Sunday, April 18, 2010

Saturday - April 10, 2010

Saturday morning felt a little more normal, time-wise. Skipped the strange breakfast. I hadn't eaten much of it Friday and in fact gave the weird hotdog bun-like bread to a street woman with a baby the previous day. As soon as I was up and about, I went to the hotel lobby to call Joey who said he was filming until the evening and would pick me up when he was done. I was to stay at the apartment of a friend of his. Bit of a tricky situation though because she'd gone off to Delhi without leaving a key so he had a plan to break in. In the meantime, I needed to amuse myself until 6pm or so.

First off, time to get a phone. I headed out to the phone store around the corner and was kitted out with a small black phone (which Joey would later sneeringly refer to as a "driver's phone") for about 30 bucks. Imagine my happiness upon discovering, after leaving the store and standing on the street corner going through the ringtone options (because I know the last thing I want to hear in an enclosed space is someone going through their ringtone options), that two songs from "Om Shanti Om," one of my favorite Bollywood films, were listed. I settled on "Dard-e-Disco" (although I've now learned that the unfortunate -- or fortunate!!-- side effect of having this tune as my ringtone is that I now walk around humming it for 30 minutes after every call. The lyrics in English are "my heart is full of the pain of disco, pain of disco." Much more of this and it really will be full).

I pocketed my new phone and headed to the Barista Cafe near the Taj. I remembered there had been wifi there in 2008 and thought it might be a nice place to beat the heat. As I scooted past the vendors and street children, I passed a familiar face: my old pal Lawrence (see above linked post). I smiled but didn't say anything, knowing he'd probably turn up at the cafe. He smiled back, questioningly but we both kept walking. Sure enough, 15 minutes after I was ensconced in the window seat of the cafe, he waltzed in and sat with his friend just across from me and looked at me with vague recognition. I said, "Lawrence, are you ever not here?" His eyes went saucer-like and his mouth pursed. He leaned back in his chair: "This is scary." He squinted a little more, "Mo?"

We had a nice catch-up. He asked if I was feeling better this time. I said yes, this time I forced myself to eat and that helped. Talked a little about 26/11. Apparently he had, of course, been in the cafe. They had food and water and a televison to keep informed but they could hear everything going on outside and it was incredibly frightening.

As it turned out, the cafe no longer had wifi. I'm not sure if this was terrorism-related (as I previously wrote, I had to give my passport number over to use the internet in another cafe.) Lawrence told me that the cafe across the street did have wifi (and didn't ask me for any ID which is confusing) so I decided to head over there. I was having some issues with my new hard drive and wanted to get it sorted. Plus this cafe had Kingfisher -- giant mugs of it. I had stupidly gotten iced coffee at the first cafe (although they told me the ice was from filtered water) and I had fished out the ice but who knows if that was enough. My thoughts were that if I couldn't beat giardia lamblia -- I'd at least get it drunk.

Two mugs of Kingfisher, a surprisingly good personal margherita pizza and fourteen fits of temper at my stupid hard drive later, I tried calling Joey again to see what his progress was. Apparently he'd been trying to reach me for the past hour but couldn't get through to my mobile. He was done and wanted me to come meet him halfway as getting down to Colaba to pick me up at 6 on a Saturdaywould be a nightmare at this hour. I said goodbye to the slightly irritating couple next to me: an Indian man and a loud girl from Philadelphia, and dashed back to the hotel for my stuff, which I'd stored. Hopped in cab and headed towards a shopping mall at which to meet Joey. About halfway there, two young men on a motorbike kept pace along side my taxi, trying to talk to me. When we finally lost them, my taxi driver told me I shouldn't talk to those men. "They are bad boys." I have noticed on both trips that a lot of Indian men will talk to me and then at some point admonish me for talking to other men... as they are clearly "bad." Okay. A moment later there's another honk and another bike next to the taxi trying to get my attention. But it turns out to be the Indian man with the Philadelphia girl on the back of his bike. How bizarre to run into them (probably almost an hour after leaving them in another part of the city)! They recognized my hat from the back window of the cab and wanted to say hi... which they did and promptly zipped off again. My taxi driver grumbled.

We pull up to the mall at last and with no help from the driver whatsoever, I unload myself and stand on the sidewalk a little bewildered. I'm not sure where to go when suddenly there's a tap on my shoulder and Joey is here! He grabs my stuff and wades out into traffic with me stumbling along beside him, trying not to get run down. We pop into his car and he deftly moves into the flow and we head north. He's a good driver, yet slightly terrifying. Much like the rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers, he makes space where there is none, gets a little too close to the cars in front of him, lanes be damned. Truly -- lines on the road are purely for decoration. There is no such thing as a traffic lane. You go where there is space, even if physics deem there not to be any. It will just open up. Somehow. Same for every moving body situation here. Somehow all these people and vehicles move with each other, around each other, so closely, yet no one touches. Well, except the men. The men are always touching. They drape. On everything. They're very lean and limb-y...and drapey. I don't know how else to describe it. They drape when they sit, they drape over each when they walk, they're even a little drapey when they're moving alone.

Now is the tricky part. Joey has to find a locksmith to meet us at his friend's apartment. He leaves me in the car to go find one and I decide to make a quick call home to let everyone know I'm alive. We then head to the apartment where Joey asks me to stay in the car while he takes care of this. Unfortunately, the apartment manager stops them from breaking in -- even though he talks to the girl who lives there. Joey tells the manager that he's her brother and that I'm her friend from the US, but it's a no go. Joey gets back in the car and contemplates his next move while telling me about all the new strict tenant rules at many apartment buildings in Mumbai. At most places, young men are not allowed to live together anymore, he tells me, because landlords are afraid of terrorist cells and more than one man equals a "cell." They're also not allowed to have guests. Uncertain of what else to do (although I offer to go back to a hotel and am waved off) he takes me to his friends' apartment. I guess this is an apartment building that is okay with three young men living together. They're all actors and ...well... if I thought three young American bachelors have questionable hygiene and living conditions, I won't ever complain about it again. Not that I was complaining-- I was happy to have a place to crash for the evening. I just made sure my sleep sack was on the bed before I put my pillow down. And I had my first run-in of the trip with a squat toilet. I was given one of the two bedrooms and the three young men all went and re-draped themselves in the other bedroom.

But... there was no sleeping yet! It was Saturday night and time to party!

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