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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Slumdog Millionaire

Yes, they actually do say "Millionaire" like the host in the movie, "Mill-on-air".

Today we had an absolutely spectacular time in Mumbai! It is quite different from the north in many ways. Much more metropolitan for sure. Our day began with breakfast at the hotel.We had a dish similar to Dosa (a traditional south Indian dish), but I accidentally bit into an EXTREMELY spicy chilly and that was the end of that meal for me. Even after a full bottle of chilled water, my mouth was still on fire. We met out tour coordinator outside (who was quite attractive, certainly the best looking Indian I've seen!) who introduced us to our driver for the day. He proved to be most helpful in showing us around the city.

Our journey began with a drive through the worlds largest slum (where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed). And although it was sad and a noticeably poor area, it wasn't as bad as I envisioned it. Then again, I had really terrible expectations. Afterwards we proceeded 15 minutes down the road to the worlds most expensive house (the first billion dollar house ever made), owned by the family who started Reliance (multi-industry brand). The 27-story house is occupied by the family of five and their 600 servants.

Say hello to the slums.

The Reliance household.

Our day continued with a trip to a temple. It was extremely crowded and hectic and there was even a small sanctuary within that was made purely of gold! Ahh it was crazy. While there, I experienced an extremely heart touching experience. As you may know, there are beggars in India as well as many MANY people who will constantly try and sell you things. You are supposed to just look past them, as if you don't see them, and carry on. This is a very difficult thing to do, but I've managed to adjust to the culture and do it with ease. However, today we met Biyanka. As I was ignoring the sellers, there was a small girl (aged 7) selling flowers. She kept asking and asking for us to buy, but we just looked straight ahead and tried to ignore her plea. Then, I felt her small hand hold my hand. I looked down to see her puppy eyes as she said "Please ma'am, please, only 10 rupees". For those who don't know, 10 rupees is about 20 cents, not even. I caved. So Carly and I bought the flowers that she skilfully wove together into a bouquet in a matter of seconds. As we left the mosque, she politely said bye to us and Sundari (basically our Indian mom) translated so that we could introduce ourselves. I would have loved to capture it on camera, but of course, no Cameras are allowed in the temples.

Around noon we headed to the local gardens, took a stroll around and enjoyed some yummy ice cream cones. It was very peaceful and beautiful with butterflies flying everywhere. Two boys were skillful enough to catch them with their bare hands. Of course, I'm an absolute sucker for kids, so I went over to see the butterflies. The little boy was so intrigued by us that HE asked us to take his picture!

Ok, tell me Indian kids aren't the most adorable thing ever!?
Sundari took us to a REALLY nice restaurant for lunch. The entire place was made of stone and brick and the chicken we had was to die for! I felt completely under-dressed for the price and quality, I was surprised to see everyone in casual wear. Carly and I wore shorts today, but as it turns out, the people of Mumbai really don't care. And to be honest, we needed it... it's much hotter in the north. On our way back, we unfortunately experienced a "Slumdog Millionaire" moment. Little kids came up to the car knocking on the  window and making the hand motion for food. As you can imagine, enjoying a 5 star meal and seeing kids begging for food was not a comfortable feeling at all. Sundari told us though that a lot of the people don't actually need money, but rather are just greedy beggars
Just look at the architecture!
We stayed at the restaurant for awhile before continuing our sightseeing. We spent about an hour driving around and looking at the beautiful architecture of the city. The British influence can really be seen in the streets and buildings of Mumbai. The roads are certainly more spacious than Chennai and the buildings are so large and detailed.

The train station. Not what you thought India would look like, huh?

We concluded our day with a visit to an Indian home. Sundari's friend lives in Chennai and was kind enough to allow us to come over for dinner. This family is wealthier, so the house was quite larger than most and they completed a lot of renovations on it, but it was still very different. I didn't bring my camera in, out of respect, but I'll describe it. There weren't really any hallways at all.Every room had two doors, one that led out and one that led in from the previous room. All of the rooms were connected by a series of doors and the rooms were smaller. Imagine a bedroom, and when you open the door, you're in the living room, when you open the next door you're in the kitchen, and so on. But I do give them major kudos for their use of such limited space. Everything was stored in shelves built into the walls and the walls were all white so that helped make it seem larger.

So, in a nutshell, that was my day in Mumbai. Now I have to get to bed for our 6am flight to Delhi. Please send prayers!

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