I didn’t see Mark as I exited through the arrival gate and there was no easy access to WIFI at the airport without a cell phone so I proceeded to get a taxi to the Fort area. Mumbai greeted me with high heat, humidity, some high-rise modern buildings, signs of extreme poverty on the side of the road and the incessant beeping of cars everywhere. The driver kept looking at me through the rear view mirror and others flirted through the window, yikes! Welcome to India! It took about two hours to get to the Fort and find the hotel as the driver got lost. After stopping to ask for directions a few times, we finally found the Traveller’s Inn where Mark was waiting for me. 🙂
We took a tour of the city by night; which included the Girgaum Chowpatty area on the beach where we enjoyed a meal of the traditional pav bahji, a yummy and spicy blend of vegetables in tomato gravy with buttery bread. We visited the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST),a historic railway station named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Taj Mahal palace hotel, an open-air laundry, and got to witness some of the celebrations on the eve of the Ganesh Shaturthi festival. We posed for a few photos for Indian tourists coming from nearby towns to visit Mumbai. We felt like movie stars 😉
The next day we took a ferry to Elephanta Island where we saw the Temple caves with carvings straight out of the rock of statues dedicated to the Lord Shiva. We tried more delicious food, the Vada Pav, a popular street-side snack of deep fried flour with a spicy potato filling. We hiked around the island to find good views of the Mumbai port.
Inside the temple:We got off the ferry back in Mumbai and we immediately found ourselves surrounded by the day’s important festivities of Ganesha Chaturthi, a popular holiday celebrated all over India; which includes the worshipping of clay statues of the elephant-headed god at homes and in public shrines for ten days before submerging the statue in water. Ganesha is the god remover of all obstacles, god of wisdom and prosperity, and is an important part of everyday life here in India. We witnessed numerous trailers drop off the heavy Ganesha statues near the docking area so they could, one by one, be lowered to the water’s edge and taken into the ocean where they would let them sink. At the tailgate of each trailer, the family or group gathered around to sing as a designated care-taker waived incense in front of it. They also distributed rawa (rice balls), some sweet candy, and painted the third eye on everyone’s foreheads.
The area was barricaded off from the masses of Indian tourists and other foreigners but we wanted to get close and get some photos of the action so I asked the guard in front of us to let us in and he did. Ask and you shall receive! We were fortunate to witness, most likely, the biggest Ganesha of the festival being lowered into the water with the help of a giant crane.