Friday, January 18, 2008

Mumbai, City of Dreams

“So,” Roland said last March, strategically from Stuttgart, “how do you fancy living in India for a year?”
“No,” I said, peering through the gloom of a wet car-park in Melton Mowbray. “No. Absolutely not, not ever, no. Never.”
Our apartment in Mumbai is on the thirty-third floor of a charming if dusty block called Verona, from where we can enjoy the sights and sounds, if not the smells, of the city below. We moved in this afternoon.
Our driver is called Jamil. He comes with the Innova, which he drives as if it were a part of him, squeezing into gaps where I would hesitate to park a domestic stapler. He has beautiful eyes, a boyish smile, and about four words of English. That is four more than my Hindi – bravo, Jamil - but the situation is not promising.
Mr Francis from Housekeeping comes to do the welcome spring-clean (sadly post not pre our arrival), and offers to cook dinner. We come home from the mall three hours later, eagerly sniffing the air for some fragrant clue. All we can smell is Lemon Cif. The marble floor is clean enough to eat off, but there is nothing to eat off it. “No food!” says Mr Francis, beaming. We haven’t eaten since breakfast with Jet Airways, and are now beginning to look on Lemon Cif with some favour. Apparently the arrangement - clear to Mr Francis but not to us - is that we buy the food, he cooks it. Tomorrow, we will have our gastronomic introduction to the City of Dreams. Tonight, we dine on baked beans.