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Bombay (Mumbai)

Much has been written about the city of dreams…and now ….my Bombay. Where does one begin …the flavors, the scents, the sights, the transport system, the seaside, the old colonial buildings, the slums, the street kids, the nightlife, the glamour kids, the art scene, the festivals, the food….where do I begin? Buzzing with activity, ‘zing’ being the keyword here, and ‘zest’, a veritable feast for all the senses… is Bombay. Colaba, I have always loved with its old buildings and its streets lined with vendors in makeshift kiosks selling beautiful silver costume accessories, colorful scarves, sandalwood elephants, carved boxes and paper knives, and large colorful dresses for the tourists from Africa that flock to buy them. Attention and vigilance, even as your eyes indulge the pretty things on display… for the little street urchin that would pass you by and could relieve you of your purse. The thick smell of attarbased perfumes in their round-bottomed longnecked thin glass vials compete for attention with the aroma of toasted sandwiches. If you are walking the street at sundown, these scents are further accompanied by the smoke that starts within the pubs like café Mondegar and Leopold and (like they show you in the cartoons) dance their way out into the street …now completing the peculiar ‘Colaba street smell’. There is so much more to the experience of Colaba and the street I just described is just the one on the right that starts at Strand and ends at Regal Cinema…I must now mention Café Churchill with its exotic iced tea and Tiramisu and Kailash Parbat the restaurant that serves hot steaming samosas(the north Indian snack filled with spicy potatoes), thick delicious lassi( a yogurt-based sweet cold drink ideal for the Indian summers), and mouthwatering gulab jamuns (a brown dumpling looking kind of sweet served warm in sugar syrup)… On the curb outside Kailash Parbat stands the vendor selling every possible type of paapad one thought possible … (paapad – a thin, dried flat round shell, delicious when deep-fried and eaten by itself or with an Indian meal. It’s normally rice-based and dried out in the sun for hours and hours) ‘Martins’ was another foodie stop that served hot sausage chilly fry, vindaloo, chicken curry, and rice… favorites of many a starved friend!!!. I loved best its stewed apricots with custard. Visiting the shoe shops and window shopping for carpets and other beautiful Indian artifacts are what the tourist might want to do. Me, I would just walk the street, listening to the opera that starts to unfold as the vendors start to call me … someone plays a song on the jukebox in one of the cafes and I hear the strains of Hotel California, the all-time everyone’s favorite. I stop and look at the books …there is a Sydney Sheldon and a cookery book vying for attention alongside the latest Harry Potter and computer and interior design magazines. I keep walking, listening to the rhythmic buzz that makes the theme song…past the shop with the beautiful lacework, past the enchanting little church, past the cinema. I linger and stop to check out the latest movie running … now I turn right from Regal and start to walk toward the sea ..and the charming, great stone Gateway of India. As I sit by the sea, sipping coconut water out of its shell, I watch the pigeons and the little boats that take people for a ride on the water or to the Elephanta caves. I share this wonderful five-star view with all the inhabitants of the exotic Taj hotel who are booked in ‘rooms with a view’. Happy to just be a part of the experience.