santa claus is coming to bombay

Bombay or Mumbai – have it your way. It would appear that the only thing politicians have done here since independence is change names. Bombay is a beautiful place for a tourist – cosmopolitan; all sweeping bays and history oozing from every pore – but one man’s artfully crumbling colonial building is another man’s case study in decades of civic neglect. The homelessness is intense and it’s not just the destitute who sleep rough – clean shaven men in business shirts would catch their few hours of sleep on the pavement around our hotel before rising for work early the next day, such is the acute housing shortage. Victoria Terminus (or the unwieldy “Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus”, if you play by the name-change rules) is the busiest station in India – a cool 6 million commuters traipse across its platforms every day – yet has remained virtually unchanged since its construction. The train boffin term is “super-dense crush load”, with 14 to 16 standing passengers per square metre of floor space.

Nina jetted in from Old Blighty and before she could say “pass the parathas”, we shoved her on to a bus and headed south for some long-awaited beach time. Goa: legend of the mythical 60s and a very un-Indian bit of India, although the cows dozing on the beach are a dead giveaway. Despite it being super dense crush season, we managed to jag a cocohut right on Arambol beach and got straight down to the business of taking it easy. Swim, eat, play cards. Repeat.

Some cultural observations:
  1. The “undies, undies, undies… bathers” test appears to have been somewhat misunderstood in Goa. A key element of the test is the presence of Speedos, which we all know turn into undies as soon as you lose sight of the beach. People, take note: Y-fronts are still Y-fronts, no matter how close you are to the Arabian Sea.
  2. Although not high on most people’s list of things to do in Goa, a trip to the local doctor is actually quite entertaining. He’ll put you at ease by talking about the cricket while he’s injecting Nina with anti-death serum; Dodd will weigh himself, which is always good for a laugh; and when you’re done, you’ll be asked if you’d like to take advantage of some creative billing practices (read: insurance fraud).
  3. I’m surprised it took us this long to come across a pack of young travellers of Jewish extraction, recently discharged from military service*, as they are apparently ubiquitous in the Indian subcontinent. I would almost admire their earnest dedication to blaring trance and smoking grass if it didn’t kick off at 9am every day. And by jove, it was earnest – guys, look like you’re having fun, not sitting a calculus exam. In your Y-fronts. Perhaps they have conservative leadership in their futures?

We dragged Nina back to Bombay just in time for Christmas, which had elements both traditional and unorthodox. There were presents (reciprocal Christmas albums for Dodd and me – are we co-dependent or what?); we went to midnight mass, albeit at 10pm due to noise restrictions, which ended in a stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday Your Eminence” for the Cardinal; we ate and drank too much at Indigo (vodka test tube shots, anyone?); and the day ended with us lying around, rubbing our bloated bellies and watching Home Alone on TV. Ho, ho, ho.

* aka Israeli backpackers


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2 Responses to “santa claus is coming to bombay”

  1. Naomi Says:

    so dodd, how much weight have you now lost in total? I remember a much larger, and hairier!, chap on the jungle railway!

  2. beyondbagot Says:

    All true I’m afraid. From high point of ‘fat bastard’ 12 months ago to the present day we are looking at around 25 kilos. A rather embarrassingly heavy amount….

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