Blog of a wandering Jerusalem Perl Monger
by Pinchas Richard W.
January 11, 2008
I choose to travel from Israel to Mumbai India on Royal Jordanian airlines; to save money and see a different part of the World. Even before I had left Jerusalem I was told that the flight to Amman Jordan would be at 8 am, one hour later than scheduled. But I had already set up the cab ride to the airport for 3 am. At the airport I met an Australian who was traveling around the world on a pre-paid pre-planned trip. He was flying to Amman after a side trip to Tel Aviv. From Amman he was going to Rome. I had plenty of time between the arrival in Amman and my flight to Mumbai. The plan would be that I would be put up in a transit hotel until the evening flight to Mumbai. However he had a short period between his flights. The RJ plane came in over an hour late and he was told that either they would hold the Rome-bound plane for his arrival or give him a later flight. We both doubted that RJ would hold the flight for him, but I never saw him after the flight. The plane from NITBAG (Hebrew for Ben Gurien Air Port) to Amman was large and we passengers were few. I was ticketed for a center aisle seat but I just moved to an other seat by the window. At take off we were pointed out to the Mediterranean and we circled back to Jordan, so I got a good bird's eye view of Tel Aviv and the coast. But about ten kilometers in, the clouds grew and we could not see much until we crossed the Jordan River. Jordan was a bleak picture. Not much industry. Development was mostly in housing. New housing plots were marked out clearly from the air. Large family villas dominated the building. The old square urban core of Amman could seen. After landing we made our way to the bus that would bring us to our transit hotel. There was not much preventing us from doing and going where ever we wanted, but there was not much to see. The airport was full of people making their way back home after being at the Hajj in Mecca. Most of these people were going to Sri Lanca (Ceylon). King Abdallah's picture was everywhere. At our hotel there were even more Hajjis. I found two other Israeli's and we shared a three bed room. I went fast asleep and woke up late for lunch. But the lunch was late to so I was right on time. The food was good and all you could eat. But not Kosher so I stuck to the vegetable section, salads and olives. Still plenty to eat. Afterwards with nothing to do and lots of sleep to make up for I went back to bed. At 6 pm we were woken up to be taken to the airport. But this time the Hajjis returning to India joined us. The bus filled with standing room only but it was a short ride. We were to early at the airport and had to sit around. There I was surrounded by about fifty Indian Muslims. But aside from one guy who stood with his cigarette close to me there was no friction. On board the plane the stewardess used my flexibility to correct a seating problem. I ended up sitting next to two Israeli's. Four hours to Mumbai is not a long ride. Thursday Morning January 10. When I arrived I immediately smelt that special smell that is Mumbai; firewood smoke, spices, and six million people. I got a prepaid cab to Calaba and the Hotel I had last been in. The price for a room was double. So I put down for three days, looking to move. I could not plug my computer in. But at Chabad house after buying an Indian adapter, I got my computer up and connected to their wi-fi system. Chabad has bought a whole building in Colaba. And set up a bet medrish. It will be a short week to Shabat.
January 17, 2008
I am late in writing this second letter because I hit one of those bureaucratic snafus that is taking up a lot of my time and energy. More later. The business area of Mumbai is located around Flora Fountain near to the court house and the stock exchange. Flora was the wife of David Sassoon a Jewish merchant from Bagdadi background. He did much to develop commerce in British Bombay. The Fountain is now in the middle of a traffic square with a tall statue of Flora and well kept grass and flowers. Like all open space in Mumbai there is a fence around it to keep squatters from setting up house there. The distance to it is walkable from Colaba, but for four rupees (the minimum fare: = 40 agarot, one dime) I choose to grab a bus. I got on the first bus to go by and I was lucky it went to the fountain. But once there I got lost and could not find my way to my favorite computer bookshop. There I can buy reprints of technical books for a fraction of the Western price. So I just walked back to my place. I checked out the one book from this place that I had brought back with me from Israel to find the address. I looked it up on my Mumbai map book. I realized that I had taken a right at the fountain and should have taken a left. Next day at Chabad I met a French photographer who wanted me to met a digital camera seller. We went back to Flora Fountain. And talking to the camera guy I found the bookshop. Unfortunately they did not have their super cool (in more ways than one) air conditioning on. But they did have a book on Google marketing that I was interested in. Next a telephone. I brought my Orange Partnership telephone to India because the last time I was here I was able to get a network chip for it. The company Hutcheson had changed hands and was now Vodaphone. The friendly clerk at the bookstore directed me to the Vodaphone store. To get waited on you must go to a machine that takes your request and gives you a ticket for a que. Here there was an Indian at the machine to help everyone do what they had to do. The phone chip will cost me about $10 and the service for a few months will cost about $25 more. A few days after getting the phone up and running I get a text message; application not approved. I find out that some bureaucrat has rejected my application because I do not have enough proof of who I am or where I am staying. Now I have two days to correct this but the hotel I am at will not give me a letter. So I have to contact some of my Indian friends to work this out.
Chabad offers two meals a day; breakfast, and 8 pm supper to everyone who comes in. They are happy to see me. Most people here are post-army Israeli trekkers. One girl traveled from China, Tibet, Thailand to India. Hebrew is the language of most at the supper table. Breakfast is dominated by English. The workers here work for less money than you spend on dog food. I am staying at a local hostel. My return flight is April 17, 2008. I expect to be back in Israel for Passover.
February 27, 2008
I finally got my telephone on line again. All that I had to do was submit two pictures of myself and a clearer statement of where my hotel was. The first clerk did not do this. I called the contact in the textile industry that I had talked to before. He said that none of his contacts were interested in what I was talking about. I was explaining to someone else casually what I was trying to do, and someone overheard that conversation. He was from Paris and in the dress business. He bought by the rack (100 at a time). He had worked with some people in New Delhi who might be interested. I sent them an email. The Chabad house in Mumbai is located on the edge of an upscale neighborhood, but borders on the Colaba market slum. It is a mixed neighborhood of Hindus and Muslims. Everybody gets along here. Though in other places in India old tensions still exist. Here the dogs have been replaced by goats. And more cats abound. The goats get cuttings and trimmings in vegetable market. The greengrocers trim their offering and leave the trimmings for the goats. Plus the goats scavenge in the general trash. Once I saw a goat steal a carrot from a seller. He chased it away but could not go to far from his stall lest the other goats eat his remaining produce. I wrote carrot above but it was a reddish looking carrot and I don't know if that is the same. I got back a favorable response by the dress makers in New Delhi. Now I needed to get train ticket to New Delhi. Travel agencies I visited didn't sell train tickets. I had to go to a train station to buy a ticket. The train numbers and routes are published in a schedule book for the entire rail system. After looking I found the number and time schedule of the Rajdhani express to New Delhi. I went to three train stations but could not find the place to buy tickets. Finally I found someone who directed me to Reservation line 52, foreign quota tickets. I had to wait in line about an hour to get the tickets, but I knew most of the people in line. And quickly got to met more. I got a third class sleeper for Sunday evening 16 hours at night, 5 pm to 9 am, for 2000 rupees round trip (about $52). And I got ready to move out of my room and packed all my things. Pinchas Richard Wimberly, Mumbai.
March 3, 2008
When I got to the station my train, the Rajdhani (Capital Express) was pulling in to be loaded. Red turbined porters with their loads on their heads were everywhere. I took with me my backpack and valese (teek). Each seating section had three seats across with two places opposite on the isle. The top births were fixed. And the back rest of the bench seats came up to be fastened with chains to form the middle birth, with the seating bench as the bottom birth. When I got on I found a Desi (ex-patriot Indian) couple from New York in my place. But after a quick negotiation we sorted that out. I agreed to change births with him so he could be on the same side as his wife. The other seats were taken by a Desi family from England, Uganda, and Fuji. So it was a friendly English speaking group to start the trip with. At 8:40 pm the family of three left at Surat and family of six took their place. I thought that they were crowding us. The supper was super spicy, to much for me so I just ate around the edges and finished just the bland things like dahl (yogurt). At 9:30 PM we made our beds. The train had section attendents who gave out sheets, pillows, and blankets. Plus a hand towel for each of us. At 12:30 AM there was a station stop and the large family left and three strange men tok their place. These stayed with us to New Delhi. I slept until 7 am then breafkfast and at 9 am we pulled into New Delhi station. I realized that I had passed through at least three Indian states on my trip. I found Delhi cold. But with better housing stock than Mumbai. The Pahar Ganj neighborhood with its street bazaar lay before me. Everybody wanted me to stay at their hotel, or use their pedicab, or buy their mechandize. And after one wrong turn I found my way to Chabad house. I left my backpack there and set up an appointment with the fashion house. I took a ride in a motorized pedicab. And on the road there it was: my first eliphant, walking along the highway with its mahoot guiding it. And then we were past it. I spent three hours with the fashion house, feeling very good at our discussions. They were the first people to understand my business plan. Back to Pahar Ganj, the pedicab driver wanted 500 rupees, but after arguing I paid 200. Now I had completed all that I had come to New Delhi for and three more days before my ticket back to Mumbai. My hotel cost 300 rupees a night ($8) with hot water but there was construction going on making it a noisy place. The next day I decided to either visit Connaught Place (The center of British Colonial New Delhi), or travel on the metro train line. I walked around the local station and saw a system route map on display. It seemed that Connaught Place was the next stop. So orienting myself I decided to walk around. But I went in the wrong direction. I did get to the next station but found it was not Connaught Place. So I walked into the station and after the procedure was explained to me I bought a day pass. I went from one endpoint to the other. Most of the trip is elevated. This is a new and modern train system. The doors close. Signs in the station tell when the next train is leaving. At one end I left the station and walked around. It was mainly an industrial area. I saw the regular railroad train move accross the horizon and turn accross the highway I was walking on. I wondered if thus is the same line I would be taking back to Mumbai. These metro trains were very crowded, but as we traveled to the ends it thinned out. The seats were all back to the window, with standing room in the middle. I realized that I had been one stop from Connaught Place So I decided to get there and look around. Exiting the station I saw that the center of Connaught Place was an open grassy park. All the buildings around this park were three story Greek neo-classical column fronting a covered sidewalk. In India you have to have a covered walk way because of the Monsoons in the summer and the Sun in the winter. The shops were upscale western like shops, with scrambling hawkers under the columns. Half way around I went back into the metro station and headed back to Pahar Ganj. I'll catch up with with this story later. Pinchas Richard Wimberly, India