Monday, November 8, 2010

Weeks 9 and 10: Intestines and Indigo

Namaste! I apologize for the delay, but my system has been ravaged by bugs and drugs, and then six of the fellows invaded Bombay for Diwali. Clearly I have much to recount. I'll start with the bugs, since they were always my favorite. Being sick in India is part of the experience, since every day my stomach encounters foods it really doesn't appreciate having to digest, and normally it kinds of grumbles and I deal. However, last week it got to the point at which I was crawling on the floor in pain, so I decided that perhaps just being patient wasn't going to cut it. I called SOS International, our wonderful symptom-checker referral extraordinaire, and they suggested I go to see a doctor at the hospital (private practices are only so popular here). Now, I hate dealing with doctors in India. They are very smart people, but they think that the patients are very stupid people. Some of them might be, but I am a person who happens to be way too familiar with her intestines. I was dreading the journey, but eager for relief, but then I realized that they referred me to a doctor at a hospital in Powai, which is an hour away. I could have just taken a taxi, but that would have been at least 400 rupees, which would have been fine in that situation, but the taxis have no AC, so with traffic, and without a breeze, the taxis turn into an oven. I contemplated a rickshaw, but that would have taken almost twice as long, and those babies don't handle bumps that well, and the pain wouldn't allow that. So I took the train, which was long, and I was kind of scared of dealing with the crowds when I was semi-disoriented, but it ended up being easy. The hospital was beautiful and clean, and they even had soap and toilet paper in the bathroom, which is way better than my past hospital experiences. I asked the doctor what was wrong with me, and she said, "You have an infection." I said, "Clearly. What kind?" She said, "intestinal." I was like no wayyyy, I NEVER would have figured that out since I'm having severe pain in my INTESTINES, and yes, I am aware that they are separate organs from my stomach. I figured she wouldn't tell me the actual bug, so I didn't ask, and then she told me I had to take Ornidazole, and I just started laughing because I knew I was in for a hell of a week, given that it makes me sicker than the infection itself. But I was happy to know that I would be better eventually, having spent only 500 rupees on the appointment and 476 for antibiotics, anti-nausea pills, anti-spasmodics, and probiotics. I believe I will be stocking up on drugs and taking them home, since that amounts to less than $10.

Possible culprit for the Bug:

This is the vada pao, or the sandwich that fuels Bombay. It's potatoes and chilis, sometimes onion, fried, and put on the pao, or bread, with chutney and spices. It's insanely good, and apparently toxic. But since I can't say that definitely did it, I'll keep eating it.

I became very upset because the fellows were arriving for Diwali between Thursday and Friday of this past week, and I was taking drugs through Sunday, so I knew I wouldn't be up for all of the gallivanting that was to occur. Turns out I didn't know how to spell gallivanting until just now. Anyway, Diwali is a festival of lights, so it's like Hanukkah, but they decorate with Christmas lights. However, they also light lots of candles, and Mumbai looks beautiful when it's lit up. The holiday celebrates Lord Rama and Sita's return from exile and the triumph over the demon-king Ravana. People also make really pretty rangolis like this in front of their houses:

And these are diyas, or oil lamps.

People also set off firecrackers. In the middle of the road. While you're walking by. As if dealing with rickshaws, scooters, and itinerant cows wasn't difficult enough, we now have to look out for bursting fireworks. We decided we wanted to have our own fun, but didn't really want to start a fire, so we bought sparklers, and went through about 8 boxes in five minutes.

But alas, I am going out of order. Arielle arrived Thursday morning, and I attempted to venture outside for part of the day. She had a craving for real coffee, not Nescafe shit, so we went to the South Indian part of town, because that's where the real coffee is. First we went to the market to get banana chips. I realized it was a bit ridiculous that I traveled for half an hour just to get banana chips, but that's the fun part about being in a city like Mumbai, and not having homework anymore on the weekend. I had heard about a good little place somewhere in Matunga, where a lot of the South Indians have settled, so we set off on an adventure. We arrived at Cafe Madras about 15 minutes later, and we were immediately thrilled with our decision. We walked in and it was totally filled and we had to share a booth table with an Indian couple. We knew what a couple things were on the menu, but decided to each choose one thing we had never heard of so we could try something new. I went with Masala Misal, and Arielle went with Tuppa Onion. They were both delicious and cost about fifty cents each. When we left there was a line out the door, and I felt like I was going to throw up so I took a cab back up town to sleep. On Friday, Shaina was a welcome addition to our little crew and we head down to Chor Bazaar, which translates to Thieves' Market. Apparently the queen's jewels were stolen and ended up in this maze of shops and tiny streets, earning it that name during the Raj era. Now it's in an almost entirely Muslim-populated area, and the densely packed streets, antiquated buildings, traditionally dressed occupants and stores and stores filled with tchotchkes make it one of the most exciting areas of Mumbai. It looks something like this:

And these are some of the things for sale, which will give you an idea as to why I love it so much. This is Mutton Street:

I ended up getting an old sitar. It looks great on my wall. Then we decided to try to find this store that Shaina had heard of through an artisan exhibition in Delhi. It seemed like it was close by, but we had no idea where. We got into a cab and told him to go to Damar Gali. We were weaving through tiny streets, and at a certain point it was clear we were headed towards more of a slum area, so the cab driver asked yet another person where Damar Gali was, because cab drivers in Mumbai don't actually know where anything is. It's our responsibility to tell them how to get there, and also to have close to exact change when we pay. The person told us we had to go back in the other direction, and we were all getting frustrated when all of a sudden we realized we were on the right street. We got out and looked for Pracheen, which we assumed would just be a store, but the street was almost entirely residential. We stopped someone on the street at 51/57 Dontad Street, where Pracheen was supposed to be, and he said yea, it's here on the fourth floor. We walked into the building and encountered a dark concrete staircase and started walking up. In India, fourth floor is actually the fifth floor, since the first floor is zero, so we accidentally ended up on the roof. We found some people there, a nice view, and goats. Yes, I'm wearing white leggings, and yes, I did get that excited about the baby goat, aka, the kid.

We went back inside and discovered the "store," which ended up being the factory where they hand-printed the hand-woven silk. It wasn't a store, but a five-generation operation with some amazing products. Here is a wall of blocks and buckets of dye, and this man doing the printing. Apparently they're not as well trained as they used to be, so they can't use the finer blocks. Everything was still beautiful, so I can't imagine what stuff used to look like.

The father and son running the whole operation were at the shop and were wonderful people. They let us rummage through the stock room to find the perfect shawls, and we tried them on over coconuts! I ended up buying the one in the picture, and another that I expect will look beautiful on Lexi B.

He also told us about an artisan exhibition in January, so I'm excited to buy some great handmade products, instead of touristy crap. I feel like it's my duty, now that I live here.

Then we went out for a traditional Maharashtrian dinner with the boys, which involved lots and lots of fish. And then Saturday involved bagels.

Stereotypical photo with Jews in front of the bagel shop:

I'm tired of writing and have a headache, so here are more pictures of things from the crazy busy weekend:

scenes from the train:

These are images from the Hanging Gardens in Malabar Hill. The one with the giraffe also includes the billion dollar house. That apartment building is actually a home for the richest man in India, his wife, and their three children. Along with over 100 support staff.

That is all for now. I am going to sleep for approximately 10 hours before I head back to work tomorrow.


  1. Namaste Sami,
    You were kind to withhold all of the details regarding your latest intestinal indiscretion. It should be emphasized that you were on a drug called O2, more than just ornidazole. In case the ornidazole was not adequate in wrecking your system, just a pinch of oflaxacin would suffice to send the offending unwanted pathological agent to Yama’s house, with you screaming all the way.
    But day 5 is over, recovery is forthcoming until the next visit by that persistent Indian version of the evil one whose name will not be spoken.

    Sounds like a great visit from your fellow fellows. Thanks for the visuals.
    Are the locals accepting of the Mumbai Palace? Is it a cultural acceptance that there are very rich and very poor living next door to one another? Sounds like a future blog.

    Continue to feel better, Rest, Hydrate (mantra of the weak (sic)(sick)).

  2. Hi there,

    Your bug sounds less than pleasant...perhaps it would be smart to stick with peanut butter for awhile...How nice that the factory owners were so welcoming! Your shawl is beautiful! And it's crazy to think that there was a picture of that palace in the Times last week, and there you are taking one yourself! Very cool...
    Love and miss you tons, Erie