Salaam, Mumbai

2pm-ish – Am on a flight from Delhi to Bombay (Mumbai) right now. My memories of India 10 years ago have not betrayed me. The domestic airport is still a disorganized, rude and chaotic place where thieves persevere, machines don’t work and flights are inevitably delayed. One interesting new thing, though, is a special stand where travellers are invited to re-charge their cell phones for free. It is equipped with connectors for all the popular phone models and an AC outlet for the more exotic brands (like mine). The West can sure benefit from such a service.

I’m excited about Bombay. It’s the first place I’ll be visiting on this trip that I’ve never seen before. I’m busily trying to finish Suketu Mehta’s masterpiece about the city, Maximum City and am looking forward to seeing some of the book’s landmarks, like Malabar Hill.

No, it is not my intent to push a script onto a Bollywood studio. I don’t “get” Bollywood and wouldn’t know where to begin writing for a strictly Indian audience. So stop asking. The idea of meeting a few Bollywood babes, however…

Before I arrive, I do want to mention one thing: I hate hippies. Hate ’em. So many Indians have an unhealthy perception of Westerners, in part because the only white people (goras) they encounter are forlorn, misguided hippy types who have fled the West due to their own fucked-uppedness. They are, unfortunately, the true white ambassadors to India.

I and my host roll our eyes when a group of them pass us by. They are the same: lanky, young, unwashed, unshaven, pierced enough to be pin-cushions and -worst of all- bedecked in a hodge-podge of ill-fitting Indian garments which individually might have meaning and style, but as an ensemble serves only as a mockery of traditional Indian fashion. You just know they’ll be wearing the same clothes at Hallowe’en a couple of years hence.

Am I being unfair? Perhaps. But I liken their behaviour to an Asian visiting Berlin and choosing to slog about in lederhosen and suspenders: it’s a total misread, and ultimately a subtle and ignorant mockery, of the culture.

Yes, I realize I probably qualified as one of them when I took my first Asian journey 14 years ago at the tender age of 24. But if I can’t be a hypocrite, what’s the point of having a blog?

5pm-ish – Happily ensconced in my barely affordable hotel room in Bentley’s Hotel in Colaba, Bombay. Colaba is the southern most portion of the city, which is essentially a collection of 7 reclaimed islands. It is quite warm and sub-tropical.

I had to upload this post now because GPRS access is sketchy in my area, and I may soon have to resort to -yecch!- internet cafes.

My impression of Bombay so far? Well, the taxi from the airport cost me 600 rupees, three times the cost in Delhi. Bombay is New york: looks like it, smells like it, behaves like it. No one here stares at me, no touts or beggars have yet to pester me. Each time I speak Hindi to a local, he answers in English.

That is Bombay.