This past winter I went to India and it was an interesting trip. The anxiety that built up before going was far too tremendous to bare. This was the first time I would be traveling to India without my immediate family. I've traveled there several times, every time with at least my dad to give me company. This time I went alone in that respect, but I was not alone. I was travelling with my cousins and five-year-old niece. To add to my anxiety, I was constantly pestered by my household to stay in my paternal village of Mota, Gujarat. But this a topic that I'd rather not delve into out of respect. Thanks to the good graces of a business associate, I had the privilege of crashing at a 2-bedroom, chic apartment in Juhu Mumbai. This was by far the most modern (and western) living arrangement I'd ever seen in India, and I consider myself to be somewhat a veteran of examining Indian homes. A large 50-something-inch flat panel TV mounted in the living room, hooked up to a Blu-Ray DVD player and an XBox, none of which I used because I was just happy enough knowing it was there (and because none of it was mine).
I had recently begun reading the book Shantaram by Gregory David Robert, a book which in its opening takes a detailed look at the unique world and underworld that is Mumbai. I was only about five chapters in at the time and learn a lot about Mumbai and it's sights, so when I landed, I wanted to see everything. This business associate had a hired driver on duty to deliver all of our inter-city travel needs, which came in very handy to quench my thirst to live the book. We checked out the Leopold Cafe, and old bar and restaurant that the main character frequented with his colleagues. We drove past the numerous, high-end clothing boutiques on Marine Drive and right by the Gateway of India, the Gateway boat terminal overlooking the Arabian Sea, and all of the world-class hotels surrounding the gateway.
When looking back at the city as we drove back to the apartment, across the Bandra Worli Sea Link (a new, huge suspension bridge that connect 2 major parts of the city over Mahim Bay), I saw a side of Mumbai I'd never seen before. There were huge buildings. Lots of them. Everywhere. High-rises as far as the eye could see, from horizon to horizon. I've traveled to a lot of great places, but never have I seen the spectacle of such an expansive city.
Each time we landed Mumbai before this, we'd stuff all of our luggage and selves into an uncomfortable van, immediately after walking out of the airport, in the wee hours of the night, to face a four-to-six hour drive to the villages. What was our hurry? Why did spit in the face of such an amazing city, only to inconvenience ourselves further on this already-tiresome journey. Yes, the villages of Gujarat are our final destination, but what do the villages have to offer that is so enticing? The answer is nothing. Furthermore, the answer is weddings. Stupid, senseless and recklessly-long Hindu weddings in India.
The three-to-seven day ordeal of absolutely nothing that is the modern Hindu wedding in India (or Gujarat, at least) has been drained of any spiritual significance by those of us Indians who no longer reside in India. These weddings are now about clothes, gossip, and show-boating a family's alleged wealth. The vast majority of us have emigrated to the United States and other amazing countries that are not half-way around the world (namely the USA, Canada, and UK), yet we flock back. Every year. In large hoards. It simply makes no sense. Especially when both the bride and groom are from the United States, but that is yet another issue I won't go into out of respect.
We moved to villages after spending a few days in Mumbai. There isn't much to be said about the rest of my trip. Here are some pictures!