After eating a hearty breakfast of omelette bread, literally an omelette wedged between two slices of bread, a banana and masala chai, which is a strangely refreshing blend of ginger, cardammon, tea, hot water and milk, we made our way to the impressive ….museum.
Not only was the landscape picturesque, but the building itself contained some impressive architecture and interesting exhibitions. Walking around its large interior, we were taken through a history of India's spiritual, religious, agricultural, medicinal and textile…development,and shown an array of different animals that inhabited the country. Far from the box room of wooden spoons displayed at the Chertsey Museum I was forced to look round on a school trip in year six. With apologies to the curator.
Having spent a couple of hours in the...Museum and gorged on the biggest waffle I have ever seen, complete with honey, seeds and various fruits, in the quaint, health conscious Khada Ghoda cafe, we trudged slowly in the 35 degree heat to the Gateway of India, Mumbai's most famous attraction.
Though only a gate, built to welcome King… from England in…, The Gateway of India is actually pretty impressive and well worth a visit. Particularly as it is stationed in close proximity to the famous Taj Palace Hotel, accommodation that will set you back something like £500 per night. Far from the £6.50 p.n shared dorm we had left in the morning.
As we took in the sights of Mumbai’s harbour, a new, unexpected attraction came to our attention: us. Preparing to take a photo of Alice I noticed that a row of cameras were being pointed in our direction and before we knew it, a line of Indian men, women and children had formed, tourists who, having never seen a couple of white people before (being from the countryside), eagerly awaited an opportunity to take home evidence of their having come across the very rarest of sights. As the majority met us with meek and respectful smiles and gestures, far from the stares we had endured the day before, we were happy to oblige all requests and assume our role as the hot, sweating and shoddily dressed, low budget version of Brad and Angelina. Though I should say that, despite how cute they were, I was not moved to adopt any of the children we encountered.
It was during our time at The Gateway that we met a man who was to become very influential in the composition of our Indian itinerary. Approaching us from across the square, the man, who we later learned was called Dilip Sharma, tried to entice us into booking a tour of Mumbai with his company. After some time of polite but firm resistance, Dilip finally left us and we ventured to the harbour wall, confident we had finally put the matter to bed. We were wrong. Thirty minutes later Dilip was sitting down next to me, informing me about the immediate area and the people currently in it. Such was the length and breadth of our pleasant conversation, we felt assured in his company and asked him to show us where the famous restaurant…was situated. He agreed, but not before he took us to a visit a friend who owned a local shop. Before I knew it, I was standing head to toe in clàssic indian dress being told i should moßt definitely purchase it because I looked the spitting image of Mahàtma Gandhi.
Claiming to not have enough money with us, we eventually escaped the shop and decided to take Dilip for a drink, seeing as he had devoted so much of his time to us. He took us at to a local tavernin which we talked about our respective lives in England and India over a few Kingfishers. Liking the man, we also agreed to come on his tour the following day. Having not touched alcohol for three months, Dilip left the place a little worse for wear and Alice and I laughed as we watched him stagger off to his friends. But four hours after having started his pitch, Dilip had made his sale. The Indian power of persistent persuasion had prevailed. It wouldn’t be the last time.