Friday, May 25, 2012

The Art of Mehendi

Mehendi - one of the most beautiful art forms I've ever experienced. Traditionally applied to brides (contrary to rumor, I did not get married in India), this mehendi was quite different from the Arabic style I had last time. This was so intricate, almost lacy in appearance, yet it took the ladies approximately an hour and a half to complete front and back of the hands and forearms of two people.

There is something so striking about these designs. It was all free handed by the artists. Absolute creativity. I am told the darker it is, the better. These pictures were as it was being done; however, on me there are parts of the palms that get nearly black. Nearly a month since having it applied, the darker spots on my palms have faded away completely today (5/25).

I am not someone who likes drawing attention to myself, but I do love the attention I get when I am adorned with such incredible art.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Deja Vu

Ahhh what a day and night; highly reminiscent of my first trip to Mumbai. Because Christina had never been to India, I wanted her to experience some of the same places I had been afforded the opportunity to experience. So we hit all the old familiar places and I saw all the old familiar faces.

And how lovely all those faces are...some of those that were with me the first time, weren't there this go round. Jimmy couldn't make it. Manish, who is no longer part of the team, couldn't make it. However, Dipesh, who left the company in January, came back to say hello. We did have some new faces: Farida, Kiran, Ajaz, Asif, Sneha, Vijayendra, and Mahesh.
Returning for the fun was Palak, Prashant, and Charlotte.
Colaba Causeway and Leopold's were just the way I remembered. It was hot outside, but the beer was nice and cold. The snacks were tasty. The sellers were bargaining and selling, the vendor in front of Leopold's still had the glass lamps that I love.

The walk to the Gateway was amusing as we stopped at food cart so the gang could buy something stuffed into what looked like green leaves and for some, whose names I won't mention *cough Palak and Prashant cough*, to buy smokes. Then I was nearly trampled by a horse and carriage. However, we did make it to the Gateway unscathed.

It's such a massive, imposing structure. But beyond that, the crowd there was HUGE. We clicked all kinds of pictures. Granted it wasn't Bollywood Nights like last year, but there we were with our teams smiling and laughing. There is something about the Gateway to India that draws me like moth to flame. I could sit and stare at it until the dark of night. But we had places to go and things to do. So we moved along.

Marine Plaza, the seawall, lights from the stadium where the Mumbai Indians were playing. What a great time. We sat around chatting for a bit. I actually at some street mangoes with something sprinkled on it...let's just say I ate it very carefully. A lady with her monkey on a leash. Vendors selling silly things. Someone bought the flashing horns. They were really cute. Shortly after the horns, I was give a strand of the most fragrant flowers to wear in my hair. Brides wear these flowers and the scent is supposed to be seductive to their new husbands. I can tell you the smelled amazing.

As the night was drawing to a close, most folks when home but 5 of us went to Koylas. Oh Koylas, I have been dreaming about you since September. It was every bit as good. Sure, I missed some of the folks from the last time we were there. But the food was still amazing and the company delightful.

Just when you think it couldn't get any better, Charlotte talked us into Sukh Sagar. Devine! Mangoes topped with a whipped cream...could have eaten a dish by myself. There is just no way to describe it other than perfectly delightful.

Then it was time to drop everyone off and say goodnight. It was another great weekend in Mumbai. The city never fails to fascinate me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

There and back again...

I returned to India in April nearly 7 months after my first trip. What a difference 7 months makes. Things have changed in that span of time and I have had to make peace with all of it. I cannot say any of the changes have been easy to accept, but when it's out of your control, there isn't much you can do.

Had a great trip this time in Business...sure beats where all the commoners are, I mean coach. Wheels on the 'Bus (Airbus that is) went round and round then touched down and the water works started. I have no idea why. Maybe the 25 hour trip (door to door) finally got to me. Maybe it was traveling alone; which in a way, was a great thing. Maybe it was the odd Indian man with his Celine Dion fetish for "Because You Loved Me" who was snapping, clapping, and chair dancing. Maybe it was the odd sense of returning to a place that felt almost as good as home.

Breezed through Immigration and Customs towards the moment of truth, stepping outside the airport. Hit with an immediate blast of humidity and heat. A glance around at the people lining the barriers. Drivers holding sign with hotel or personal names. I find the Renaissance sign and deja vu. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome is asking my name while the driver is taking my bags. A quick jog, and I do mean jog, and I'm at the car. He cranks the A/C, settles the bags in the trunk, and hands me a bottle of cold water. Thank you!

And we are off.

The sights, the sounds, the different but so familiar. Horns, crazy drivers, throngs of people, wandering dogs, and my cell phone which has picked up service but won't let me dial home, and then we are turning up a familiar road. It's still lined with rickshaws and dogs. Nearly there. We're at the gate and this time there is a beautiful brindle boxer "bomb" dog. "Good evening, ma'am" as my door opens and shuts. The gates open and we drive through. Yes, I know this place well. A left turn and we're making our way up the drive to my "home" for the next two weeks.

I am greated by a lovely lady who tells me that they have been waiting my arrival. I am skipping check-in at the front desk and going directly to my room. Before that happens, I am given a traditional welcome and get smudged with red powder on my forehead. A welcome letter from the general manager, a voucher for a free beverage. My suitcase brought up. A call to room service. A call to let my family know I was there safely

Oh Bombay, I fell in love with you last year and I am back. Back to soak it all in, back to see my friends, back to work my fingers to the bone, back to try and make a difference for my teams. Back to meet and love the people you put in my path. Back with open arms to embrace all you send my way.