The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense. --- Tom Clancy
Day 65 MUMBAI, INDIA
Nothing prepared me for India. The books I have been reading, the people talking or the lectures. Mumbai ’s expansion has been rapid, from fewer than one million in the 50ies to more than 18 million now, and the city suffers from growing pains. Sight, is such an important component to my education of India. Yes, there are millions of horns blowing and the blowing of the call for worship, but the sight of the masses of people walking , constant moving cars, bicycles, motorcycles, cabs, all on the wrong side of the street. The poverty is overwhelming. Shanty towns everywhere. Children begging, old ladies calling you sister, touching you and trying to sell you something and the men following you to sell you post cards. Bill hated this part of Mumbai. The worst was when they would bang on the car windows and beg for money, making a motion of eating with sad eyes. The guides tell you not to give then anything, and we didn’t, but it was very hard. Give one and the city will be standing next to you with hands out and those sad, sad, eyes.
People were very polite and helpful however very crooked. Everything you bargin for and then when you think you have reached an agreeable price, everything changes. Of course to their
advantage. Cab drivers are notorious for changing fees, even on the way. Glad we are doing mostly ship tours. Before we left home we had to buy a three month Visa for our visit to India.. In our on board mail box came a letter that we have to fill out yellow and green cards. All guests going ashore in Mumbai must carry their yellow dock entry permit, as well as a photocopy of our passport photo. At the end of our stay we have to turn them in. I really think the red tape authorities like to come on board and stay the two days. Air conditioning and showers in exchange for passengers going ashore. That was our introduction to Mumbai. All worked very smoothly and everyone came and went without incident.
The smog hung over Mumbai as we sailed into port. The sun tried to shine but the smog was so dense that it never really burned off . Of course the heat and humidity added to the smog and the blast of hot air when you opened the verandah door took your breath away. Mumbai Harbor is the premier harbor on the west coast of India It has over 50 berths with modern equipment for handling general cargo vessels, container ships and tankers. This has been the busiest port we have been in. others have been busy, but this morning as I drank coffee and watched, lots of ships were coming and going Everything has a red rusty cast to it so I assume a lot of iron ore and iron in the ground. They have a small boat, looks like a fishing boat, painted very bright colors and in the middle they have construced what looks like a little house. I assume they must live there, very colorful.. We leave the clean air of the ship and face the 95 degree heat and pollution of the city.
Our first tour was the Highlights of Mumbai. We went to the Prince of Wales Museum. The grounds were beautiful, green and lush and a few flowers blooming. I enjoyed seeing the stone diety carvings and stone stautes that the professor lectured on. Even recognized a few on my own. Having the recording in a good English helps enjoy what you are seeing.
We drove past the Gateway of India, Taj Mahl hotel and Victoria Terminius.It was morning rush hour and we watched the fantastic swarm of office workers coming out of the train station going to work. The trains have cars for men and cars for women. Now there is also a complete train for women only. Women don’t want to ride in the crowded cars with men because of groping. The sidewalk was full of people from one side to the other. Women and men do not walk together. Men in dark pants and long sleeved shirts and women in blouses with pants or saris tied in there traditional way. Remember the women do not cover t heir middle. On some that is quite a sight.
How the cars, buses and motorcycles ever made it to where they were going on time and in one piece is amazing.
Next, Ghandi House. Ghandi lived here during his life in Mumbai. The Mani Bhaven is a place where Gandhi lived and conversed with his colleagues, moulded the nation in the image of his cherished ideals of truth and non-violence and inspired his followers who went forth with a sense of service and sacrifice.
In a room is a exhibition in mini figures depicting the life of Ghandi. Most touched by the one where he is holding his dying wife in his lap. They were promised to each other in childhood and lived out there lives together for 67 years through both good and terrible times.. I hope my pictures come out.
Dhobi ghant, was next where washermen wash huge amounts of laundry picked up from all over Mumbai, to be soaped, soaked, boiled and beaten.. The whopping sound you hear as they beat the laundry adds to the sights you are witnessing. They pick up your laundry, wash and iron it and return it in two days. All this is done outside. Each man has his own tub and he washes the clothes by beating it against the cement side of his wash tub. This business is handed down father to son. They have to pay for the water and space. The women are ironing under the tarps they have erected. I think some of them must also live there. Somehow they mark the clothes and return them to the correct owner. White sheets were hanging in one corner of the area. Filth all around and these white sheets flapping In the wind.
Quite a sight. Very hot, lots of beggers and an even a cow or two. Unreal… They service people who still do not have water or washing machines in their homes. Now that is a thought when you are on a World Cruise, how would I like having my laundry washed like that. Grateful for your own way of life.
By this time it is noon and the dabawallahs, Bombay Tiffin Box Suppliers Association, are delivering lunches to office workers. This service has been going on for many,many years .A Tiffin box is a multi layered round tin box. I would say around 6 or 8 inches in circumference. You leave your packed lunch in your own personal Tiffin Box at home, the dabawallahs come on their bicycles, pick up your lunch and delivers your lunch to your office. Quite a sight to see the different types of delivery bikes. Also how each and everyone has its own personal mark. People have tried to study how it works so efficiently but so far they have not been able to commericalize it. Still left to the personal touch.
Back to the ship to rest and be ready for our night tour.
Tonight we did Mumbai by night. If I thought there was a lot of traffic during the day, evening was twice as much. Seems the traffic just keeps building all day, I don’t know when it quiets down so it is easy to drive. I would never, never attempt to drive here. We drove along Marine Drive with its glittering lights, known as the Queens Necklace. Sort of a hokey tour but I always like to see a city at night and this made it possible. People, people, people everywhere. Going, coming, shopping, eating, talking on there phones, or staring at us like I was staring at them. Worst was the people sleeping on the streets. Men alone but women with there children in a circle. They hung there laundry on walls and fences. Washed themselves and there clothes in dirty running water. No wonder disease is rampant here. They have stopped serving buffet in the Lido untill we leave Mumbai to try and keep all the stomach bugs away.
Fell into our Cabin. Clean and Cool. Doesn’t feel small tonight when you compare your life with theirs
DAY 66 MUMBAI INDIA
Elephanta Caves , our destination this morning. The morning is very hot and humid, but the bus is airconditioned. So here we go. We took a hour ferry ride from the Gateway over to the Island. We had 3 Indian men trying to sell jewelry all the way over. Their arms full of jewels. Fun to watch them and of course people were buying. From the dock we took a mini train ride to the bottom of the Caves. There are 125 steps up to the Temple, SOOO Bill took a sudan chair to carry him up the stairs. This alone was a unique experience. Just like in the old days, a chair nailed to rails carried by four men. The cost was 12.00 American. In true Indian style they did not take him to the top which we had agreed to. I walked the 125 steps and looked at all the stall shops along the way. At the top our guide told us the Temples were carved out of rock and date back to between 450BC and 75AD. .In the middle3 Mahesamurti, a triple headed statue that shows all three forms of Shiva, as creator,preserver and destroyer. All around the walls were a series of intricately cut scenes from Shiva’s life. They were very large and impressive. Amazing that they could chisel the stone and more amazing that they were preserved in such good condition. Very, very hot in the caves.
Lots of monkeys jumping around. They love stealing your coke cans. We watched one monkey pick up a can of coke and drink it out of the can. People just leave them on a ledge and the monkeys chase each other for the coke. Try hiding in the trees while they drink.. Cows, goats and chickens are free to wander around.
On the way down I bought a few neclaces. Have to look the part when the ship has Indian night dinner. The hour ride back on the Ferry had 3 different men selling necklaces. Looked exactly the same as the first salesmen and what I bought on the steps of the Caves. We left the group at the Gateway and did a little shopping around the Taj Hotel. Took a cab back to the ship in time for Sabbath Services
I feel so far from home after hearing the news about baby Campbell Rick. We know that Ann Ruth and Jim will give Rick and Carri all the love and support they need. We are a strong family circle. Our arms reach around each other though we may be far away and our hearts are forever intertwined.
DAY 67 MORMUGAO, INDIA GOA
We arrived to the port of Mormugao to the sounds of horns blowing, roosters crowing and the call to worship from the Mosque that sat on the hill.
Lois Jack, Bill and I hired a cab for the day and took off for Old Goa. We thought we made a deal with the Cabbie for air conditioning and a cost of 80 dollars for the day. We were no more than 100 yards away from the ship when he said we would have to change cabs. Seems one pays for a pass to enter the dock area and all the others wait out side the gate. there is a dispatcher so everyone takes turns. Everything is a business and everything is corrupt.
Enjoyed going out away from the port. The cities are really overgrown villages. Stopped at a old catholic church with a Portuguese Jesus hanging on the golden wall. I have never seen a statue of Jesus look like that. I will have to look it up when I come home.. Some new housing, not to much manufacturing. Fruit and sugar cane sold along the road. Everything is old and a few shanty towns. The driver kept saying that outsiders live in those areas not Goans. Can’t buy all that, but if he says so, so be it. They blow there horns just like in Mumbai. Driver said it helps the accident rate. Drivers know what to expect and trucks have signs that tell them how and when to blow horns. The roads are narrow and very winding. Hardly room for one car and of course there were many more coming and going. A pleasant way to end our days in India. Stopped at a grocery store to buy coke. That was some store. The size of a closet, but clean and they were painting the walls white. Trying to be modern and clean. Paid 3.00 for 5 diet cokes. His big sale for the day.
Turned in our pink cards and we are ready for Sail Away.
DAY 68 AT SEA
Another journey begins along the Malabar Coast. We are heading to Malaysia.
Our new guest Speaker is Aileen Bridgewater. She hosted Hong Kongs longest running English daily radio show. She was very good plus very interesting in all the people she has interviewed. This is a new leg of our journey so we also have a new chef on board. Paulette Mitchell. This afternoon is the open class and in a few days she will be holding classes.
In the late afternoon we went to the Movie to see Old Dogs with Robin Williams and John Travolta. Dinner and then the evening entertainment was Opera Interludes.. Another full day at sea.
DAY 69 AT SEA
Our second speaker is Adrian Cooper.He is speaking on the cultural and political histories of India and South East Asia.
New book today. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. A story set in China.
Tonight’s entertainment is Larry Hagman. Our entertainment has been quite diverse.
This has been a hard week for me, so I am going to try and rest today and tomorrow. India was a lot to digest and I guess I am still thinking about it. I don’t know if the people really know the definition of truth or reality. Would I want to return? Maybe.
My Amaryllis bulbs are blooming. I think this is my first success ever. I have four blooms on one stem…YEA… the other stem is almost ready. One at a time makes them last longer. Always have flowers in our cabin.
DAY 70 AT SEA
Cooking class today with Paulette Mitchell. She is know for her quick to prepare healthful recipes. We learned to cook Indian food that was not to spicy and sort of easy. A variety of foods are usually served at a meal finished off with a very light dessert. I liked some of the food and others were a little to saucey for me. I really liked the smoothie.
Set our watches ahead again one hour. Today I really can’t figure out what time or day it is. Maybe tomorrow I will catch up on the hours we are losing in the afternoon.
Tonight was Indian dress night in the dining room. Before dinner there was a Fashion Parade on stage in the Queen’s Lounge. I can’t believe how many people participated. Everyone showing off the new outfits they purchased somewhere in India. Cruise
Director Bruce had quite a Maharajahs outfit on. I hope my picture came out. I bought a beautiful jacket that I wore. Lots of fun. Never a lack of something to do. I will miss all the social activity that goes on all day and night. If you are looking for company, someone is always around. Tonight Bill went with Jack to the show and I went home. I am behind on my reading, writing and needlework. So busy all day. Just think I haven’t cooked, cleaned or driven anywhere for 70 days and still am running out of play time.
Another week has come to an end. This one full of new countries with all their different ways of life. People look different and have a different value system.
Even tho they look and dress different, they still have to eat and have a roof over there heads. The poverty will be hard to overcome. Such a big difference between the haves and have nots.
WEEK ELEVEN KUALA LUMPOR
You who always knew my heart now fly above the clouds in the warmth of the sun. I hope one day we will soar together.
In the beginning of Bills and my courtship I fell down and broke my arm, in the end Bill drifted away from me in those same arms.
My words are not capable of telling the story of how happy we were on our 70 day magic carpet ride. We sat and talked about our children and grandchildren. How lucky we are to have such a wonderful family. Each and everyone doing what they enjoy most and being of service to their communities. We couldn’t ask for anything more. Bill loved us all unconditionally. No greater love than that.
We talked about our old friends who thought we were crazy for embarking on such a long journey, we thought they were crazy for staying home and not seeing the world. Talked about all the tomorrows that now will
never come. The new friends we met on ship were all multiple, cruisers and readers. They exchanged books and army stories. They taught us how to see and experience each and every port we docked in. It is hard to imagine if you have never been on a extended cruise how quickly friendships are made. Our tablemates were complete strangers on day one and good friends on day 70. Traveling off shore together and talking about doing it together again.
Awh, then came that terrible night when Bill woke up in terrible pain. I knew I was in trouble because he was willing to go down to the hospital. They did all they could to make him comfortable and it worked until very early Thursday morning. He had a very uncomfortable night. We docked on Thursday morning and nurse annie and dr. walley decided that the best thing was the hospital where they were better equipped to make him comfortable. It was not to be. No matter what they tried they could not stop the discomfort.
In the mean time the staff on the ship helped me pack up our cabin and I went back to the hospital. What a outstanding team they sent, efficient and loving at the same time. The care that everyone at Holland america gave us was incredible. I have not had to be alone for one second making the red tape work. The port man, Komar and his nephew jenard kept by my side every minute. The funeral director moved me through every step of preparing and releasing Bill to me and ultimately home to Akron. Their strength and knowledge sustained me through the first day. Komar and Jenard drove, Mr Bob Wong the funeral director was kind and firm. He stood his ground until every form was filled out and every paper signed and in order. We waited through prayer hour, hospital not having the proper forms and finally release from the police station. That night they took me to Alans apartment and I was grateful to be in the care of my family.
If ones life can take a fairy tale turn in the mist of all this sadness mine did. Out of all this caoss came our nephew Alan. He was my spoksman, implimentor and guide. Most important was the love he showered on me, gentle, kind and firm. From walking through Kula Lumpur to placing me on the airplane he planed and lead me with kind words and deeds.
Kula Lumpur is beautiful and modern. The twin towers breathtaking. We sat and reflected at Alans favorite spot in the garden and a beautiful black and white bird came and talked to me. He was very large and sang and sang and sang.
My plane ride home was perfect. Alan arranged to have escorts take me from ticketing in KL to customs in LA. Someone was there to guide me all the way. Staci met me in LA and flew the last leg with me. I knew when she huged me I was going to make it home.
The complement of people that have touched my life in the last week and brought Bill and I home to akron were god sent. My family ,our friends in akron , the emails from all over the world are very comforting
Bill and I often spoke about death and dying. We prayed for it to be quick and the surviving spose to stand tall and to keep the family we worked so hard for to be a strong team. Everyone knows we always wanted a bench at the cemetery so you could come think about all the wonderful times we shared and to call us and tell us the news. Please don’t forget him and always stop and tell him the gossip in the city.
This week has come to a end. I don’t like the subject matter or the port Bill has journied to. In our 57 years of marriage I never doubted his love, his courage or his wisdom. We walked the path together. Now I must walk it alone, he will always be the bird on my shoulder.