Friday, 6 March 2009
47 degree temperatures and raging bushfires. Melbourne's experiencing nothing of the sort at present. Today felt like a typical Melrose spring day, never above 15 degrees and perfect for cycling. Or at least the bit of the day I experienced - woke up this morning at 10:45 after nearly 14 hours sleep, can't remember when that last happened. The Qantas flight from Bombay wasn't very restful, not least because at one point a woman fainted and collapsed on me and needed emergency oxygen. Would like to pretend I did my white knight impression, but don't think breaking her fall and summoning the cabin staff qualifies.
I'm being hosted here by Colin, another upstanding member of the couchsurfing community, and a guy whose generosity goes way beyond the call of duty. Also a film and SF geek who can match my memory of obscure movies and best-forgotten cult classic novels blow-for-blow. He has the edge on me on Role Playing Games, as he's still an active player, which brings back my teenage years. I STILL can't believe Alan Purves was secretly the Android in Mike Jones 'Alien' re-creation....
But I should say more about India. I at last saw Slumdog Millionaire on the plane from Bombay (it was embarrassing not having done so before staying with the chap who shot much of it, but Mrinal was very nice about this!) and there was lots from the film that I recognised from my stay, including the huge water pipes around which entire slums have been built (see photo), with attractive mosques (and temples, and surprisingly many churches) in the background. We had dinner on my last night with several other people from the Bombay film world, during which I learned lots of dirt about Bollywood celebrities which I sadly have no use for. Mrinal also took me to a Buddhist 1st millenium Monastic Cave Complex, very impressive, though like many of Bombay's attractions, poorly presented for visitors (I don't just mean European ones) - pity they don't make more of an effort. Even more impressive is the huge National Park the caves are in, in land-hungry Bombay the pressure to surrendur this to the developers must be huge. It's full of leopards apparently though they're hard to spot, there's certainly plenty monkeys for them to eat (see above for 3 of the less camera-shy). Other random impressions - answering nature's call in the middle of the night, avoiding a meditating Indian in the darkness, then tripping over his cat; lots of new fruits - do they sell papaya in the UK? it's excellent; and Mrinal being stopped by the cops for running a red light we hadn't seen (50 rupees is the going rate for persuading them not to make an issue of this) following which we stopped obediently at the next one and the motorbike behind us shot straight through it in the most blatant way possible.
I'm glad to have experienced it, and would go back to other parts of India, but even with the fantastic hospitality I had, a week is about my limit in a place as intense, hot, and crowded as Bombay. Plus India's best defense against foreign invaders is still keeping me much too regular, and I acquired some non-too-fetching spots (this blog is warts'n'all...) on face and hands which may have been heat or allergy-related. Appearance was only thing affected, they weren't even itchy, and almost gone now, but still very unwelcome!