Last January, during a five-week trip to India, I spent a weekend in Mumbai with a couple of ‘blog-friends’. Bunny, an editor at Hindustan Times, picked me up at the airport. It was to be our first meeting, and her SMS, sent from the gate, read: Shortish, messy hair, sleeveless purple and green top, black pants, small blue bag. Later that day Bips, a social worker engaged with a local NGO, joined us near the Gateway of India. It was probably the most memorable weekend of 2010.
We started with a Gujarati thali lunch that captured the essence of a Mumbai visit: there was more variety to experience than you could possibly take in. The dishes, brought to the table at a dizzying pace by uniformed servers, left me exhausted. (All these months later I do not remember what I ate; I see only the anticipation for the next delicacy to arrive, followed by the growing regret that I could not eat all that I wished to.) After lunch we rode South, towards Kala Ghoda, in a ‘Cool Cab’: an air-conditioned taxi, a charming old Fiat that was almost an antique piece. Traffic was inconsistent, clogged and snail-paced in some areas and breezy and fast in others. Bunny made the long drive short with her insights on Mumbai culture and the recent history of local politics. In between, around a bend or in the middle of a street, she would point to a house and refer to a celebrity who lived there: “That’s where Chetan Bhagat lives.” “And here’s Bal Thackeray house.”
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