Sunday, November 25, 2007

With apologies to Emily Ku, I have a new best friend: couchsurfing.com

Alternative trite title: "I've always depended upon the kindness of strangers"

Tessa's friend Dave Sears turned me onto a great web site: www.couchsurfing.com It's a network for travelers around the world to hook up with local people in a new city and stay at their place. I signed up for it in Amritsar to try to find places in Mumbai. I emailed about ten people and I think almost all of them got back to me within a day or two, mostly with "I wish I could but I'm out of town". However, two people came through: Hemdeep Singh said he could take me for the weekend while Pratsut Subba said he would take care of us starting Sunday night. It fit our schedules perfectly and both looked like cool guys. We set up the details and headed to Hemdeep's house after our first day in Mumbai.
We took the commuter train north about 45 minutes. It resembles Metro North except that everything's metal and wood inside, there's no doors and they crammed on so many people that some hung outside with just one hand on a rail while the more adventuresome traveled on top. We caught an autorickshaw (glad to have them back after the cabs of the city) and found his place in some funky cool looking apartments on Film City Road, close to a lot of the Bollywood studios. Even this far from the center of the city, the area maintains a density similar to Brooklyn. If you took the train this far in NYC, you'd find giant suburban houses with big yards. Here you are still surrounded by high rise apartments, lots of people wandering around at all hours of the night and the ubiquitous food stalls selling things I have yet to identify but are usually tastier than they appear.
His sister let us into an apartment filled with magazines, newspapers and a great hanging chair in front of an amazing view. Our beloved host (pictured) came back from his work in Pune soon after with his cousin Depender (sp?). They immediately broke out the liquor and that suited me fine because I had a gift of Punjab whisky for them even though observant Sikhs do not drink alcohol and I was worried I might have gotten the wrong thing. Luckily, they liked the gift, more because it came from the heart of Sikh country than for its quality. We started sampling spirits, arguing politics, telling stories and swapping lies. In spite of my dog tiredness, they gave me a second wind and we stayed up until 2:30 talking loudly and interrupting each other often.
We spent the next day sleeping late and resting while Tessa fought off her flu. I watched some of a key cricket test match (5 days long) against Pakistan but still could not bring myself to enjoy it all that much. However, I do want to try playing it because I feel I would be a natural at it. Luckily, I often think this and my astounding memory seems to easily fuzz over all the times I proved myself wrong. That night we all went to the beach.
We arrived after dark and I really enjoyed the scene. Hundreds of people milled around the dozens of small stands selling food, men shot glowing blue parachutes up into the night sky and these crazy lit up robots that read your future by playing a prerecorded tape. Unfortunately, some bug started hitting me hard there and I couldn't enjoy the people watching as much because of some nausea, lethargy and an annoying headache. We eventually wandered off the beach to a seafood restaurant so Depender could try some crab for the first time. Tessa and I kept it light and just had some excellent hot and sour soup but this big old Sikh packed away a ton of food. They told me this is how Punjabis get so big and strong because they eat and drink like this all the time. Most importantly, I will forever be indebted to Depender for giving me my Sikh name: Lexsinder Singh (all Sikhs are called Singh but not all Singhs are Sikhs, it's not often rules are so lyrical).

And for the crazy Indian pic of the day: some guys working on scaffolding by Hemdeep's building. It's just bamboo tied together by rope in a one dimensional lattice. If you know anyone in OSHA, please send this to them. For extra fun, tell them you took it at Trump's new building in Manhattan.

6 comments:

Emily said...

Ouch. But it's not the first time I've been replaced by a website, and it is nice to be in a title. I'm so proud of you. Yes, I felt a little nauseous when I wrote that. Love, emily

Anonymous said...

Hey Lex and Tessa...Aunt Cindy here.I am really enjoying your entries. We all are! Just got back from our Thanksgiving trip to the beach, and everyone seemed to have a really good time.
Anyway, Lex, you need to get to a homeopathic phamacy and get Arnice cream and tablets for your foot. Use the cream a few times a day and take the arnica pills by dissolving them under you yongue every few hours. It will heal the sore area faster than anything else. Keep taking the ibuprophen for sweeling and/or inflammatioon.

Anonymous said...

Whoa..it was really late and I didn't use spellcheck. Plus I can't type. Anyway it is arnica. And I forgot to say no heat on the foot, only ice. Aunt Cin

Colin said...

I like your new name. When I read your blogs I get the feeling like I am experiencing new and magical things myself. Your writing is turning out well. Keep up the adventure brother.

anna said...

Last night I was driving home from Philly and I thought whoa I havent talked to Lexy in awhile. So I called you and then remembered, oh right, india. But it didnt sink in because later I went to send you a text message and thought wait a second you cant read them cause your screens broken. and then again remembered damn india.

Alaina said...

I wish I were there! You guys seem to be having such an awesome time---minus the sickness and injury.