When I finally found my luggage, I went through customs and out of the airport terminal to find my ride. There were so many people standing just outside the airport door that I could barely make my way through. There were people waiting to pick up friends and relatives; travelers rushing to make flights--not at all concerned about who they trampled in their rush; cabbies trying to get customers; men, women and kids of all ages, tugging at my arms, selling food and little trinkets. And, all of this was going on in the pouring rain. The water was about ankle deep and it was coming down in buckets. It was also so hot. I was completely soaked in about 30 seconds from the rain, and from the sweat puring down my face. I finally managed to find the car and driver I had prearranged, but only after saying no very forcefully to about 20 other drivers. I wrangled my soaked luggage into the tiny car, and we took off. Immediately, the driver started gesturing very excitedly and was telling me something in Hindi that I couldn't understand. He was waving his arm towards the back of the car where I was sitting, and pointing to the floor, all the while driving much too fast in the pouring rain and weaving in and out of traffic like we were late for a funeral. I finally figured out that he was warning me to watch my feet, as there was a big hole--the size of a dinner plate, in the floor of the car, about 2 inches from the toes of my shoes. I could actually see the road underneath us, and every time we hit a puddle, filthy water would splash up into the car and over my feet, legs and skirt.
After the first couple of days in Mumbai I started to come out of shock., perhaps facilitated by the wonderful food. Many Hindus are vegetarian, so India is a veggie paradise. I fell in love with curries, the Yak cheese, and the fresh roasted corn sold on the street. The produce was amazing. The sweetest watermelons I've ever tasted. Mangoes, just plucked from a tree. And the limes! The limes were so fragrant that I would buy bags of them, sprinkle salt on the cut halves, and suck the juice out. When I was leaving India I guess I didn't check my backpack very carefully, because I got busted at US Customs for some limes buried in the bottom of my pack.
One of my daily treats in India was Lassi--a simple yogurt drink that can be savory or sweet. I like the sweet version best. So, whenever I'm pining to be back in India, I make myself a mango Lassi. I would love to get back to India in the near future, but right now the animals need so much care it's pretty impossible to take a major trip. Hopefully soon though...
Here's a mango Lassi recipe from a really neat vegetarian blog: http://www.paajaka.com/2008/07/mango-lassi.html
Not mango Lassi.. but Mango the cat!
****The mango photos and the photo of Mumbai are from Wikipedia.