Up at the sound of the ship’s horn. Still in my nightshirt up on deck to get first glimpse and smell of Bombay.
And I’m not disappointed!
Jim and I set off from the ship for a simple familiarisation tour, with a stop for lunch at a highly recommended South Indian seafood restaurant. Of course there’s the required photo-stop at the Gateway of India and the Taj Palace Hotel.
In 1534, Vasco da Gama beat me here (just as he did down in Colombo and Cochin where we’ve been this past week)! The Portuguese first built a fort in this area of simple fishing villages and traders followed. In the 17th century, Bombay was given to Charles II of England when he married Catherine de Braganza. Charles II in turn gave it to the East India Company.
We enjoy seeing the imposing buildings from British times in Gothic mixed with ‘Victorian-Bombay’ style, as we drive past the University, High Court, Victoria Terminus railway station, and then our visit to the old Crawford Markets, and on up to Malabar Hill (as all tourists do).
But two stops strike me more.
On one hand, I see the ‘Indian’ perspective of Modern History through the life of Mahatma Gandhi in a museum set-up in his old residence in a suburb of Bombay. I easily follow the excellent ‘Diorama’ illustrating scenes from Gandhi’s life that explain his message and mission. Right from when he was a Barrister-at-Law in South Africa and thrown from a first-class compartment through to his being incarcerated by the British for sedition, Peace Marches and Assassination.
Unexpectedly, I find the ‘British’ perspective well documented in ‘Memorials’ on the walls of the breezy wooden-shuttered St Thomas Cathedral. The decoration on these memorials is from the classics – ne’er a Christian cross or an angel to be seen. You could nearly re-write the history of the East India Company and British Military campaigns from a good afternoon’s reading on the walls.
In one, a rare tribute for a working person expresses wonderful sentiment for a late Mr Sparrow (will I ever attract such?): “. . . his private character was marked by for forgetfulness of self, steady and warm attachment to his friends, cordial and deep interest in the welfare and happiness of all around him . . . “
Now, it would not be a Michael post if there weren’t a nod to what he can eat! I can thank Shanti, who arranged the trip for suggesting the Trishna Seafood Restaurant in a back street of Old Bombay. I did the tourist thing and checked the website in advance.
The thought of crab always gets me, but it is the local pomfret fish, barbecued with a coating a freshly ground pepper and cooked in the Hyderabadi style that “does it” for me today. Delectable morsels of white flesh delicately done ‘to the turn’ and enjoyed with condiments – mint raita, red onion and coriander, and a squeeze of fresh lime. After taste and burn in equal measure. Sublime! (Postscript: I finish the little copper pot of Hyderabadi dal with a spoon, dodging the red chilli, as I almost slurp it to the very end.)