Ramblings of a Slaint

Ramblings of my life in India and around the world

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Yesterday I had to go to town to run some errands, so I paid a visit to the Taj for the first time since the attacks. It is still completely cordoned off, but there are tons of people milling about trying to see any damage.. just as we were. One new addition is the security checkpoint to walk through towards the gateway of India. Of course we walked through with big shopping bags and the machine beeped like crazy, but the police officer didn't even look twice at us! Perhaps b/c we are white?

We also paid a visit to Indigo Deli..where we were searched regardless of being white. Good that they are trying.

We also attended a memorial service for the 6 Americans who were killed in the attacks. It was really nice of the US consulate to set it up and it was nice to attend and show our support. I was a bit sad though that not many people turned up for it.

After the memorial service we decided to pay a visit to Leopolds - another site of the attacks. It was packed as usual and everyone seemed cheery. It was sad to see the bullet holes in the mirrors and walls. But i think it's good that it's still there.. it serves as a constant reminder to the lives that were lost. At one point, a balloon popped and it caused a little tingle through me. People shouldn't be allowed balloons in former terrorist attack sites!

It was sort of an emotional day, but also good to see that life in Colaba is back to normal now. People are drawn to it even more I think.

Oh.. and when we were in Pune last weekend, we were driving in our rental car to get some coffee down the street when we heard a loud bang. It scared the daylights out of us! Turns out.. it was someone throwing a rock at our car. It caused a huge dent in the side. We were a bit freaked out thinking they were aiming it at us because we were foreigners, but the locals said it was just a crazy man. but that was a bit freaky as well. Even though we haven't felt too affected by the attacks, it seems that some fear does reside down inside even if we aren't aware of it.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

blood and gore in the new hood

Tuesday was Bakri Id. I usually don't notice Id too much except that I see all of the goats being carted in the rickshaws to their temporary home before being sacrificed. But this year with our new apartment I overlook what is aparently a muslim area. So as the days lead up to Id, i saw the number of goats on the roof opposite mine increase. I was having a hard time dealing with them up there to be honest. I kept worrying about them falling off or getting caught up in the rope they were tied up with. And they were also not happy.. they were bleating and moaning for the first day. :(

Then came Id... I was so scared they might slaughter them on the roof where I could see/hear/smell everything. Thankfully they did not. However I did watch them slowly disappear one by one and a few times I could hear the ferocious scream as they were being killed. Oh so sad!

And lucky for me, I had to go to town for a meeting. Urgh.. I wish i didn't go out. The roads had puddles of blood draining down them - all over the place! And as I got closer to Central Mumbai i could see the blood spots out in front of apartment buildings where they must have done the sacrifice. And seeing all the men walking around in their white kurta's splattered with blood. Oh you can tell it was not my favorite day in the neighborhood! haha.

To top the day off, on my way home from town I saw a dead cow's head sticking out of a dumpster with it's legs hanging out of a second dump. YUCK! not sure what happened there. but i guess they couldn't really leave a huge dead cow lying on the roadside. I had just never thought about what they do with them!

And last night... i heard a big crash and ran out on the balcony to see what was going on. By the time I got there ( 10 seconds maximum!) there was already a crowd of at least 100 milling about. They were screaming, yelling, pulling people aside, etc. I still have no real clue what happened. I think perhaps a bicycle, motorcycle and a rickshaw were involved. And I know that two limp bloody bodies were put in separate rickshaws to be taken to the hospital. I can still see the blood stains on the road. But this is Mumbai.. you are never alone and there will be hundreds there to help within seconds! It's really amazing to be honest.

So it seems that our new neighborhood has much more to offer than our past one where all we saw was the rich and famous honk their way into Olive!


Monday, December 8, 2008

planning begins!

With the move finished and the city getting back to normal (as much as possible) it is now time to really start focusing on the upcoming Rickshaw Run. I always knew we'd wait until the last minute to plan all the juicy details...and of course it is 3 weeks away and we've not done our route nor have we booked any flights/hotels!

And.. another snag in our plans - our third 'wheel' Stacie has broken a bone in her wrist and it looks very unlikely that she will join us after all. This was her reason for staying in India for the last 6 months even, so it is very sad. But both Paul and I think that we really want a third person since we expect that we will have to drive for at least 6-8 hrs a day and a 3rd will be important to help carry the load. With the outing of Stacie, I think we are replacing her with our friend Janikka who has been in Mumbai for the last year. She and her boyfriend had also put their name in the hat for the rickshaw run, but weren't chosen, so now is her chance at least to see some of India.

Of course all of this hangs in the balance with a possible war with Pakistan looming over the horizon. Paul seems sure that we'll know something more in the week to come. If India follows through with it's threats and Pakistan continues to ignore the pressure, then I have no idea what all of this means. I would say that I'd either be on a flight with my two kitties or headed out to the far rural areas of inner India! I guess we'll just wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, we'll continue planning for the rickshaw run as needed. We are setting down thoughts on our route. You might think planning the route would be a quick and easy process, but from everyone I keep talking to it seems like it is an arduous process and will take lots of time and care. We need to at least establish checkpoints for ourselves to know if we are making good time or bad time - this will let us know if we can stop and enjoy places like Varanasi or if we just have to pass on through. Paul is gathering the medical kit and any other little supplies he thinks we might need and Janikka and I are just trying to figure out if she's coming and how to get that moving!

Next weekend we are off to Pune for mechanic lessons and our first little trial run of the rickshaw...wish us luck!


Saturday, December 6, 2008

quiet day in the neighborhood

Last night I went with my friends to a party in Colaba, a few streets from the Taj. As soon as we got off the main road on the sea right before the Oberoi/Trident, the roads were absolutely empty. Friday night in Mumbai and the roads are dead quiet. It was crazy to see. Even though it feels that Bandra is pretty much back to normal, I guess life really isn't back to normal. I haven't been out of the house or the neighborhood much at all for the last week due to the move and dealing with issues/workers/etc at the new apartment.

It was really eerie down there though with it so quiet. All of the roads around the Taj are still blocked and closed, the Oberoi was all dark and people were no where to be seen. The party itself was even this way.. very subdued. People were leaving and heading home by 11 pm. Most parties in Mumbai don't even kick off until then! On the way home, the roads were busier - only because the celebrations/mourning for Dr. Ambedkar had begun. People were lined up for kilometers near Shivaji park to pay their respects to Dr. Ambedkar.

Besides that though, no one was out. The normally bustling and busy Bandra was quiet and empty. It could be still from last week's attacks or the many warnings being put out about attacks this weekend. Today, Dec 6th is the anniversary of the destruction of a muslim temple in North India, so it is always a tense day and it also is the birthday of Dr. Ambedkar.

We are out and about today trying to buy a few items for our new flat.. dining table, sheets, rugs, etc. we'll see how it goes.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mumbai terrorist attacks

First I have to thank everyone- friends, family and strangers who emailed, called or sent text messages to find out how we were doing during the Mumbai terrorist attacks. We were home safe and sound working on our rickshaw run designs and playing guitar hero, when I got a message from a friend saying to turn on the news. Of course my first instinct was that something had happened to Obama! Instead the horrific attacks were taking place right before our eyes. TV crews in Mumbai show anything and everything often focusing considerably on the blood and gore. I think we witnessed someone being shot to death and of course it was replayed over and over again.

It was really horrible watching this all night long. Of course we couldn't turn it off and then we were fielding calls from friends from all over the world. The following day the entire city shut down and foreigners were told to stay indoors. It was pretty shocking how quiet the city was. After the floods in 2005 and the train bombings in 2006 the city was back to normal the following day (well as soon as the flood waters receeded!). The only thing I can think is that these attacks were so out of the ordinary and really hit home for the upper class. It wasn't 'those other people' this time.. it was us they were targeting.

The night of the attacks our friend was over and she spent the night since we still weren't exactly sure what was happening and how far up the city the mayhem would extend. But the next day I felt ok and wasn't so concerned.. but I also wasn't leaving my immediate neighborhood! I think if I went to town on a regular basis and had to work there I probably would have been a lot more freaked out, but since I always seem to stay in my neighborhood, I feel safe. But then this also scares me.. Are we so used to terrorist attacks these days that it doesn't instil as much fear as it should? Or is it all of the violent movies we watch?

The night after the attacks we had plans to attend a huge Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by the American Women's Group at the Taj Lands End (sister hotel to the Taj Mahal Palace that was attacked). Of course the event was cancelled, but I would have gone if they still held it. I might have been freaked out once I got there, but felt that I couldn't let terrorism control my life.

In the midst of all of this, we were moving apartments. It was scheduled for Friday, but since the city had been shut the previous day, the new apartment wasn't finished and not enough movers showed up at work, and the firing was still going on downtown. So we postponned to the next day. It was probably good that I had so many other things on my mind, so I couldn't just sit and watch tv constantly - although i don't think the tv was turned off for days!

A good friend of ours was down photographing it all for the New York Times. He thinks I'm funny because each time I'd see some new explosion or firing towards the reporters I would message him to make sure he was ok. He always replied in the affirmative! He has an amazing photo journal and account of it here

We know of many people who were down there when it happened, but thankfully everyone we know personally is fine and well. But one peice that really hit home for me was the seige on the Chabad House. I am not Jewish, but since college I have known and been very close to people from Israel or American Jews and feel a close connection to their religion and culture. I have always had many friends here in Mumbai who are Jewish and who visited the Chabad house every Friday night. I've heard all about the Rabbi and his wife and now all I can think about is their orphaned son Moshe. It's such a tragedy. But him being rescued by the Nanny shows again how amazing the Indian people are. They are willing to risk their lives to save others. We've heard this story over and over again from people rescued from the two hotels as well. So to them and the police (even with NO resources and no training tried as hard as they could) and the commandos who went in with little protection, we thank you for your dedication to your job and the country.

We've now moved into our new place and I have still not left Bandra. Too many things to do in the new place, that I've not had time to venture anywhere else. But I do look forward to going to town soon - I feel we must support our city that we've made home for the last few years.

It was really great though through all of this to get calls and messages from my friends all over the world - France, US, Scotland, Ireland, Israel, Germany, Iran, Russia, Egypt, and probably some more that i've not remembered at the moment. It's great to hear from all of you and I hope you stay in touch more regularly now!