Love Letters

Today we were walking around the Hanging Gardens in Malabar Hill, supposedly one of the poshest areas in Mumbai, wondering what it is that made someone decide they should be using metal penguins everywhere as trash cans in the garden. There were penguins everywhere. It was good to see that there were trash cans at all to begin with, but then again, judging from the trash people were throwing across the fences of the garden, we presumably weren’t the only ones who couldn’t quite understand the penguin thing. We also didn’t quite get to see what makes Malabar Hill so posh, so off we drove, further down to Colaba.

After a number of detours through tiny streets downtown, we gave up in the silly idea of finding a parking space downtown. This was after we have been having a coffee, when a bunch of kids came to us screaming very excitedly about something or other. It turned out that they were telling us that the cops were about to tow our car. I had never seen a tow truck in this town and had sort of dismissed rumors about the cops actually towing cars, so I have been getting into the habit of parking anywhere where I didn’t seem to obstruct traffic too much. But there they were, a bunch of guys in blue overalls, plus a smiling cop who actually spoke English, about to tow our car.

Of course, there was the usual back and forth and here and there and give and take that is the regular mode of communication for us. The cop wanted to see my driver’s license and I showed him my New York State license, as I had done in other occasions like these (there had been two of them, both times for being on my mobile while stuck in traffic). In this case, however, the cop didn’t simply look at the NYS license, only to decide that he can’t be bothered to deal with me, but instead he asked what country I am from. I didn’t want to confuse him too much, so I simply said, well, New York is in America. Somehow I came to understand that they wanted me to pay 100 rupees fine at the Dadar police station. I really wasn’t in the mood for that, so I asked him, ok, give me a receipt and I pay you. I don’t know which part of that simple suggestion did the trick, but somehow the cop then decided that he can’t be bothered after all, so he just told me to park elsewhere and left. So I parked the car right next to another No Parking sign, but this one was in a dead end street, and that was good enough, I suppose.

Of course, the kids who had warned me about my car being about to get towed were very eager to get their tip, and I thought, ah well, I really never give money to kids, but in this case, they did a good job, so I gave them two rupees each.

Anyways, so downtown there was no parking of course, except that there are a few official parking lots that cost something like four rupees an hour. By that time we were absolutely starving, so we went to Indigo, which has very good Italian food. Well, the salad and the wine and the quiche was great, the pasta was pretty bad. As a special treat we had the slightly doubtful pleasure of sitting right next to a big table of Westerners who were surrounding Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram, which is currently one of the two must-reads about Mumbai (the other being Maximum City).

After that we went to the National Centre for the Performing Arts to see Love Letters, a play by A.R. Gurney. Their parking lot had a big sign about being full, but this being India, we knew that such things don’t mean anything, so when we asked the parking lot attendant whether we can park there he said but of course! We quite liked the play, actually. Well, first we didn’t but it got a lot better. But what absolutely boggled our minds was that at the end, during the very final monologue of the very good male actor, right in the middle of his quiet tender speech, there were not one, but two people from the audience who walked out. With loud steps, one shuffling her feet, the other clicking her high-heels. The poor actor’s eyes followed one of them as she was making her exit from the audience, and I don’t know what he was thinking, but we just couldn’t believe it, because, well, it was just un-fucking-believable that people would be so incredibly crass and rude to make that sort (or any sort) of exit during a final quiet scene of a pretty good play.

It was really quite amazing. I mean, this wasn’t some kind of improv theater in a garage, tickets were relatively expensive and people seemed definitely upper class. But with all the crotch scratching and spitting everywhere, the car honking from behind in standing traffic at a red light, the blatant staring and Hello foreigner! wherever we go on the one hand and the obedient Yes, Sir! Thank You, Madam! one the other hand, these two walk-outs really get the first prize in our Incredible India Awards.

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One Response to Love Letters

  1. Sushil says:

    Hey there,

    Loved your account of dirving and parking in India. Hilarious and so true!



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