Mumbai Tour 1 — Slashing the Itinerary

I want to see it all, but I can’t. In planning this trip, I feel tinier than an ant. And, I realize that I’m not going to be happy if I’m in a cab the whole time. So the things that I’ll see, I’ll have to see in area chunks. Also, I may get tired, hot, hungry, and thirsty, and then cranky. I will have some time to myself in Mumbai and then I’m off to Aurangabad. The following is what I’ve got planned thus far.

I love archaeology and the moment I learned about the Elephanta Caves (a World Heritage Site), I knew they were first on my list. The Elephanta Caves on are Elephanta Island, which is east of (old) Mumbai and west of (new) Navi Mumbai. The journey to the island by ferry will take about an hour.

Elephanta Cave Day(s):

depart-to-elephanta-caves

Place/Activity Times Cost   When Closed Interesting Details
Elephanta Ferry 9 a.m. — First boat leaves Apollo Bandar.

2 p.m. — Last boat leaves Apollar Bandar.

12 Noon — First boat departs island.

5:30 p.m. — Last boat departs island.

₹150 Mondays It takes one hour to get to the caves.

Boats leave every 30 minutes.

Elephanta Island and Caves

elephanta-island-small-view

 

  • Historical Shiv Mandir (Northeast on Island)
  • Historical Shivja Temple (Northwest on Island)
  • Elephanta Caves (Central)
  • Elephanta Lake Garden (South Central)
  • Cannon Point (West)
  • Shree Datta Mandir, Gharapuri (South)
  • Gaondevi Temple (South)
  • Someshwar Mandir (South)

 

Mumbai Art Day (Day 1 of More Such Days Hopefully, But No Promises)

art-day-mumbai

Place Admission Times Price When Closed Address/Photo OK?/Interesting Details
Jehangir Art Gallery 11 a.m to 7 p.m.  ?  ? 161 KALAGHODA
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu
Sangrahalaya (Prince of Wales Museum)
10:15 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Museum Entry for Foreign Adult: ₹500 (? $)

Mumbai Experience Documentary Foreign Adult: ₹50

Mobile Phone Photography Pass: ₹100

Audio Guide: Complimentary

 Only Closed on Certain Holidays  159-161 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Fort, Mumbai
National Gallery of Modern Art 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Foreign Visitor: ₹500 (? $)  Mondays Sir Cowasji Jahangir Public HallM G Road, Fort Mumba
Leopold Cafe  7:30 a.m. to Midnight  Menu  S.B. Singh Road,
Colaba Causeway

*Current exchange rate: $1 = ₹67.8209 (Rupees)

 

Afghan Church: open Sunday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

 

All this other stuff will have to wait:

There is way too much to do in India!

The more I learn about India, the more I want to see and the more I cannot see because I don’t have time.

Two months already I’ve known about this trip, and I still can’t get my head around it. I’m going to have to cut my travel aspirations to the bone, and just today I looked up World Heritage Sites in India, and I nearly fell out of my chair. Oh, I want to visit the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh oh so terribly badly, and I just won’t have time.

For Mumbai, I have a list that’s a mile long:

Oh, and then there are also the sites in Aurangabad:

And let’s not forget the interesting things I saw on the web for Navi Mumbai (New Mumbai):

 

How long am I staying? Oh, about 15 days.

P.S. Places unsafe for women at night. (Some due to wild animals and ghosts.)

The Bhagavad Gita

Introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran,
@ 2007, Nilgiri Press,
295 pages.

How has it taken me so long to find and read this book? It is difficult to form words around this, but that’s the whole point of posting, so I’ll try.

“Gita” means “song,” and “Bhagavad” means “Lord” or “God.” This is the Song of God.

It’s a dialog between a warrior in a desperate circumstance and the Lord, here called Krishna.

The Bhagavad Gita is a “song” and is thought to be an Upanishad that was inserted into the classic Indian epic, the Mahabharata, which I have yet to read. I gather that the Mahabharata is a big big deal Indian literature, so, of course, it’s on the list.

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert refers to the Bhagavad Gita several times as she describes her time in India. Apparently, her task in the ashram was to recite the “Gita” in Sanskrit daily for hours on end. This was understandably quite a chore. And, raises a hell of a lot of questions for me. Is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Sanskrit that good? Did she understand it as she was reciting it? Had she ever read it in English?

I had a different reaction to it. It blew my mind. It filled in a lot of spiritual gaps, as did the other Upanishads. I found it intense and fascinating. The idea is that God Himself is speaking. He is explaining life, death, human nature, and how to escape the endless cycle of death and rebirth so a person can be with Him eternally. Fascinating. Simply fascinating.

At the heart of the Gita’s message is to see the Lord in every creature and to act accordingly. It urges self mastery. It makes the distinction between the Body and Mind, and what is the true core Self. It discusses the process of dying and what happens to us after we die. And it gives the purpose of life: to realize God.

Meditation is key. There are also other key ways to realize the purpose of life as well.

This was Gandhi’s favorite scripture.

There’s a lot here. It’s worth a second and third read. I can’t possibly cover all the high points; there are so many.

The introduction says the Gita is a “handbook for self realization.” I couldn’t put it any better.

The Upanishads

Introduced and translated by Eknath Easwaran,
Nilgiri Press,
@2007 by the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation,
381 pages.

upanishadsJust as my two great desires come head to head—that of seeing the world and that of staying safe and hidden at home, just as these competing needs threaten to derail me, I grasp this book in my hands. This book that, for me, illuminates so many of my own spiritual questions. This book that I had never heard of before and never would have picked up had I not been researching India. This great book with its incomprehensible name and seemingly impenetrable content. This book of that.

So, what is it? What are the Upanishads?

  • Utterances of mystical truth
  • Spiritual instructions
  • Commentaries on the Vedas, the ancient and sacred hymn collections (Samhitas) of the Indo-Aryans
  • Four thousand-year old texts
  • Distillations of spiritual wisdom
  • “Sitting down near” as at the feet of an illumined teacher
  • Inspirational writings
  • The teacher’s textbook
  • Descriptions of a reality that cannot be described, but only experienced
  • Teachings that all life is one
  • Numbering 108, although we don’t know how many originally existed; collections, such as this, usually contain ten “principle” Upanishads and sometimes a few”lesser” (as in shorter) ones are included
  • “Snapshots from the towering peaks of consciousness”

So, as you can see, there’s a lot there. And yet, these “lessons” are written in parable form and as thought experiments, and because they address the reader directly, they are easy to read. The message may be big, but they in and of themselves are not intimidating.

Please forgive me, because I may not get this entirely right. My impressions were as follows. The main idea is that all life is one. My life and your life and the dog’s life and the bird’s life, this thing that we call life is a unified thing. To us it appears separate and distinct. Most of us perceive life only through our senses of the physical world, and because of this, we think each thing has its own individual life. We don’t see life as a single entity, which according to the Upanishads, it is.

But, say the teachings, don’t take it from us. You must go and find this out yourself, and this is how you can do it.

You can experience firsthand what life truly is by exploring the four states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, dreamless sleep, and a higher state of consciousness that is indescribable—you can only know it by experiencing it through meditation.

In the climax of meditation, says Easwaran, “the barrier of individuality disappears, dissolving in a sea of pure, undifferentiated awareness.”

The Upanishads teach that the “Self” is not the body, but instead the “Self” is “Life” and “Life” is eternal.

I got the feeling that when talking about God and gods, we are in the difficult area of semantics. Since I’m coming to this work from the Christian tradition, I started noticing similarities between this text and what I’ve been taught about God in the Western world. The two traditions do not necessarily negate each other, but instead work to reinforce an idea or description of the Divine. And finally, the “Self” is divine. Divinity runs through everything alive.

Most of the text is more straightforward than this, but I liked the poetry of this passage:

Two birds of beautiful plumage, comrades
Inseparable, live on the selfsame tree.
One bird eats the fruit of pleasure and pain;
The other looks on without eating.

Forgetting our divine origin,
We become ensnared in the world of change
And bewail our helplessness.

I think overall this is a call to adventure, a call to experience, and an idea of what you might find if you look inward. Ultimately, it tells us that we do not need to fear for we are all divine. But, we will remain blind to our own divinity if we don’t seek to experience the oneness of life through meditation, self-sacrifice, living righteously, controlling the senses, and stilling the mind.

Oh, and this is a dangerous journey and you’ll need a teacher who has done this before.

 

Nov 26, 2008—Mumbai

I watched this video last night in horror and fascination. I think it’s interesting because at the end, one of the young men was caught and questioned. Getting some background him, how he was sold by his family into this situation, how he came from a poor village, how desperate his situation was because of poverty—these things were things I had not heard before.

While it’s horrific what these people did, we understand while watching that they were children and themselves unaware of a world outside of what they had been shown, and clearly dazzled by their first night exploring it, and seeing all its wealth. Did any of them have a horrible moment of realization that for the first time in their lives they were free and at that same moment forever enslaved to their fate?

I came away from this video thinking that there must be some way we, the targets of this random hatred, could prevent this type of thing from happening again, and again, and again.

Could there be some kindness that the world could bestow upon these desperate and ill informed people?

Poverty and isolation are as much enemies as are anything else. These young men were so clearly lost, so clearly were victims of their environments. I certainly don’t seek to excuse or forgive their actions. However, I do seek to find ways that these kinds of things can be eliminated from our modern lives. These boys were scammed. Their parents were scammed, and in this video it appears that Mumbai itself was scammed—and certainly taken for a long and tragic ride.

Were we to meet and talk, most of us would not hate. Somehow, puppet masters emerge among us, in the whole world, who make their puppets dance, and fight.

Let us find the ways to cut those strings!

iPhones in India – how does that work?

I’ve been told that for someone who knows basically nothing about India, the safest way to get around is via Uber or Ola. And this, it seems, is going require that I have a phone. Plus, I’ll want to coordinate with my friend and others may want to reach me.

The phone I use every day is a cheap Tracfone. I pay about $100 a year on  the phone. That’s not to say that I don’t drool when my friends pull out their iPhones. I absolutely do.

So, just as this trip to India has led me to buy tons of books, a few kurtis, a sari, a money belt, passport, some pantaloons, selfie stick, bangles, toe rings, an Indian style wedding ring for my right hand, the first Spanx of my life, safety pins, dc converter/charger, eyelash curler (pending other makeup, some earrings?, a petticoat, sandals, luggage, and a visa), now I am in the market for a refurbished iPhone.

Full Stop India is the very best site I have found so far for an explanation of how to situate yourself phone-wise in India.

Basically, India runs on GSM and CDMA networks. iPhone 5 can connect to GSM, CDMA, and CTE networks. You want to make sure the phone is “unlocked.”

Once in India, you want to purchase a nano-SIM card to avoid the hefty charges from your home carrier. Packages are available through Vodofone, Tata Docomo, Airtel, Reliance Communications, and BSNL.

Plus, there is something about how your nano-SIM card package will be tied to your visa. To purchase the SIM card, you need your passport, visa, and consumer application form, which requires a local reference, which can be your hotel.

The most terrifying Indian garment – the sari

You do what with what?

I bought my sari today, the one I think I’ll be wearing at my friend’s wedding. After much research, I decided to avoid the following colors: black, white, red, and green.

I figured that blue or teal would be safe. After searching about the Internet, I found MadhMama’s website who talked about the symbols of marriage, and then someone somewhere recommended Fabinda.com, and I fell in LOVE with the clothes there. For a moment I reconsidered my whole ethic identity. Indian clothes are so beautiful!

So here it is:

my-new-saree

This, of course, is not me.

The another question emerges. Will I need to hold my hand on my hip like that the whole night? What happens if I move freely? Because basically this is a very long piece of cloth wrapped around the body. The woman has a blouse on and a petticoat. So far, I have not figured out the shoes or the petticoat.

I have two months until the wedding, plenty of time to learn how to put on and wear a sari. Right?