Hi Folks,

Writing from Mumbai where we’ve been for just over a week now. Far more ordered and clean then Delhi, I am surprised that it is not the capital of India. Traffic that stays on the correct side of the road, less senseless beeping and the sight of outlets of familiar chains such as the likes of pizza express set in picturesque buildings hailing from the British raj are all welcome aspects of the city. It generally feels so much more western and developed in that sense than anywhere else we’ve visited in India so far! As a consequence however it is also much more expensive. Having said that value can still be found in local joints so I was pretty happy to find one of the best value dinners I’ve had anywhere in the restaurant opposite our hotel – a thali consisting of 2 tandoori rotis, a bowl of rice, some dahl, 2 vegetable sabjis, raita (yoghurt with cucumber), pickle and some sweet, milky semolina pudding for a grand total of 80 rupees i.e. less than a pound!

There is the small matter of the slums I suppose which hold the city back in some sense and there’s certainly no hiding the fact that you’re in India despite the western facade that exists in places. Public places are still multi-purpose and act as rubbish dumps come public toilets to service the whim of the impatient civilian so sights such as a woman lifting up her sari and crouching down for a piss in the middle of a station platform or a beach in which the sand is barely visible underneath the layer of rubbish washed in from the polluted bay cease to surprise me. The slums themselves speak of the way that they have grown organically around existing permanent structures or onto abandoned railway lines using whatever materials are readily available to the inhabitants and in ways which apparently defy the law of physics by the way in which shacks are haphazardly piled one on top of the other to surprising heights!

This is chowpatty beach… or should I say dumping ground.

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Back on a positive note, one of the things I’ve been relishing in India along with the flavoursome food is the silky, smooth chai. I don’t know if it’s down to the milkiness, the particular Assam tea blend they use or just the fact that each cup comes laden with sugar but the tea in India just goes down so well at any time of day.

And besides from drinking chai I’ve been practicing sarangi a lot and further developing a little obsession for Indian miniature art of which the fabulous Prince of Wales museum in Mumbai has a nice collection.

As you can see the paint and gold work is so fine!

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