Tuesday, March 31, 2009

3 Nights: Marriages. Freedom & Shoe Shopping in Mumbai

Asking why anything happens in India is like wondering why anybody believes in religion; you may find your average person, anthropologist, or guru to give you an answer, but everyone avoids the topic and nobody can tell you for sure.

Mumbai was my final destination in India, and wow, did I need the break! Finally a city with the Asian atmosphere, but freedom of Singapore. Well, maybe Singapore with a twist. The first night we saw Valkryie in the theatres, where they refused to sell me a can of pop. Going the cautious route, I was trying for a cold drink with no ice, but legally they can’t sell it over the MSRP for the particular amount of mililiters, so they only sell it in a glass.

Check out the slideshow below for pictures of the Elephanta Caves, the hotel destroyed by terrorists in November, and Mumbai's beaches.

Hanging out with Rajat was a highlight of my trip; someone that could understand my perspective, culture shock, and share a couple nights out on the town. From the wine bar to a club where Bombay's movie stars hang out, to an open air lounge that reminded me of Singapore and Montreal, we partied the night away.

I also got my share of inside information from Neha, on the different "levels" of arranged marriages. Interestingly enough, there are families that don't even allow the couples to meet outside of their homes (or with their brother's present), and a family or two that might let their kids pick matches for themselves. The norm, however, especially in the upper middle class, is to match based on these criteria: 1) Money 2) The Families get along 3) The Caste 4) Astrological Compatibility and 5) What key family members think. So, if you're trapped...your best bet is to get your brother on your side!

Shopping in India is an amazing mix of markets, stores, faux clothing, real designers and export stores where tagged, labelled Banana Republic clothing is about 90% off. Not to mention the "flying shoe stores". Twice as packed as the Town Shoes on a Saturday in West Edmonton mall, these stores hold racks and racks of shoes and purses, both of which you cannot touch. About 10 sales people are ready to help you as you race to find a spot on the benches to sit down. You point, verbalize exactly what you're looking for (good luck if you're just browsing!), and they proceed to yell commands to the men in the stockroom, on the second floor. 2 minutes later, you have your choice of shoes they place in front of you. They don't fit? You want a different style? The salesmen throw the shoeboxes up (literally, they throw them) through holes in the ceiling, and catch back the alternatives thrown down at them. Don't think you're leaving without buying something....

Stelletos, a "flying shoe store" in India.


We ended our trip with a February 28th weekend in Kent, England, to celebrate my grandma, Jhaiji's 80th birthday. Just a small family party, with a random orange tree as a gift, and an atmosphere that made me wish Europe was home.

Sapna & Sonia Jhaiji & Sunny

Uncle Steve & Tina The Orange Tree Nia, Sapna, Sonia, Jhaiji

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