Gandhi Jayanti, etc.

The view from our sitting area in the Taj Hotel
The view from our sitting area in the Taj Hotel

By the time I had slept after twenty hours in transit from Boston, through Frankfurt, the streets of Mumbai were coming alive for Gandhi Jayanti. It is early October and post-monsoon, with the temperature in the mid 30s and the humidity around 97%.

From our hotel window: the India Gate at sunset

After spotting the beautiful Rebecca mam at the crowded reception outside the gleaming Chhatrapati Shivaji international airport we load into a car from Pune and in less than an hour are settled in the grand hotel on the waterfront near the India Gate. In the morning we are out on the busy streets and Rebecca mam, in one of her many  beautiful Indian salwars with duppata is cool and, apparently, collected while I sweat profusely trapped in a body in transition to wool socks and frosty New England fall mornings.

Outside the Mumbai High Court

Mumbai is a city of twenty million people–one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. The steamy streets are pushy with people and bikes and rickshaws and cars. After an hour we make our way through security below the grand buildings of the Indian High Court. We then dip into a courtroom or two to observe the proceedings. There are advocates in robes of all ages and the rooms are packed full, standing room only, with fans spinning above massive paper bundles of files stacked everywhere— on tables, in front of the judges, under the arms of the advocates, and in front of the small podium where the advocates stand to give brief statements. Rebecca has just completed moot court for hundreds of Indian students with hopes of entering the legal profession; and, watching the proceedings here, she comments that this is one of the reasons she  she offers them the challenge of legal thinking and making oral arguments. Each advocate gets very little time in front of the judges. Each word matters.

Looking down at the courtyard and advocates after visiting busy courtrooms

Another evening in an air conditioned hotel and the Indian food I am always missing when I am not here leads to another day of sweltering heat and humidity. My second day in Munbai is Gandhi Jayanti (150 years) and we are jostling with hundreds of others to get on a boat to cross the waters of the harbor about 11 kilometers to Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, to spend some time in the famous caves now protected as a Word Heritage Site. The sea passage is relatively cool through the couple hundred meters of vertical climb up the hillside to the caves is brutally hot, and by the time we reach the cave level near the top of the hill we are once more drenched in sweat. The 5th and 8th century cave carvings are spectacular, though, and we spend the afternoon wandering in the cool rock hollows below the carvings of Shiva, as well as Parvati, Shiva as Ardhanarishwara (half male and half female), among other panels that chronicle the great god.

Hotel, courtyard and pool
Rebecca on the second floor of the old hotel
Shiva carvings in the caves at Elephanta Island
Rebecca and Mark with a guide who grew up on the island

When we return to Mumbai we have enough time to head back out onto the streets to sweat once again, though we find a duffel bag for our law distinguished law professor’s many havings (gifts, fabric, clothing, and so on). Then a quick swim in the pool and an 8 PM taxi through the crowded streets of south Mumbai to the domestic airport where we board a late night flight to Goa. We arrive at the Vasco-da-Gama or Dabolim airport where we are picked up by a driver who takes us south to the small coastal town of Cavelossim, in the South Goan district of Salcete.


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