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Night Falls Over Mumbai

October 24, 2009

The moonlight glitters atop the water, illuminating shadows one ripple at a time.  As I exhale, a cloud of heat dilutes in the frigid air.  The tranquility of the evening is tainted by the eerie silence blanketing the world around me.

 Closing my eyes, I thought back to the scorching heat of the Mumbai sun.  After all, it was just yesterday when I was bathing in sweat at midday.  I had gone to a stretch of wall to paint for the Mumbai wall project.  It was the second initiative of its kind, and the basic idea behind the concept was to revitalize, and bring life to otherwise overlooked areas of the city.  Countless volunteers had arrived from all over and even some passerby’s were picking up a paintbrush to contribute.  Some were aspiring painters, others were highly talented beyond belief, and then there were those who get around to using a paintbrush once a decade.  I fell into the last category, as I’ve only used a brush once since art class in school.  A couple months back, a friend of mine had a house warming party where he invited everyone to add a dab of paint to his cabinetry. 

 The wall project was to commence at 8am until early afternoon.  After kicking myself for sleeping in, I arrived in proper Indian Standard Time at 1pm.  I was lucky to find a small patch of wall – sandwiched between two others – to claim as my own.  With whichever paints and brushes were on the floor nearby and no foresight into what I was painting I began to literally splatter colour on my concrete canvas.  This was what ensued:

 
The spontaneous introduction of the bleeding moon signified the battle the sun has with the moon each day before falling to the mercy of the night.  In the foreground, Mumbai’s Sealink can be seen which navigates the location of the painting to Mumbai’s shoreline.  Symbolically, that would have been my last night in Mumbai as my morning would be spent waking up with Kashmir. 
 
It was only a couple days earlier that in a moment of courage, I booked my flight to Kashmir.  This would mark the commencement of what may very well be the most ambitious journey I have ever undertaken in my life.  Although my itinerary is flexible and likely to change on the fly, my rough roadmap is depicted below:
Roadmap

The Insanely Ambitious Roadmap

Upon landing at the military base of Srinagar, the army presence is deliberately intrusive.  I had practiced bargaining phrases on the plane as I had yet to arrange accommodations.  I had envisioned the conversation to pan out like this:

Hindi

Me: Houseboat Kitna Hua? 

 Person: $$$$ 

Me: Nahi, Bohot Zyada hain! 

Person: Blah blah blah 

Me: Kam karo!

Person: Blah blah blah

Me: (walk away)

Person: Follows saying, “Blah blah…”

Me: Ek Hazaar, Khana ke Saath.  Nashtha aur Raat Khana.  Teek?

English

 Me: How much is the Houseboat?

Person: $$$$

Me: No, that’s way too much!

Person: Blah blah blah..

Me: Make it less!

Person: Blah blah blah

Me: (Walk away)

Person: Follows saying, “Blah blah…”

Me: One Thousand Rupees, Food Included.  Breakfast and Dinner.  Cool?

 

Instead, the friendly Indian, who I met on the plane stole my spotlight and manhandled the situation landing at the desired rate of 1,000Rs.  The drive from the airport through Srinagar was shocking.  Every street corner had an entourage of heavily armed soldiers standing post.  It was enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand tall.  The drive concluded at Dal lake, where I would have to take a boat to the houseboat where I would be staying.  With the backdrop of mountains, the still waters of the lake and the boat ride through a maze of houseboats was enchanting. 

At last, I arrived at the Victorian styled lake retreat known as Dar Palace.  It was a family run establishment, and since there were currently no other guests on the houseboat, I would have a personal chef at my service.  In theory, the idea sounded kingly, but in practice the meal never did sit well.  

Nonetheless, I sat out on the deck and began to write…Stay tuned!

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