Sleeper bus from Gokarna and a few hours sleep between the three of us, we arrived in the bustling bollywood world of Mumbai. As we entered the city we felt the atmosphere enveloped us in to it’s world…. buildings that seemed sky high, compared to the beach shacks we were use to, grew more in numbers, the streets bustled with a mixture of client el. IN one corner poverty drew your eye in, the slums spilling out onto pavements, the other corner western locals were on their way to their well paid jobs… their clothes a great indication. The contrast from one sight to another already mind blowing. Anna and I sat in the taxi reeling off events from the book ‘Shantaram’ (a must read for anyone, especially anyone who has been or is going to India), the book making us feel connected to the city already, a better understanding of this maze of Indian cultures. When your faced with a city with a population of 16 million, half of that living in the slums… a small understanding goes down well. Especially after a couple of months in the relaxing south!

We were incredibly lucky, and even more grateful for the accommodation offered by the American’s we had met on New Years Eve…. they were here in Mumbai filming a documentary on a school friend who was trying and at the time of us meeting them, had in fact made it BIG in Bollywood. So we rocked up to their apartment and in no time at all had filled their spare room with our stuff and cleansed the sleeper bus off of us. Here we would spend the week, enjoying the company, the entertainment and the inspiration of the 4 Americans. Their apartment was in West Bandra, a beautiful area and rather ‘posh’ area of the city and so indulged in smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels on our first day… an absolute treat! We spent our first afternoon roaming the main street of Colaba…. trying not to spend too much! And the second day doing the necessary tourist task of gawping at The Gateway to india, the Taj hotel (still being rebuilt from the bombings) and the long haul boat ride to Elephanta Island. We hiked up the vast number of stone steps, stalls decorating every inch of both sides (you really can not escape shopping in India!) and made our way in to the number of caves at the top. The main being dedicated to Shiva, which held a cris-cross courtyard of pillars and statues. The main being a 6 metre high statue of Sadhashiva – a three headed Shiva, The Destroyer, The Creator and The Preserver of the Universe. The 4/5 other caves weren’t as impressive but well worth a wander into if nothing more than the magical childlike feelings they provoke – added with the many naughty monkeys running around, it’s a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours.

Back over on the main land we sped back to the ‘palace’ (the Americans apartment) and got ourselves ready for the main event…. The Screening! Tyler won an American reality TV show several years back called ‘The amazing race’ and found himself with a pocket, wallet and bank load of money…. with some of that money he wanted to follow through with a desire to produce and star in his own mini- film, along with the help of Kenny and also Omi (his Bollywood friend) starring, they created ‘Wrestling Mongolia’ and we so happened to be kindly invited to the viewing! So we jazzed ourselves up for the night and made our way to the screening in racing Rickshaws- whenever the other passed we were greeted with excitable shrills of “Jai-Ho” from Anna, Matt and Promote (full name Promote Kumar DVD… usual job, lift operator in the boys apartment building, but for one night only he was to be… THE Ticket Collector. He was so proud that his smile was infectious the whole night) Anyway…. we arrived and viewed. It was magical and the three of us girls felt like proud parents as we saw Tyler and Omi on screen, and all three of them eagerly watching with anticipation of how it would be received! The boys did well and the room was filled with laughs and much appreciation. To celebrate their achievements we went back to the ‘Palace’ and danced the night away in-between watching various of their other achievements on a laptop… All four guys proving more and more of an inspiration with every hour spent with them. Not only that but their warmth, generosity and general up beat love for life is something i think all three of us ladies will forever remember and be eternally grateful for learning from.

But unfortunately our time in Mumbai had to come to an end…. we said a tearful goodbye to Laura on the Friday, mixed emotions: I didn’t want her to leave, I missed her before I even said goodbye, pangs of jealousy that she was able to go home and see family and friends, excitement for it meant the next adventure began and great warmth over the memories we’d shared.

Anna and I were due to leave Mumbai on the Saturday with an evening train to Udaipur…. but due to India’s evil brother – Findia (F*** India!) we jumped into the wrong Rickshaw as the driver didn’t understand a word we said not even ‘Train’ and so took us to a hotel half hour away, when we corrected him finally through gritted teeth we got stuck in Findia’s traffic, bumper to bumper all the way to the station…. already 10 mins late we then were told bandra had two terminals!!! No one had informed us of this little detail, and our terminal was a 10 min walk away…. we hurried like frantic tortoises, our massive bags on our back to the East terminal…. half an hour late the train had obviously already departed! But thankfully the Universe took pity on us and we slowly entered back into India- we got a small refund on our tickets, new tickets for the following day, a lovely man giving us information on the tickets, two lads allowing anna to de-stress by playing with two beautiful puppies and a group of children all screaming with happy excitement to see us get into a Rickshaw! And of course those beautiful Americans who welcomed us back into their Palace for another night! All’s well that ends well. We finally said our goodbyes to the boys on the Sunday, leaving them to spend the day filming their music video!! Yes yes… the boys have not only created their own india bollywood song but are going to film the video in which they all star, Omi included… These boys are really going places, see the amazing link below.

And that Ladies and Gentleman is Mumbai. A very different side to the city to what most people get to see, we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to of been treated to such a way of life. Obviously there is a hell of a lot more to Mumbai than the glitzy fun filled life of those in showbiz, and I do feel a little guilty for not seeing the real Mumbai, the slums, the main city center, the markets and such…. but then again, there’s always next time!

Love to everyone… I hope the first month of 2010 has treated everyone well and the post festivity blues haven’t kicked in. Missing everyone more and more every day!

Lessons Learnt:
Sometimes it’s just good to let your hair down… yes even when travelling is this still an option!
There’s more to a city that the glitz… but my god the glitz is great, just for a little bit!
Never trust a Rickshaw driver.

* Also just want to say a MASSIVE thank you to the Americans: Kenny, Tyler, Bill and Matt…. You’re brilliant!

The music video is online. Check it out here:

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