By: Kerrie Olejarz
On our last day in Mumbai, we strolled again through Juhu and spent our time by the pool. This was such a short trip and the days really flew by. Mid-day we received a call from the docs with an invitation to dinner before we flew out later in the evening. The docs picked a place close to our hotel, which was really great for us, and probably not so much for them. I am sure it took them almost two hours to get to dinner that evening, and we really appreciated it. The doctors had sent us a text message of where we would eat so we could just show it to a rickshaw driver at the time. We spent the late afternoon packing up and as the sun started to go down over the beach we could see the Hare Krishnas on the beach. There were about 25 of them dressed in colorful robes, dancing on the beach and singing the Maha Mantra. We immediately videotaped this and watched as they enticed locals on the beach to dance with them. The Maha Mantra is very catchy, three words repeated over and over in song. It really does get stuck in your head, similar to the various songs belted out at sporting events (na na na na na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye). This was a real treat to be in India and see firsthand the joy and spiritual power of the Hare Krishnas.
Close to 8pm we walked out to the road to grab a rickshaw. There are plenty available and all try to grab your attention. We showed the cell phone text to one driver who did not recognize it and then a cab driver who spoke English started giving us a razzing. He was making fun (in jest) of the rickshaw driver and his lack of knowledge of the area. The cab driver looked at the phone text and gave the rickshaw driver directions in Hindi. The cab driver also told us to make sure that the rickshaw driver didn’t rip us off. That was funny to us, as the cabbie for sure would have tried to overcharge! We always took rickshaws because they were the cheapest means of getting around and also a load of fun for us.
The restaurant was not far from the hotel and the city was alive. There was a lot of construction outside the restaurant and the rickshaw driver tried to drop us off on the opposite side of the road, which meant we would have to walk through piles of rubble, bricks and mud. Mark was not impressed and was trying to speak over the intense volume of the rickshaw motor to convince the driver to drop us off closer. He eventually made his way closer to the restaurant. There was a battle of payment at the end. The driver wanted 100 rupees, which is not a lot, but we had previously paid 100 rupees to go much further. In the end we gave him something like 60 rupees and exited the rickshaw.
The visual overload started. There were many maimed people lying in the street here; it was heart wrenching. We had learned to avoid eye contact, but it really does take a moment to gather yourself. We headed to the building where the restaurant was located but could not figure out how to get inside. We walked around for a few minutes and then realized we had to walk alongside the building down a dark exterior corridor. We felt overwhelmed as we entered the restaurant, seeing the walls and floors covered in marble and the sheer elegance of the setting. It was emotionally taxing to walk past the poor, hungry, and crippled outside into the complete opposite image of wealth.
In typical Indian fashion the waiters immediately started doting on us. For Mark and me this is very uncomfortable because we are not used to this, and we know that we are any better than they. However, we are also were aware of the antiquated caste system which means we are looked upon as “sir” and “madam”. Once the doctors arrived we were seated at our table and started salivating at the menu. The staff brought us live prawns and lobsters to view; the tentacles and eyes staring back at me freaked me out and I asked them to take it away. I do not want to see it before I eat it. We enjoyed our dinner with the docs, talking about our surrogacy and asking questions about negatives, statistics and the like. We devoured our spicy prawns, pomfret fish, butter chicken and naan. The doctors looked tired and we were very appreciative of their hospitality. Dr Yash had just been through a root canal and had a hard time eating and I am sure she would have rather been at home in bed. We said our goodbyes and thanked them for all they have done for us and headed back to our hotel to get sorted for the long trip ahead of us.
The rickshaw ride back to the hotel took less than five minutes and 50 rupees. We confirmed with the front desk that we had a car booked for the airport and then we headed up to our room. Just outside the elevator on the ground floor was a gift shop run by three young guys. We decided to finally pop in and see what they had and how much of the shopping experience we could handle. They had the typical scarves, wood crafts, marble crafts, and stone work. I have a mild addiction to Indian scarf shopping so I browsed the scarves on the wall. We chatted about where we were from and we dropped a few names of previous visitors from Australia and Europe who had blogged about these three. Their faces lit up when I mentioned I knew all about them and their aggressive selling tactics. I ended up buying a beautiful scarf. During the transaction I called them “Ban Chaud” – which is NOT a nice word in Hindi. They went into hysterics, and asked me if I knew what I had said. I told them I said it with intent and of course I knew! and we all laughed. Mark and I were laughing as well and finally we headed out of the shop to the elevator. I yelled from the elevator “Thank you Ban Chaud!!”