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A Gateway, a Synagogue and a Museum in Mumbai

Last Saturday I arrived in India for the first time. A conference was on my schedule, but since this was my first time visiting this country I decided to do some touristing around Mumbai. Unfortunately it’s monsoon season, so it’s been an incredibly soggy trip. I joked that coming from drought-ridden California, I was coming to visit in order to get my rain quota met for the year. Mumbai didn’t disappoint.

This first day my plan was to meet up with my friend Nigel Babu, who I met in the Ubuntu community. Our real life paths first met at an Ubuntu Developer Summit in Budapest, and then again a couple years ago when he came to my home of San Francisco for a conference. It was really nice to finally meet in his home territory. He picked me up at my hotel, and we took a drive over the Bandra–Worli Sea Link, a beautiful bridge that links the hotel where I am staying with south Mumbai. Once over the bridge, we stopped briefly to check out the views of the sea, but the rain drove us back into the car pretty quickly. It was then south to the Marine Drive, or Queen’s Necklace. That’s where I got my rainy day picture taken, before we stopped for some snacks and Masala chai at a nearby hotel cafe.

Our journey continued south, where we first walked to the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, the 2nd oldest in the city. I had been clued into the existence of this synagogue by a friend of mine who had visited a few years before, and the description of the place in my tourist book cemented my desire to go. The whole building is turquoise, and that bright color extends to the inside of the building. It was a quiet day there and we were the only visitors, so they welcomed us inside and allowed some picture taking.

The stained class inside was beautiful, but the damp climate definitely was taking a toll on the building. One of the more interesting things to see in this Sephardic synagogue was a marble slab on the wall near the ark that had the 10 commandments, not in Hebrew or a local language, but in English. They had a little gift shop and I picked up a small Haggadah branded with their location as a keepsake of my visit.

More photos from the synagogue here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157671835673625

From there we walked down to the Gateway of India, where we got an all important selfie.

Visiting there also offered a nice look over at the lovely Taj Mahal hotel (not to be confused with the Taj Mahal in Agra). As a tourist attraction, it was worth seeing, but there’s not much to actually do by the gateway, so we quickly were off to our next stop, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India.

As my first full day in India, it was nice to visit this museum. I like museums, it gave Nigel and I some time to chat, but also gave me a wonderful view into the local culture from a locally curated collection. Most of the museum was casually air conditioned, so walking through the galleries was not challenging, though I did enjoy the select galleries that had strong air conditioning. The galleries had an interesting mix of very old Indian artifacts, statues, weaving, weapons, as well as some paintings, furniture and more from the colonial periods. I enjoyed the relationship between these galleries in a building that itself was from the colonial period.

Ganesha statue at CSMVS

I bought a photo pass, so lots of photos from the museum are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157668844045884

By this time evening was creeping up and we had dinner plans. We stopped for some hot chocolate and then got exceptionally lost as we looked for the local friends we were meeting for dinner. We did make it eventually, and had a lovely, if late, seafood dinner at Gajalee. The adventurous day, heat and humidity, and jet lag were eating at my appetite, I tried everything but it wasn’t a big meal for me. Good company though, I got to meet Mehul Ved from Ubuntu India for the first time!

The conference then took over most of the rest of my week, but I was able to sneak out to the Taraporewala Aquarium between amidst the rain storms on Friday. The aquarium was redone in 2015, but it still couldn’t really compare to the world class aquariums I’ve grown accustomed to, both in size and cleanliness. I’m pretty sure most tanks in aquariums are cleaned around the clock to keep them looking spiffy. Still, the building is beautiful and I did enjoy seeing a sea turtle and the sea horses.

The entire week was also accented by amazing food, most of which was unnoticeably and unintentionally (for me) vegetarian. Most mornings I began my day with Masala Dosa with Sambar, except for the last when I went with Poori Bhaji, along with watermelon juice and a cup or two of strong coffee. I got some fruit flavored ice cream (jackfruit and watermelon) and the conference introduced me to the near-candy dessert, Jalebi.

Perhaps the crowning meal of my trip was at a vegetarian Thali place (largest picture below), where we were served endless little cups of food, which when accompanied by various flatbreads was a deceptively large amount of food. Given my love for animals, I rely upon cognitive dissonance to keep me a meat eater, since vegetarianism is still a challenge to pull off in the US and have the satisfying diet I want (a salad is not an acceptable vegetarian option). If I were living here and had the array of amazing food that’s vegetarian it would be a no-brainer. The only challenge for me here was the spice, which my stomach is not at all accustom to. Even ordering everything extremely mild, my antacid bottle was never far away, and I might actually go for some bland foods upon returning home.

Saturday I hired a guide through the hotel concierge and saw a whole collection of other places, but that’s for another post. More uncategorized photos from my adventures including ones the following weekend that I haven’t written about yet here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157671033977871/