Tag Archives: mumbai

please don’t feed the elephant before we get on the plane!

when i left manila, i was astonished at the wealth disparity.  across from my hotel room window was a river and across the river, a town made of buildings that were constructed in the most creative ways:  strips of tru-link fencing, corrugated steel, bed linens, plywood.  as i approached the water’s edge to get a better picture, a security guard (policeman?) advised me to not do that.  there were others living on “my” side of the river.  but the guard didn’t stop me, instead he watched over me.  if pictures are worth a thousand words, this is but a few.  the memories are going to stick with me.

this isn’t to say that life is not good for some residents. i saw kids playing basketball and a man offered me a ferry ride but he might have been asking me to go fishing with him!
on the other side of the hotel was my son’s joseph view–a manila business district to rival new york, london, or chicago.  we left the hotel and made for the airport.
i wanted to take this bus to the airport but my son joseph insisted on a cab. kids are no darn fun these days!
we first flew to malaysia and then into mumbai well past midnight.  i was exhausted, but first we had to go through immigration, customs, a security check, and then joseph got shook down for “tips” from two gentleman who gave us directions to our cab and who took his backpack.  at the airport, the cab was checked for explosives and our bags went through a conveyor belt.  our bodies were wanded and then inside the lobby our passports were taken for an additional scanning.  i think india is at war and just doesn’t want to admit to it.
i met f2fb friend #234 anto prashanth and #235 rahul guru when they worked for taskseveryday.com which is an outsourcing company in mumbai.  i wanted to devise a website.  it didn’t work for me and i ran out of money but i did end up with two friends.  unfortunately, rahul was unable to get a day off to see me and i got the impression that the american way of having paid days off and sick days and whatnot just doesn’t cut it here.  rahul sent anto as his emissary.  anto met me and joseph at the hilton mumbai where we were staying.  i picked the hotel because it was the closest t the airport and i recognized the name “hilton”.

the hilton mumbai is so fancy i felt like the romanovs had added an extra princess: tatiana, olga,maria, anastasia, and now arlynn!


if you didn't get to take an elephant or a tiara back from india, would you settle for anto prashanth?

anto asked me if i wanted a souvenir from india.  i told him that memories are the souvenirs i like to take with me, but that i wanted an elephant.  something to ride in winnetka that would tower above the landrovers and the escalades.  later, i fell asleep,  part of the forty eight hour circadian cycle.  i didn’t know this but anto went out and bought a wood elephant for me to take back a little bit of india to winnetka. 
i hope anto and rahul (and anto’s wife, of course) will come visit me next in chicago!  both anto and rahul work in american oriented companies that do work that one might call “outsourcing”.  they are our new middle class.  so they will have the wherewithal someday, if not now, to travel to exotic places like chicago and winnetka!

manila is not a disaster and now one of my facebook friends is down an appendix

when i reached manila i was feeling completely dead to the project.  it was impossible in january and no less possible in october.  i had traveled all  the way to the phillippines via korea and taiwan only to find out that f2fb friend #243 mark bitanga del rosario had appendicitis and couldn’t see me.  a wasted plane trip, a hotel, a new city, another exhausting day of cabs and trains and figuring out the right line at customs and immigration. 

and i would have failed at meeting a friend.  i was coffee-d out.  my son joseph was relentless about whether i knew the exact location of the cab to take to the air port because he had heard from a friend of a friend who had been to the phillippines that it was a dangerous place.  no, i didn’t know the exact place where the taxi driver would meet us because i have never been to the phillippines — and right then i didn’t want to go to the phillippines at all. 

i checked into the hotel and it was beautiful.  manila is such a place of  contrast.  the view from my window was a shanty town, built with fencing, plywood, strips of corrugated steel. 


joseph’s room faced skyscrapers and luxury brand shops.  and we were just across the hall from each other!  as i put down my carhartt’s utility bag that has been my luggage, the hotel room phone rang.  a miss nona was waiting downstairs.  i rushed for the elevator.

so many things on facebook are not what they appear.  we put on a good face.  we put on an entirely false face.  we hide what we don’t like.  we proclaim accomplishments that may not exactly have been our own.  i have found out this year, for example, that my f2fb friend #54 InDaLoop is not actually a female rapper from brooklyn, but is a white dude f2fb friend #53 richard “mop” furniss.  and i have had one contretemps when a friend in san diego failed to advise me that he had a girlfriend, his girlfriend that he was going to see me, and three months later she googled his name and KABOOM! 

so i didn’t know what to think about mark’s appendicitis episode.  or his wife being in the lobby.  and yet, this was a case in which everything was as it appeared.  he had taken ill on monday evening and was operated on.  he is in hospital for at least another day.  he remembered that he was seeing me and my son yesterday.  he sent his wife with a present–a charcoal portrait that is called “shaman” but which bears a striking resemblance to fritz leiber, jr., my grandfather the science fiction novelist.  both mark and his wife nona are fans. 

nona, joseph and i had a few drinks at the hotel cafe–there is a specialty drink which is thick juice with a carafe of pure corn syrup on the side.  then we went to a stationery store to buy a nice “get well soon” card.  difficult, since manila is in full “christmas decorating” mode. 

we were treated to a johnnie rockets’ “spontaneous” dance show!

and then we made a special video, nona and i, for mark! 

then it was on to kuala lumpur and from there to mumbai in a scant fourteen hours of flying and standing in lines for customs, immigration, security, and then customs, immigration, security again.  i slept so soundly on the plane that i couldn’t sleep this past evening and i have started to feel ill.  i worried yesterday about seeing mark and now today, i worry that i won’t be able to see my friends anto and rahul simply because i am so sick.  i regret the prescriptiosn for antimalarial serum that i didn’t fill and that typhus serum that i  left in the refrigerator unopened.  or maybe it’s just the fifty one years catching up to my itinerary.  around the world in less than 18 days is almost as crazy as top to bottom alaska in less than 96 hours.  who does that stuff?