anymore. They’d left for Bombay to never come back, he said. He didn’t want to go, “Eshtailla” he said. I was surprised. He lived with his grandmother now, ate Kurkure and watched TV, and went to school. I was still shocked but this was still better than him being alone so I stayed quite. He never spoke to me again to this extent.20150131_151913

He loved getting pictures taken. He stood in front of a friend’s car and got a picture taken, then he asked me to wait till he got his orange shit off. “I look dirty with this shirt” he said and hid his shirt behind himself and posed for a picture in his ripped vest. My little Salman Khan, I had called him and he had blushed. Looking at this all the other kids came there removed their shirts and posed for a picture. Salman Khan-s I called them and they all giggled and ran away. I asked Zu if he had something to eat, “Kurkure, five rupees packet” he replied proudly.

I walked out of the gate with him, and gave him my lunch, unfortunately only a bar of Snickers. I told him to go home, run. I wasn’t allowed to do this, it would ‘spoil the kids’ but I did it and I didn’t want anyone to know. He beamed at me as he walked away.

It was nearing the end. It was a hot day and I didn’t want to go again. But I did. I crossed the road and walked till the yellow building came into view. I stood there realizing I wouldn’t come there again. I felt a nudge and a little hand covered in sand slip into mine. I looked and he smiled; his orange shirt was a little torn near the collar now. I squeezed his hand and he hugged me tight. I pulled away and we walked to the school together.