Double Bed Cabin Near The Back
Overnight Bus Ride
Mumbai to Jodphur
Somewhere in Space
9th April 2017
Dearest and Favourite Aunty Margaret,
When we were called at 9:50am this morning to be advised that this bus was now leaving at 10:25am as opposed to its scheduled departure time of 11:30, we had to get our Mumbai skates on. Typically Indian that. We feel very lucky to have made it on board.
Bandra was our date night location for our final night in Mumbai. The preferred, ‘happening hotspot’ for the stars of Bollywood, we were hungry for some Bollywood bling. It turns out it’s mostly a place where Indians with privilege take the opportunity to treat Indians in service like dog shit; valet parking, ‘Bring my chicken over here,” “Clean my table.” “Dust my ego.” This kind of social-hierarchy bollocks. And it plays out constantly here. In traffic jams, in bars, buying vegetables, arranging transport. When I get them to clean my bum hole etc.
Whilst walking across a bridge in the city last week, we saw a woman washing a baby by the side of the road. The baby was new born with its little umbilical chord still bleeding. The baby had been born amongst the traffic. Directly opposite a hospital too, albeit a hospital for those with a cheque book. This woman did not look like she had a Barclays Premier Account. Every day we see remarkable and tragic sites. I swear that we could see the brain of the woman with a hole in her face where her eye should have been. The less than one foot tall man with no distinguishable torso melted to the train station floor. Limbless victims of the Mumbai bombings. A huge percentage of the street dwellers are beautiful young women too. Many with naked children.
It is fantastically dirty here. Men chew, ‘paan’. It’s a mixture of plant bits and bobs that produces a euphoric high. It also produces the most disgusting phenomenon of constantly projected reems of voluminous brown spit to be dodged at all costs. We see huge rats everywhere. Dead rats are torn apart by funky gaggles of crows. Dead crows feed the dangly-titted stray dogs. Cows nose putrefied mutton biryani from the open sewers. The bass of cows wretching is a common backdrop.
As horrifying as many of the sites are, magic is everywhere. Women dress in the most fantastic saris. Even to beg. Huge flying foxes like real men in paragliders move between the mango trees in the suburbs. Shelves and mirrors are hung from the trunks of rain trees to create a road-side barber shop. Feral kids squeeze games of cricket into impossible nooks, yards, corners and corridors. Goats wander into banks. There is constant, often illogical activity. We love it.
Entering our fourth month in this chaotic land we have had experience of; Chennai, Pondicherry, Auroville, Amma’s Ashram, Fort Cochin and a myriad of sun-kissed locales throughout Goa. Our favourite discovery has been Keralan breakfasts; idli, dosa, appam, iddiappam, uttapam and uppma. Collette suffers from IBS and she is dairy, gluten and wheat intolerant so we will look forward to integrating these rice based dishes into our lives as we move onward into our ever more blessed futures. In fact, we have been conversing upon an idea for an all day Keralan breakfast and yoga joint on our return to Blighty.
Oh! Happy Birthday for yesterday. I do hope that you enjoyed your gazzilionth Birthday. I am in no doubt that you will be seeing the fam at some point to suitably lubricate. I saw some photos of you in Holland recently. It looked a hoot. It is usually a hoot when the three witches conspire.
It has been a pleasure to bask in the time spent thinking of my Aunt Margaret. Collette has also been writing next to me so we are enjoying some relative peace on this bus in the last thirty minutes compared to the insanity of the world outside. It was my intention to post a letter to you but they don’t seem so much into that jazz here so I’ll email this to one of your trio of squids when I get to Jodhpur.
I love you my wonderful Aunt. Thank you for your kind words of support and encouragement for this trip when I saw you in December. I look forward to a family get together in 2018.
Lovely to think of you on this wobbly bus.
Hello Ms Margaret of Peters,
Just a little postscript from me. Isn’t he a wonderful writer. It’s been such a privilege to read and write and have time and space. To be in each other’s company and see the world. We’re currently in the old city of Jodhpur, sat in a café next to an ancient Step Well, 180ft deep. It was recently discovered after peeling back layers of plaster and draining the well of stagnant water. Unimaginable beauty was waiting beneath, which resonates deeply with me as we move beyond the stand still and create a stepchange in our lives. Lucky buggers that we are. Sending love from the desert.