Monday, December 31, 2007

Adventures in India 3 - The City That Never Sleeps (and Doesn't Let Me Either!)

Mumbai is definitely an city of contradictions. Suketu Mehta was right to dub it the Maximum City. Everything is maximized - the wealth, the poverty, the newness, the ancient, the noise and pollution.

Beggars sit on the pavement outside the secure gates of the palatial JW Marriott hotel. I have moments of disorientation as I am in a clean, air-conditioned store buying candles and artwork, and then jolted back to reality as I step outside to the filth and noise that makes Mumbai.

Annika is a bit overwhelmed by the city. We went to Gateway of India and first stopped at the Taj Hotel. Then, we left and walked around Colaba and shopped at the street vendors. We snatched up some good deals right there, but beggar children target the tourists. We had to scold our kids to stay close and not to wander off in a crowd. We all had to dodge traffic and crazy drivers.

We returned to Taj to use the restrooms. Annika commented, "We started here. We went to the other world and now we're back here." It is a different world.

Annika and I found some comfort food - Mumbai McDonald's. I had a paneer salsa wrap, which was great and she had Chicken Maharaja, which had chutney and onions. That did not fly with chicken nugget girl. I munched on a french fry and sipped my Diet Coke, as a Billy Joel song played in the background. I needed to recharge.

The other day she lost it after a long car ride in the city and we've decided to limit her excursions. She'll be spending more time with family instead.

I'm not a city girl. I've worked in New York, but always slept in New Jersey. These days, it's quite cool here in the evenings (60-70 degrees?). So, I find the fan unnecessary and we get quite cold.

I open the windows and there are trucks backing up, car alarms going off, people talking and shouting, horns honking. I just don't get it -- where is everyone going all the time?

There are a few hours of silence - my guess is between 3 and 5 am. Then, at 5:30 or so, the birds wake up. My daughter was amazed the first time she heard the koyil and it's unique birdcall so early. In addition, there are crows and pigeons fluttering about the windows - perching for a moment inside the windowsills. Then, there's a distant sing-song call of the roaming vendor announcing his vegetables for the day. These are the sounds that make the city and India so unique.

In the morning, there's also a burning sensation in my eyes from wood fire stoves outside. Another reason to keep the windows closed.

Today is New Year's and there are crowds making a pilgrimage to the SiddhiVinayak Temple. It is said one should walk barefoot from home to the temple.

Annika and I will be leaving for short visit to Gujarat to take a much needed break from the city.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Adventures in India 2 - Servants

Just about every family has a servant at some level. A person comes to cook, clean, wash or anything. This is common in a lot of developing countries, since it provides jobs to the lower classes. Behind every worker is a family that is supported by this income. It's not deemed a "luxury" as it is in the US, but a necessity, part of the economic structure.

Then, there's the American in me. When I was 11 and had visited India, I was amazed at this. I had lost my socks and was looking all over the room for it. The servant saw me looking and he started to help. He got down to look under the bed for me. I was surprised because in my eyes, here's a grown man helping me look for something I should be responsible for. In the US, you can't find your sock, you're out of luck.

I hear a lot of my Indian friends now talk about the maids and the help you get in the house. Again, as an American, I'm used to loading my own laundry, sweeping, cleaning.. heck, we finished our own basement from spackling to painting. So, I always felt people who talked about the servants in India were too elitist for me and not practical enough. You're in the US, you do have to work hard. Get over it.

Now, I've been here 2 days and I'm thinking of moving just because of the availability of help. My first surprise was when the kids went to play in the backyard and the nanny would be with them and I didn't have to go. I could, in fact, enjoy lunch with the other adults. The nanny (Nandini) looks about 16 years old and she speaks Marathi with a little English. She gets some downtime, but helps with the light housework (washing dishes, making tea). I was surprised when I made some rice for Annika that I just prepared it and then Nandini watched the stove, while I played with the kids.

Women can cook like Martha Stewart (er..Madhu Jaffrey) because someone else chops and preps. I know some friends at home who have complained because their MILs cook as if they were still in India -- expecting someone else to clean and prep.

I suppose since my harrowing adventures from last week, I realize how much time housework was taking away from other things I could be doing. Weekdays are stressful when I come home because Annika wants me to spend time with her. However, I need to cook dinner. So, she always complains when I cook and I compromise by chopping vegetables while reading to her. If food was ready when I got home, then I could focus on her directly.

Yesterday the dhobi was at the door and I gave clothes that were crushed in the suitcases (for my American readers: the dhobi washes/irons your clothes and delivers. Most people do not even have irons in their homes because the cost is nominal). My sister-in-law asked me to put all my clothes to wash by the washing machine and Nandini would wash and fold them.

Flashback to US: I separate whites and darks, load in the morning, toss in the dryer before I leave for work, and fold as I watch TV at night, then nag my husband to carry the basket upstairs for me so I can put them in drawers. For dry cleaning, we discuss whether we should drive extra ten minutes to the $1.50 cleaner or go next door to the $2.00+ and then try to remember who has the receipt and when to pick up.

I know friends of ours have a cleaning service that comes every two weeks but we've always prided ourselves on our spic-and-span house, done the way we prefer it done. For us, housekeeping is a work in progress and it can't be held until one day a week. We're always washing, sweeping, cleaning. We yell to our guests "We'll be right with you!" as we quickly put away leftovers and load dishwashers.

I suppose this what travelling and living outside of your own comfort-zone does. It makes you challenge and rethink your own judgments about other lives.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Adventures in India 1

“We are in India. Wow!” she said beaming. Her eyes are sparkling and her smile is alike a half moon. She said this at the end of her first day here.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for my daughter to wake up to India. She’s a pampered princess from the suburbs. She has a bottle of hand sanitizer in her desk at school. She’s been strapped into a carseat and driven around from birth. We have a private home that offers us seclusion and tranquility.

Her first words were “It’s hot.” Yes, that’s the standard reaction when you land in Mumbai. My first thoughts were “There’s that India smell.” It’s a mix of musty and spicy. The air feels as old as India.

Annika sat at the window seat all morning watching the activity outside of the Mumbai apartment building.
“I saw a man riding a motorcycle without a helmet!”
“I saw a green bird and blue bird and white bird and black bird.”

One of my friends would always tell the kids, “If you don’t eat your food, the crow is going to come and eat it.” This is one of those sayings that Indian mothers say and one just spews it automatically. I told her that our American kids don’t even know what a crow is. Now, I was excited to show her a black crow was sitting on the grate outside of the kitchen window. Annika stood at a window pretending to be Princess from “Enchanted” and sang to beckon the birds to her! She announced she had magic powers because she yelled “Ikday-ye kabutar!” and the pigeon appeared. (Side note: her Marathi skills do not really go beyond this. I’m sure she’ll pick up more with her cousin. However, she’s speaking English with an Indian accent to him – a skill unique to ABD’s)

She’s yelling outside the window with her little cousin. I love it. Yell. Be noisy. There’s a sense of freedom and casualness in India that does not exist in the prisitine air of the US.

I’ve also indulged her outside of my best interests. She and I sat in the front seat together, strapped into the seatbelt. I don’t care that carseats are not required, one has to be buckled. We’re not pulling a Britney here with driving with the kid in the lap. But, I figured she should sit shotgun once.

She’s delighted to see her cousin, uncles and aunt, and not to mention grandparents. We’ve got boiled water bottled, and controlling her food intake. Her pediatrician (who is Indian) had given her a mantra: Cook it, Peel it, Boil it, Forget it! He was specific about the ice cream and lassis. Other friends had warned me about juices, which may have impure water mixed into it.

It’s hard to deny her ice cream and cold dairy treats. And, her grandfather is bringing home lots of fresh snacks – methi dhokla, saffron jelebi fried in ghee and golf-ball sized modak. So, while he means well and gives with passion, we must refuse and look for alternatives for Annika, such as the fresh steamed idlis.

Speaking of food, she was confused with breakfast. She was offered milk and plain tea biscuits. “Why am I getting snacks for breakfast?” Then, we had bata-poha (potatoes cooked with rice flakes and spices). She looked a bit confused. “Is this lunch or breakfast?” She’s used to milk and muffins.

Another unusual aspect of Indian lifestyle for Annika is the bedtime. She’s always slept at 8-9 pm. Actually, she’s had to stay on a schedule to get adequate sleep; if she went to bed late, she would be overstimulated, cranky and wake up every few hours. Until she was four, she couldn’t sleep late. Anyway, this is unheard of in India where toddlers are wide-awake and partying at 11 p.m. Folks are eating dinner at 10 p.m. So, obviously, Annika’s loving staying past her bedtime. We’re on vacation and schedules are out the window!

Here’s two more funny observations from Annika. She told me she saw a girl about her age with a nose ring! She was amazed. Up until now, she’s only seen the teen and coed childcare attendants and dance teachers with facial piercings. I could see she was excited. I remember when I was 11, my grandfather suggested I have my nose-pierced and I was horrified! No way could I return to school with a freaking nose ring. My mom has a nosering and I've seen the questioning she's received; she's proud of it and doesn't care. Now, my little girl is sitting here contemplating how old she needs to be to have it done.

Then, when we were in the car, she noticed another girl in an adjacent car who sitting in the front seat. “There’s another little girl there. She’s looking at me.” Yep, get used to it. People keep staring at you for no reason. I don’t get that. Actually, I noticed this staring business among desis started on the plane itself.

We went to the Atria mall in Mumbai and I’m so embarrassed of our local mall. This one has neon lights, skylights and large windows and funky elevators. Granted, this is the high-end mall with a Rolls-Royce showroom and designer stores. However, the food court is to die for mix of Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Pizza and Pasta. You can get nachos as well as fried potato skin chaat. I had paneer rolled in toasted bread (khati roll). OK – I will take more pictures of the food.

Birds are waking up as is the city. (I've been awake since 5:30).

Are We There Yet?

Technically, I’ve been on vacation since Friday Dec 21st at 12:45pm. However, my true vacation started Thursday Dec 27th at 2:45 a.m. Since then, my vacation has included:
- Returning to the office to troubleshoot a problem that didn’t exist a month ago when everything was fine. We applied a band-aid to something that requires a biopsy.
- Facing airport congestion at night to pick up my sister on Dec 21st , also known as the busiest travel day of 2007.
- An overflowed toilet in between a day of hectic Christmas shopping and a party
- A leaky ceiling in my living room and dining room and a drenched area rug, courtesy of the clogged toilet
- Spending Monday waiting for the plumber and forcing schedule to control mine. By the way, I had a leaky garbage disposal on Monday and had a quite a time finding a good plumber. Thankfully, now I have one.
- Annika ingesting a bit of Christmas candy, which I had thought was a Crunch. Unfortunately it was a Butterfinger and she had an allergic reaction. We were to leave for the airport at 4:30 and this was at 4 pm. I ran to CVS and bought full bottle of Benedryl, Pepto-Bismo, Dramamine, sanitized wipes and ginger ale. She ended up vomiting, which was very good – her body needs to release the toxicity. The fact that it was in the car on the way to the airport had us freaked out. How will she do on a 17-hour flight?

- Have I mentioned that my husband has been in India all this week and I’ve been in “single mom mode”?

Now the Good News
At a friend’s Christmas party, I was relaying my woes to friends. One of them assured me that I had the “network” like on those Verizon commercials. There is a whole group of people behind me and I just need to tap into it. And, that is so true.

This week, I’ve relied on friends from helping me to negotiate with plumbers to supporting me on the phone to helping me select clothes and pack my bags. Even if they didn’t do anything but simply offered to drive to the airport or had Annika over for a playdate while I ran errands, it meant a lot to me.

Most of all, my family has been fabulous.. that’s not even the word I want. Supercalifragalisticexpialidocious is better. (Lots of “Mary Poppins” on ABC Family this week)

Having my sister around this weekend really helped me in so many ways as she stayed calm while I was frantic, which was unusual given our personalities. My father came when he heard about the ceiling and advised me on the toilet/plumber. I know he wanted to yell at me for not calling him earlier, but he stayed very calm and spoke nicely. Mom was there in the car aiding Annika during her reaction. And, my brother was ready to help out any way he could, especially at the airport. We were a tag team with a game plan and roles – we moved quite quickly and efficiently.

By the way, Annika’s health was perfect on the plane. As soon as we sat down, her appetite returned and she was back to normal.

I think my greatest lesson from this week has been that I can’t do it alone. When all conditions are steady, it’s not a problem. My husband has traveled a lot over the years and it hasn’t been an issue. However, when you throw in preparing for Christmas and India trip, it becomes more stressful. Then, add a leaky house and child with allergic reactions, it is downright insane to do it alone.

I’ve been called “supermom” by a lot of my friends, and I don’t like it. We can’t be supermom. I just read a quote from a psychiatrist that people are like ducks – seem calm and serene as they’re floating on the water, but underneath, they’re paddling like hell to stay afloat. This is exactly how I felt.

So my lesson this week is that part of being strong is asking for help.

The biggest, warmest, heartfelt gratitude to everyone who was there this week!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas, Cultures, Quilting and Other Alliterations

My radio is always tuned to NPR and I woke up gently to the program "Living on Earth," which featured a Christmas special with Carribbean storytellers. It's always a delight to hear a writer speak because many at heart are such colorful storytellers. Every word from Yvette Brandy is lyrical, but she starts singing about the island Christmas: "For me Christmas is—you wake in the morning to scratch bands singing and dancing and they're singing, 'Good morning, good morning, I come from a guava berry! Good morning, good morning, put it on the table.'"

I've enjoyed Esmeralda Santiago stories about being a Puerto Rican immigrant. When I heard Santiago's memory of writing letters to the Three Kings who bring gifts for the children, I was touched. Santiago told it from the child's point of view, but it reached you from the parent's perspective.

The last storyteller was Ken Corsbie, who described ways to eat a mango. His style reminded me of my father's storytelling technique - anecdotal humor with a punch. (Side note: my father is quote known and respected in the Gujarati literary community.. we are working on his blog site for next year!)

Aside from the delightful stories, I enjoyed the diversity of it. We're so used to the Christmases of Paula "add more butter and bacon, y'all" Dean and Martha Stewart, where everything is proper and perfectly tied together in a satin bow from "my own collection available on my website". The majority of the world's population doesn't know what a cranberry is. Santiago talked about fresh oregano, rosemary, and herbs that grow wild on the islands. Brandy talked about dancing and revelling in carnival celebrations. Generally speaking, people living in warm or hot climates have a more laid back attitude on life. I suppose those that have to prepare and survive cold winters have to be more focused.

A comment I heard the other day about Martha Stewart (on NPR, of course) resonated with me this morning. She was raised in Polish-American family in Nutley, NJ. Somehow, she's been able to create herself into the ultimate CT Yankee. There's something to be said about identity. This is a country of immigrants, and everyone is extremely proud of their heritage. I remember my cousin visiting from India was struck how people called themselves Italian and German, yet they've lived in US for generations and never went to Italy or Germany.

However, is that part of the American fabric -- we come in with different colors, but we weave ourselves into one? Martha's makeover is similar to Louisiana Governor-elect Bobby Jindal. Indian-Americans are proud of one of their own making it, yet with resentment. They see his conversion from Hinduism to Catholicism as an abandonment. For every Martha Stewart and Bobby, there are lots more Martha Kostyras and Piyush Jindals. Shouldn't the American fabric really be a colorful quilt instead?

I'm extremely excited to see how comfortable my daughter is with her Indian and American identities. She lacks the embarrassment I did at her age. I wouldn't talk about the food I ate at home because it was too complicated to explain. My daughter proudly lists "laddoo" as her favorite food (her teacher had emailed me kindly asking for more information about it). She talks about going to her Balvihar classes for culture and religion, just as freely as Rachel does about her Hebrew classes.

Listening to these stories this morning made me realize how important it is for immigrants to keep memories of the "islands" and their own homelands alive.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Closer to India & Anthony Bourdain

My India trip is nearing and I wanted to follow up on my previous posts and my readers' comments.

We recently went to see Anthony Bourdain speak in Philadelphia and got a signed copy of his book, "No Reservations. " This book is a collection of photographs and commentary of his global travels. Here is an excerpt of his thoughts on India, which I think are quite accurate:

"There are two types of visitors to India: There are those who quickly find themselves frustrated, irritated, frightened of the food and water, intimated by the great masses of humanity, overwhelmed by the all-too-evident poverty, ground down by the heat and the crowds, perplexed by the behavior of Indians..."

"Others, like me, are charmed... You have to redefine words like 'beautiful,' 'magnificent,' and 'gorgeous' when you travel through India... I love India. I just don't know whether I can handle India. Whether I can wrap my tiny brain around its past, its present or its future. "

By the way, Bourdain's speech and question/answer session was such a blast. We had awesome seats in 2nd row and felt very close to him. He's exactly the same in person - open, politically incorrect, easy going, and friendly, though he spent a bit of time bashing vegetarians and Rachel Ray. At the time, I could not think of a question to ask him. Later in the day, I had my "esprit d'escalier" - French phrase for the witty afterthought that hits you on the staircase. My comments for him were regarding vegetarians. He feels they are rude because they refuse to eat certain foods and it can be disrespectful in cultures where a poor family proudly gives you the only pork or rodent they have. You can't refuse. I can respect that. However, I don't think that should be targeted to vegetarians only, but to any closed-minded person. I know people who would happily eat a whole pig on a stick, but a plate of hummus freaks them out.

The coolest part of Bourdain is that he does all the stuff typical Western travel show hosts do not do. In India, he's sitting on top of a bus with all the common folks.. he and his camera crew indulged in bhang. He wears his sense of freedom on his sleeve.

Motherhood - On the Job Training: Dis-Enchanted

I wanted to keep this post separate from my review of the movie "Enchanted"

When Annika and I went to buy our tickets, I gave the attendant 2 free movie passes we had. The attendant looked at Annika and asked, "How old is she? Is she four years old?"

I said, "Uh, yeah she is." She is a bit smaller than most American kids. The attendant looked 16 years old and would've believed me if I said she was 3.

"Ok, then." and he gave me one movie pass BACK and the two tickets for the show. How cool is that!

We went inside and I led Annika to the concession stand since I had promised her popcorn. We waited in line for half a second before she started.

"Mommy, why did you LIE to the man? You LIED and said I was 4. It's not good to LIE. Why did you LIE?"

I bent down and whispered, "I'll tell you later."

"But you're not supposed to LIE, but you did." She seemed to get louder.

I whispered a bit more fiercely, "Annika, keep quiet and I'll tell you later. You want the kid's size popcorn, right?" I changed the topic, and it worked.


All the cliches are true. Kids watch your every move and at this age, they'll call you on it. Also, I've always been quite (ridiculously) honest and used to question my parents all the time. My mom used to say, "We have Gandhi living in our house or what??"

So, it comes full circle, doesn't it?

I don't feel I compromised my morals or cheated the million dollar movie industry; in fact, I paid $5 for 1.5 cup of popcorn, 5 oz drink and a "fun size" bag of Skittles!

On Monday, I approached a colleague, who has raised 3 children, for advice. Her suggestion was that I need to redeem myself in Annika's eyes. So, the next time I receive an extra dime in change or something, I should make it a big production as I return it. She pointed out her 20-something son recently questioned her actions when she scolded him on the same point.

Newsflash -- it doesn't end.

I've worked so hard to be the one Annika relies on for straight forward answers. I'd like to help her guide her moral compass. At this age, kids need black and white answers. It's hard to discuss those areas of grey.

She also caught me complaining about a Christmas card (a preprinted business type card without personalization). I said, "That's it?" or something to that effect.

She said, "How can you say that? [This person] worked hard to send the card."

I told her, "You're right. I was just teasing."

"You were?"

"Yes, and if they were here, I would tease them and say the same thing!" Whew.. caught my balance back quickly then.

Anyway, I'm loving this little person in my life. I think I'm just the pitcher, but she's throwing curveballs right back at me!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Movie Review: Enchanted

My daughter and I went to see "Enchanted" yesterday and we had such a blast. As a "princess mom", I'm intimately acquainted with many of the Disney stories. If there's a feminine character with a tiara in it, even with a fishtail or as an ogre, we've got it. For my own Princess, she recognized a lot of similarities and had fun with it.

I loved the tongue-in-cheek approach the movie took toward Princess stories. Annika and I both laughed a lot, and she did a loud "eeeyyouuu" at one kissing scene.

Patrick Dempsey is always delightful to watch, so no complaints here, but I think his role could've been better. The character for Nancy was not as developed as it should've been and threw away actress Idina Menzel; she played Maureen in "Rent". Even Annika commented on that.

Amy Adams was really good because she captured the wide-eyed innocence and she transformed from an animated character to a human. Kinda sucks to be James Marsden because he got jilted at the alter in "The Notebook" too!

Nods to other Princess movies (Spoilers!)

Sleeping Beauty: Living in the round house in the woods. Singing with the animals. Transforming objects into a human form. The evil queen turns herself into a dragon at the end. Magical swords. Magic kiss to break the spell. Prince Edward is pretty much modeled after Prince Philip, who doesn't do much but sing and talk about true love at first sight (or first hearing as it is).
Cinderella: Giselle calls upon the animals to help her clean, scrub the floors and get dressed (tie bows). Lost shoes.
Snow White: poison apples, evil queen, dwarf references, Magic kiss to break the spell.
Beauty & The Beast: I was dying with laughter when Giselle was singing in Central Park, just like Belle. And, the final ballroom scene is just like B & B where the camera swirls around the couple exactly the same way! Plus, Robert is donning a blue suit just the Beast. The last scene on top of the building is similar to the B&B as well. In the Central Park dance scene there's someone dressed in belly dancer outfit with a candelabra on her head (oh, Lumiere, wherefore art thou for an elaborate dance sequence!)
The Little Mermaid: While surfing for photos, I learned that Jodi Benson who was the voice of Ariel played the secretary and if you listened carefully, "Part of Your World" is playing in the background. The whole fish tank thing is a tribute to Little Mermaid.
Aladdin: The only similarity I could see besides the belly dancing candelabra, was Giselle brushing her hair in front of a mirror. Jasmine tends to do that often ; really, what else can she do all locked up in the palace?
Shrek: Big, green, booger-faced ogre muttering "true love"
The Princess Diaries: Julie Andrews is the narrator. Of course.

If you've seen the movie and know of anymore let me know. It is inevitable that we will be buying the DVD for this. It's just sweet and charming, and it's great to see a movie with Annika. I think 6 is a perfect age for this movie. Any younger, then some of the irony would've gone over their heads.

Anyway, here's a parting shot of Patrick .. never hurts a blog.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Chak De India!

Just a few more weeks until we are in India!

This is exciting for me because it seems my destiny for trips to India are on a 10 year cycle. Once I left in 1971, I've returned 1980, 1987, 1997, and now 2007! My husband had gone 3 times without me because of the circumstances; I was pregnant, daughter was too young or his trip was last minute and I couldn't schedule it.

I really love going to India, and I know a lot of Indians are skeptical of my claims. When I landed last time, I felt like I was home. People thought I was full of it. I could see their thoughts: Please, you're an ABCD. NJ is home for you.

India has an undeniable power.

When we went to India when I was 11, we stayed for 5 months. We lived like regular Indian kids -- running around the streets of my father's small town, playing with goats (no donkeys, though - you stay away from the donkeys!), drinking and eating everything that was handed to us -- sherbets of all colors of the rainbow. We roamed the neighborhoods of Ahmedabad with our cousins and went for ice cream at every occasion. We saw lots of Hindi films and ate popcorn and masala chips.

We returned to the US very tan, sick, emaciated and malaria-ridden and had trouble adjusting in school after being out so long. Lovely.

What I enjoyed the most about India is the unabashedly open reception. I learned what family really meant that first summer. There are no formalities about who you are to them. (I wrote a little about this experience in My Own Elizabethtown.) There are downsides to that though, such as lack of privacy and how people think you're entitled to heed their comments about your life or your body. I know we've all been made quite miserable at some point or another.

At 6, my daughter is at an excellent age for this trip. My sister made her first trip around the same time and her memories are very strong. However, I'm a bit nervous about my daughter's first trip there. She's a pampered princess from the suburbs. She cringed when we went to Chinatown in NYC and was overwhelmed by the people.

My friends and family in Mumbai live the cosmopolitan life, so I know we'll be comfortable and quite sanitized there. Yet, everything in India is open - especially the poverty. My sister and I have cried in the car from the airport upon seeing the poverty. I'm worried about myself. I've always been close to children and wanted to help every one there. Now, as a mother, how will I be able to react to children knocking on the car window or tugging on my skirt for alms? I'm taking deep breaths now.

I was greatly inspired on my last visit by my cousin and her husband. We were at a temple, and when the children came to beg, they took them to the dining area and made sure they were fed. We all had pulled over to eat at the side of the road, and a poor man was walking. They quickly prepared a plate for him. By the way, I was aghast that after a whole group finished eating on paper plates, they dumped the trash on the side of the road!! (Two points for Humanity, minus one point for the Environment)

Like all my India trips, I know this will be just as exciting. By the way, we're looking to get internet hook up at home, so hopefully I'll be able to post while I'm gone for three weeks. Also,I haven't had a three week vacation since I started this job 6 years ago! So, just the aspect of not being at work for 3 weeks is very exciting as well!

Now, if anyone has any favorite Mumbai spots, please let me know:
- shopping (not looking for Bollywood glam..reasonably priced with classic styles)
- restaurants/clubs (yes, looking for Bollywood glam! Finding John Abraham would be the best!)
- spas and salons
- any other must-see

We're hoping to hit Ahmedabad and Goa, as well.

Also, if you've traveled with children before and have any caveats, I'd like to know too. Yes, we will be staying away from rainbow-colored sherbets and have our sunscreen and malaria prescriptions!

Feel free to email me directly with any of the above.