Originally, I had wanted to drive out of town yesterday, but then it was raining cats and dogs, so I just ended up going for a coffee at the Juhu Mocha with a Scottish expat whom I had met a week ago at the other Mocha in Bandra. I find myself going to Mocha quite a bit. Anyways, this Scottish expat is a teacher in training at the Mumbai Rudolf Steiner School, which is kind of interesting. On Wednesday she, her friends and I went to a club called Seven, which happens to be located in the sixth floor of a shopping mall. This club actually would have a nice view, except it was of course dark. The music was as usual total crap – why on earth people love Bryan Adams so much that they have to play three songs of it, is beyond me. But the crowd was ecstatic and sang along with full gusto.
Then yesterday I went to Club IX with our American Mumbai tour guide, her boyfriend and another expat from work. Club IX has equally atrocious music, but at least no-one is singing along and the place feels a bit like a Jugendzentrum – i.e. one of those youth clubs they have in Germany, Russia, and elsewhere, where 15 year olds (like me) grew up on beer, ping-pong and foosball (which we called kicker). It had plush brown couches and incredibly tacky paintings, but the Kingfisher was cold, and so what else can one ask for. And despite being called Club IX, there was no dancing.
So this morning I set out to drive out of town. It takes a good hour to actually get out of town, but then heaven starts. Well, at least there’s a real highway with three lanes in each direction, actual lane markings, and a surprising lack of potholes. This is the Mumbai-Pune express highway, and my little silver machine did a solid 120km per hour, no problem. I was tempted to go a little faster, but who knows what happens if you push your luck with a new Ambassador. I wanted to go to the first destination listed in the 52 Mumbai Weekend Getaways book, but of course the important directions are in Hindi, or maybe I am blind, but in any event I missed the exit to the road towards Goa.
So I drove to Lonavala instead. Lonavala is pretty high up in the mountains, and as I drove up, the rain and the fog thickened with every kilometer. When I was still in the plains, the views and the green were really quite fantastic, but here I was, crawling up the mountains to Lonavala. I guess if it weren’t for the fog and rain, the views from up there must be quite spectacular, but as it was, the view was gray. Nevertheless, the place was packed with weekenders. There’s lots of waterfalls there, and everybody just goes take a shower in full clothes. Truckloads of young men (hardly any women), singing and dancing next to their parked cars, drenched from the rain and from their adventures in the waterfalls and rivers.
The air was very nice and fresh, but the weather was too crap for any pictures. I had some chicken masala, which I think ended up being mutton, but what the hell. I was hoping to be able to sit down and continue reading Maximum City, but unfortunately it was a bit too wet and crowded. Maximum City currently is quite the bestseller – it’s written by a guy who left Bombay when he was 14, lived in London, Paris, and New York, and then returned 21 years later. So far, it’s great, because it really helps me be able to actually read the newspaper, as it gives a lot of context to the daily reports on the incredible extent of corruption, the Shiv Sena party (which is basically made up of thugs and religious extremists, and which rules parts of Mumbai), the slum lords (which apparently control the majority of the Mumbai population). Not to mention the currently almost daily riots by commuters who are fed up with the non-functioning railway service, so they frequently start attacking railway workers, block trains for hours and wreck all kinds of additional havoc on a weekly basis.