The BBC weather centre is probably the single most useless thing in existence. However it is accurate for one city on earth at this time of the year and that is Mumbai. Currently the wettest city in the world even the beeb couldn’t get that wrong.
On our final afternoon in Jodhpur we stumbled upon a circus, it was about 2 quid in each and so we gave it a shot. Not expecting much we weren’t let down, it was distinctly Indian. Actually I have been trying to put my finger on how best to explain that and so will try – The clowns were two midgets slapping each other with cricket bats, I mean where else in the world can you sit and laugh at a midget, or the camp Indian guy walking a cat on a lead, that stopped to take a shit on the apparatus it was supposed to be performing on. It was a comedy of errors and as the parrot pulled another parrot in a mini rickshaw we loved it. India is a land of people that just could not care less. Nothing seems to phase them. The guys all wear shirt and trousers and once you get married you grow a tash. The trousers must be as tight as possible and preferably cords or flares (flares can be a brown shitty colour) Hair must be swept back or combed to the side and you must be camp. Seriously, though not gay, there is this camp attitude and it is awesome.
People will stop the street and wave, cars stop to offer us lifts when it rains, kids following us saying hi. The Indian people are probably the friendliest people in the world (except for those in Delhi) and we are welcomed with open arms everywhere we go.
Comparing India to England is actually really easy – In England we are a land of fails. Everything we try and do major, we fail. In fact the only major sport recently we haven’t failed in is against India at cricket. But that isn’t saying much because India too is a land of fails. The only difference is whereas England expect to do well, either through an arrogance or ignorance – India expect to fail. And when in England we fail and wonder what went wrong, was someone corrupted, was the ref fair etc (the excuses really are endlessly feeble) India just shrug it off and get on with it. As well, India fails comically. Some of the road accidents I have seen (of which are almost daily) are genuinely funny. Thankfully we’ve never seen anything serious, but the accidents all seem to be ridiculously comical. For example we were sat in a tuk tuk just waiting – Bang, a cyclist flies straight into the side of us and flies over the roof of the tuk tuk. The driver gets out and as the guy is picking himself up off the floor he starts shouting at him, slaps him round the face and then jumps in the tuk tuk and we drive off. Or the time when we saw a tuk tuk in front of us driving along just fall down a hole.
You just have to look to the Commonwealth games in Delhi last year, it was just a comedy of errors from start to finish. People even now are still getting linked with fake contracts and corruption. Expect England to be the same, the only difference is no one will get done for corruption in the UK, we have legislation in place that means MP’s can scam expenses to the tune of millions and can offer hundred million pound contracts to their friends without fear of prosecution. The public will gasp in disbelief and the government will launch an enquiry, which really is just legal jargon for ‘we’ll brush it under the carpet’
It’s a funny thing, in India drivers are paying around 70p for a litre of fuel, in the UK when I left it was £1.34, well here I am to solve the petrol crisis. We keep getting told it’s the cost of oil – oil has reached $120 per barrel etc… How about we just buy our oil from wherever India are buying there’s? Oh, but then there is the great British taxes – Tax on your salary, purchases, fuel, council tax, National Insurance contributions and the rest. Taxes go up, services come down. No one says a word, we just get on with it. Why? Because we’re British, stiff upper lip and all that.
That said, I am following the current riots with interest. I can’t get a clear picture though – In the UK we have this sensationalist attitude, a flake of snow and suddenly the country shuts down. We love making mountains out of mole hills and the red tops drive forward the hatred and fear in the general public. To me it looks like a few bell ends raiding one particular area of Tottenham and the ‘softly softly’ approach of the police failing. Badly. The obvious result of cut backs and and overworked police and a disengaged public. My heart goes out to all those innocent people caught up in what has cost them their homes, businesses and lets just hope the perpetrators are caught and punished to the full extent of the law.
The train left Jodhpur bang on time at 1845 and we were in a brand spanking new AC3 carriage. There are 8 classes of trains in India and though they aren’t all in order, roughly speaking AC3 is third class. It is a carriage whereby there are 3 bunks either side of open compartments. AC2 is 2 bunks, and First class is 2 bunks, but in a closed compartment. Middle class Indians tend to travel in AC3/AC2 and so the vibe is usually laid back, friendly but also conservative. We sort of flit between the two classes but really AC3 is fine.
As we left Jodhpur some guy tried lecturing me that Mumbai was actually called Bombay, I blew him off the face of the earth by showing him my train ticket, and his too – They both said Mumbai.
All was peaceful in the carriage and I wondered whether this was going to be the perfect journey. I bedded the kids down and laid in my own bed watching a film. At about 10pm the train stopped and people boarded, the half empty carriage filled up including the remaining beds in our area. I heard this mouth speaking at a volume beyond what most people’s ears are capable off. My ear drum shook and within a second I had a headache – There opposite me was this fat, loudmouthed Indian woman. Now, I haven’t got anything against people over weight, not at all. I am overweight myself, but there was no way was that bed designed to take her weight. The carriage wasn’t designed to take her weight, shit, India wasn’t designed to take her weight. I couldn’t care less to be honest how big she was, I don’t judge people, but the fact that most of the carriage was asleep and this simply did not matter pissed me off. I don’t think she consciously thought to herself – Ill wake everyone up. I just think she was one of those people that simply did not consider that there were other people on this earth other than her. Her husband was this skinny pencil thin guy, the lines in his brow showed years of torture. I laughed when I imagined him as youth being told he was getting married to a girl. I bet he was all suited up, flowers in hand and when she came to the door he must have got the shock of his life, followed by a slap for bringing flowers and not food.
She barked orders at him the whole night. Every two hours she would wake up and start talking full blast, he would scuttle around and pass her a chapatti or whatever and she would make sure the whole carriage had heard her before getting back to sleep. This went on the whole night until about 4.30 am when she decided she had to put the lights on. Not content with waking up the West Coast of India she was going all out. They disappeared and I gave the guy a solemn look as he struggled behind her with their bags.
Once she had disembarked the train picked up speed and sped for the remainder of the morning toward Mumbai. We pulled into Mumbai at 11.00am after a long 16 and a bit hour journey.
It was raining as expected and as we checked in at our hotel, I took a quick look around and figured that if we were going to be stuck in any hotel, this one was perfect. As I look out of the window of our room at the Oberoi Mumbai I can’t decide what is more appealing, going out in the downpour to see Mumbai, or staying here, going to the spa and pool and then getting drunk and eating chicken fingers.
The kids want to stay here – We did Mumbai last year, who am I to argue 🙂