0

Bollywood: Old and New

We have decided that monsoon in Mumbai is “boyfriend weather.” This just means it’s raining – like really bad, can’t see in front of you rain – enough so that it makes you want to cozy up to someone special with a cup of hot chocolate and movies in tow. Consequently we’ve decided to go to the local theaters twice in the last week.

[I should tell you that, again due to the weather, I streamed Student of the Year last night. This blog may shift to be more movie reviews than reviews of my follies.]

Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (YJHD) has been all the hype this season. Billboards everywhere, interviews, front page ads in the papers, etc. (The first page of the newspapers here are back and front full page ads so the third page is where the stories start.) We had just gotten back from Goa on the Sunday of YJHD’s opening weekend when the first rains came down in Mumbai. Movie time. If you’re the type to be interested in participating in Monday morning workplace chatter, YJHD is a must see. Every theater was sold out with the exception of the Regal in Colaba, which potentially would have been sold out had their online ticketing system not been down.

IMG_2997

This was quite fortuitous for us as I’ve been wanting to go to the Regal. It’s an art deco theater built in the 1930s and is one of / if not THE oldest theater in Mumbai still showing films. We raced down there (i.e. sat around in traffic for an hour) and scooped up four of the last tickets to the 11pm show. We had another twenty minutes to kill before they would let us take our seats. Because it was raining everyone was huddled together in the lobby and under the theater’s awning. When they finally opened the doors, the most ridiculous, and uncalled for, rush to get through security and into the theater ensued. Our group, initially holding hands, got pulled apart, turned around and pushed forward. We have ASSIGNED SEATS people!

The theater itself was clearly seasoned but had this old charm to accompany it. It had to have been a multipurpose space as it had a proper balcony and stage meant for live theater. Balcony seats are the most coveted at 250 INR a pop. The stall seats that we were assigned are the equivalent to orchestra seats but are much less desirable and thus only 100 INR each. There’s a sign on the lobby wall declaring the Regal Theater as an Indian Heritage Site and  apparently the Filmfare Awards were even hosted there one year. I really loved the idea of seeing this new Bollywood film in a theater with old Bollywood glory.

YDHJ starts. Our movie snacks included Thumbs Up, samosas, chakri, popcorn, far-far, and hippos (in our scramble to get to the movies we forgot to get dinner). At the first closeup of Deepika (which happens within one minute of the movie starting) the hooting, hollering, cat-calling and whistling ensue. Ohhhh so it’s gonna be THAT kind of movie. No idea what the first few sentences said in the movie were but you just had to laugh. The movie was what you’d expect of a bollywood rom-com: some interesting clothes, punchy songs, an item number with a beloved 90’s star, some terrible acting, a predictable story and happy ending. Naturally I loved it!

Monday morning papers had all sorts of criticism regarding Deepika’s performance – she only plays a modern girl, she repeats herself, etc. – but by contrast called Ranbir a sensation. This completely confuses me! While he is absolutely charming and I love most of his movies, he is playing the EXACT same character himself. Why does he get to be a sensation? Although it does appear that females in Bollywood rarely seem to be chosen or judged by their talent (I say this with conviction after seeing Student of the Year), Bollywood scripts only create roles for annoying girls so even if an actress was truly charming or talented you’d never know. The only person that got the story right, and by proxy a pseudo-review right, was The Vigil Idiot. Check out his comic of YJHD (and also Cocktail because it’s extra hilarious).

Let’s fast forward to this past weekend. Since DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) opened in 1995, the Maratha Mandir cinema hall has screened this film every day. The number of showings has been reduced to a single matinee showing a day, but it’s still the longest running film in Indian cinema. I had met Aditi’s friend Ryan last week at this really amazing charity event (raising funds for a girl who had grown up in India’s red-light district, had been emotionally and sexually abused, and has since overcome those unfortunate circumstances to gain a scholarship to Bard College – most surprising actually was that the vast majority of people at the event were foreigners including a large contingent from the US Consulate). I had mentioned to Ryan that DDLJ at the Maratha Mandir was top priority on my Mumbai list of things to do (largely given the indoors factor). Turned out it was on his to-do list as well. We went this past weekend with Katie and Kevin. Balcony tickets were only 20 INR. Basically the most economical movie going experience ever. The entire balcony was packed and surprisingly, with the exception of one group of girls, there were mostly groups of men in attendance.

I had forgotten how amazing this movie is. In many ways it’s similar to YJHD in that the heroine hates the hero yet through a series of song montages they fall in love on a trek BUT don’t tell one another. Given that basic story introduction however DDLJ is just magic on-screen. Maratha Mandir is very similar to Regal in that the crowd is very vocal throughout the movie. The main difference is we’ve all seen DDLJ before, so before the good parts actually start, the whistling begins. It’s kind of the best; it’s fun and interactive and adds to the entertainment value.

We were discussing that our love for DDLJ possibly has to do with the gradual character development (I mean it is a full three hours). By contrast in YJHD, Deepika takes off her glasses during a Holi festival and all of a sudden we’re meant to believe that everyone is good-looking and in love with each other.

Old or new, there’s a special place in my heart for Bollywood.

Advertisements
0

The Best View in Worli

By now you must be curious about who throws the hottest parties in Mumbai. Look no further my friends. That’s correct. Katie (aka teetee), Kevin (aka Klam) and I had a “housewarming party” yesterday evening that went quite swimmingly. Sure it’s been over a month since I’ve gotten to India but, as it turns out, parties just aren’t as fun when you have zero friends to invite – thus we waited for our social wings to blossom and then bribed our contacts with the promise of food, drinks and the BVW (Best View in Worli):

IMG_0070

The view from our balcony, as pictured above, is basically the same view (different angle) as the famously overpriced Aer bar in the Four Seasons (I was hoping to run into Grover’s cousin there, but alas, Aer isn’t as happening during monsoon).

Aer

This has been the week of rooftop views actually. Earlier this week we went to Kishore’s who has what we’ve unanimously agreed is the BBW (Best Balcony in Worli). His spot is right across the street from Aer and his balcony is about four times the size of ours. It’s sweet. I also ticked Dome at the Intercontinental on Marine Drive off of my list. Between Aer and Dome I basically can’t afford to go out for a week…

So, yes, house party = success. We invited a mix of friends from work, friends we had met at school networking events, friends of friends, etc. and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I know I had a great time (I really love all of the peeps that I’ve met here thus far), and we received a few messages today from others that felt the same – as the new kids on the block that’s always encouraging!

Our largest issue actually was finding red Solo cups or something comparable. We ultimately found tiny fancy plastic cups. How tiny? Well, a ping pong ball couldn’t touch the bottom of the cup. With Beirut out of the question we stuck to Flip Cup and Kings Cup. Only the classics.

houseparty

Feel free to reach out to me for your Mumbai party planning needs (Hint: more beer, less wine, order khandvi and ‘Mad Over Donuts,’ dont order cocktail samosas – they aren’t the bite-size samosas you are expecting. Trust.)

The best thing about living in a serviced apartment is not having to clean up party messes. This country is spoiling me!

0

Goa, Where Else?

This past weekend marked my first ever trip to Goa – making moves on that bucket list. Goa, a former Portuguese colony, is the smallest state in India, known for its 80+ kilometers of beaches. IMG_2977

Some minimal planning occurred pre-trip. When I say planning, we really we just had to decide North Goa vs. South Goa and book hotel accordingly (it is possible to do both in a single trip but it requires longer than a weekend to do well). South Goa’s beaches are more beautiful, celebrities have homes there, it’s quieter, etc. North Goa is a bit more tourtisty and thus has more of a night-life and shopping scene. Initially a number of coworkers had expressed interest in the trip, but ultimately, due to the threat of rain and laziness (I presume), only four of us took the plunge. Despite that, we had about ten people involved in an in-office debate about which district was the better weekend-choice. Totes professional. The North won (turns out Goa is similar to California in that way).

Well, right on cue, the Thursday before our Friday afternoon departure, monsoon rains begin in Goa (they are always expected to arrive the first week of June). At this point we’re definitely going and just hoping to enjoy some beach time sans rain.

Friday evening we arrive in Goa and take a car down to our hotel just off of Anjuna beach. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Goa, look into the Casa Boutique Hotels. They’re off the beaten path so you’ll require a driver or scooter to get around but they’re full of character and really comfortable. Their Anjuna hotel has a classic charm in terms of decor. It could have been a converted Portuguese Villa. The rooms are all slightly different so when we arrived we were able to look at five different rooms before choosing the one that we wanted. Hot water, cozy bedding, a balcony and a view made it the perfect getaway.

IMG_2917

Night one involved dinner and dancing at Baga beach. First we went to Britto’s, a Baga beach staple, for dinner. It’s large shack sitting directly on the beach and has a pretty vast and tasty selection of food items. Actually 99% of restaurants that I’ve been to in India thus far have a Cheesecake Factory style menu – i.e., there are too many options spread across at least four different cuisines. Following Britto’s we walked along the beach toward Tito’s another popular beach shack restaurant/bar, and danced the night away. Actually Tito’s was the last place we ended up after a bar-hopping series but it was the most fun. There was a trance room, an open air area for the smokers and then a Bollywood room. As I’m sure you had already inferred, we filmy-danced the night away. There was even some dancing in the rain involved. I did a one-person rendition of Lagaan’s, “Ghanan Ghanan” (but the rain actually arrived in my version). I’m so sorry you missed it.

Goa

Tito’s, I realized later, does some extensive advertising in Goa (they’re involved in tours and travel planning as well). There are billboards and signs on every street corner that say “Tito’s, where else?” Quite the slogan.

Rainfall on Saturday morning gave us a little extra time to recover from Friday night. We then proceeded to spend the day sitting at Curlie’s on Anjuna beach. I’m talking ten hours at the same place, eating, drinking, making friends, looking out at the ocean, strolling the beach, playing in the water, eating, drinking… Curlie’s is this large two story beach shack with nothing else around it. I’ve heard that Curlie’s can get crowded but probably because we picked the least enticing weekend to go to Goa there weren’t too many people, making it all the more enjoyable. The crowd in Goa definitely includes a lot of foreigners – at least when compared to Mumbai. A lot of foreigners enveloped in a cloud of smoke, with very tan almost leathery skin and a beer in hand – they seemed quite accustomed to life in Goa. Curlie’s seemed to be regular destination for these locals. What I love about Curlie’s is how shallow the beach in front of it is. Baga beach shacks are a decent distance from the start of the Arabian Sea but at Anjuna beach, Curlie’s feels like it’s situated right on the water. If I lived in Goa, I’d make it my spot too for that reason alone.

IMG_2975

Sunday we visited a third beach, Calangute, which was easily the most busy of the lot. Markets, street shopping and water sports are among Calangute’s specialties. Calangute, after the other two more desolate beaches, just wasn’t as pretty or tranquil. Instead of more beach time, we voted to spend our Sunday morning shopping! Purses, jewelry, dresses, tchotchkes (Kevin was a trooper).

Calangute

Our last meal in Goa was at the famed Souza Lobo, a Goan restaurant on the beach, where we closed out our trip with fresh juices + delicious Indian food. In actuality the real end to our trip was a frighteningly speedy car ride from our hotel to the airport that involved our left side mirror grazing a bull on the street (he remained upright so we’ll assume he is fine). My eyes were closed for the rest of that trip.

0

A Night to Myself

I realize now that I have been in desperate need of some “me time.” I have been operating on overdrive a bit, wanting to make the most of the short time I have in India. Unfortunately, about 3.5 weeks into various levels of daily social activity, a good pedicure + tv night is well overdue. This is scientific fact.

My feet constantly feel dirty because I’m walking in sandals all day exposed to the elements, including dirt roads and extreme heat. When I was at my faiba’s place a few weeks back she had a woman come to the flat to give me pedicure. (The man-power available in this country allows for any and everything to be delivered to your home: food, wine, yoga instruction, spa treatments, shopping, alterations, laundry, in home cooking, etc. usually for no extra charge.) That pedicure was great, mostly for its convenience. Unfortunately for me the pedicurist had only brought two rather unfortunate nail polish options so I was especially excited for pedicure number two in India.

Not sure if I mentioned this previously, but right next to Yogacara there is a small (and clean) spa, Rewa House Spa, with the same magnificent view. I scheduled an appointment and went yesterday after withstanding Tasneem’s abuse in yoga class. The space is very modern, with all the amenities you would expect to find in a stateside spa and a decent collection of nail polish colors. Big win. A small Indian man, with tattoos on his forearms, was assigned to my pedicure duty – you can imagine my initial concern. It turned out to be the best and most relaxing pedicure I’ve ever had.

I treated myself to a quinoa salad for dinner and streamed the season/series finales of The Mindy Project and Smash. Mindy continuing to kill it. Smash continuing to inspire. I suppose they did tie everything up very nicely and with a pretty bow but I still am very sad that Smash is cancelled. It’s an injustice – Broadway Here I Come.

Nevertheless, the evening was sublime.

0

A Whole New World

I’ve been trying to see a show at the Prithvi Theatre, a very small community theater in Juhu started by Shashi Kapoor in the late 70’s, since I’ve gotten to Mumbai. For some reason or another it hasn’t worked out. Katie and I even attempted to go to a show two weeks ago but arrived to the theater ten minutes after the show had started. There was a sign posted on the locked doors that read “ABSOLUTELY NO LATE ENTRY.” Apparently IST rules don’t apply at the Prithvi. Noted.

We were able to salvage the night by enjoying a waterfront dinner at Aurus – it was quite romantic really:

IMG_2800

Fast forward to last night. I still have yet to see a show at the theater itself, however on the theater property there is an event space, Prithvi House, where the group Vikalp@Prithvi screens documentaries once a month. Katie, Kevin and I decided to go last night as they were showing two documentaries from Indian filmmakers on topics we hadn’t heard about before – we made sure to leave ample time to get to Juhu.

When we arrived (with 20 minutes to spare) we were asked to remove our shoes and climb a flight of stairs barefoot to get to the event space. They were screening the films in a rather small room. To fit all the attendees (about 150) there were blankets/rugs covering the floor where we would be sitting. Like “movie in the park” but indoors and a little cramped. It wasn’t the most comfortable but it was a really interesting crowd and the two documentaries shown were really great stories. Actually both films were stories about stories – totally meta – and both directors were present to introduce their film and answer questions after.

The first was a twelve minute film about Kutch tapestry artists entitled “Tanko Bole Che” – translation: “The Stitches Speak.” These artists take the stories and hardships from their lives and tell those stories through their tapestries. Kutch, after the partition was a sort of no-man’s-land in that it was a part of India but it lacked resources and thus was uninhabited. The Kutchi people pre-partition were living on the western border area and were told they could only come to India if they moved to Kutch. Despite a number of natural disasters in that region over the years, that had taken them back a few steps, they have built a life and craft and are happy.

tanko

What was especially creative is how the director envisioned and told the story. She scanned all of the tapestries, then took each piece of the tapestry and animated it. She matched that up with the voices of the artists explaining the story in their tapestry. In Kutch they speak a mix of Gujarati, Sindhi and Kuchi so I could understand some of the dialog without the sub-titles; always a nice feeling. The director had brought a few of the tapestries to show us all and talked a bit about the making of the film and the women and men that she had met with. Their artwork is available for purchase through the Kala Raksha Org.

The second film that was screened was about the mobile theater industry (yes I said industry) in Assam, entitled “Where Othello Sets Sail with Titanic.” This film was close to an hour in length and followed seven-ish different mobile theater companies during their theater season which lasts nine months of the year. About 90 to 100 people make up a mobile theater company and they travel together, for nine months, away from their families, in cramped buses, to 60+ different locations throughout Assam bringing new stories to the region including to areas where the people don’t have televisions or even electricity. Mobile theater for these people is true edutainment (educational entertainment) in these parts. The companies set up their stages, backstage, orchestra pit and tent for seating in every location they go to where 2,000+ people to attend a single show. The documentary shows footage of some of the shows that have been put on – among them, as you might have predicted from the title, Othello and Titanic. The visual spectacle in Titanic, that they are able to create on stage is no small feat and all the more spectacular when you realize how low-tech it is. About 150 different plays are presented by some 40 different mobile theater companies in a single year. After the show the director was discussing the demand for good playwrights in that region. Right now there are anywhere from 5-10 playwrights having to churn out 5-15 scripts a year. Many of them resort to translating existing pieces from Shakespeare or Hollywood but they also write regional stories. I have many more fun facts but I’ll spare you.

I’m not sure if Vikalp@Prithvi did this intentionally but I really loved how both of these filmmakers were able to find and tell really unique and positive stories about regions where the news is often very negative.

To continue our night of culture, we opted to have dinner at The Irish House and enjoy Monday Karaoke Night with some friends. I chose to sing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Now in my head I saw this turning into a group sing-a-long. Let’s just say that didn’t happen and I can never go back to The Irish House – my local friends said afterwards that they didn’t actually know what that song was. I clearly know the crowd pleasers.

I’m sticking to “Build Me Up Buttercup” for next time.

0

Road to Relaxation

This past week has been playoffs in the Indian Premier League (India’s cricket league) and tonight, Sunday May 26th, the Mumbai Indians have won the final match against the Chennai Super Kings. Lots of celebration in the streets although there are a few key differences between Mumbai when the Mumbai Indians win the IPL final and San Francisco when the Giants win the World Series: 1. Mumbai is not even close to as contained as San Francisco, thus there aren’t any main streets that everyone goes to for high fives, riots and debauchery (I’ll follow up in the paper tomorrow…sitting in Worli I have no idea how wild people are getting in Powai ya dig?) 2. Fireworks. Everywhere. Big ones too. I was in Mumbai for Diwali two years ago, the same year Obama was in town. At that time there was heightened security and fireworks were said to be illegal, but even so, there were plenty of fireworks that night. Mumbai loves its fireworks. Legal or not, you better believe they’re going off. I’m never surprised to see them. 3. The IPL is wrought with scandal. Not the steroids kind – the match fixing/gambling kind, and there are A LOT of folks involved. Players, gangsters, family members of league executives, bookies, and so on. Every newspaper covers this story front page (and has been everyday for the last two weeks). The scandal has left the city disillusioned in many ways, causing some division in the celebrations.

On a related note, Sachin Tendulkar has announced his retirement from the league.

My parents left for the airport just before the game finished (It was really nice to have them here and I miss them terribly already). The weekend was another filled with family, food and fun. In my post “The Sound of Mumbai” I discussed my family’s M-O in India but this past Saturday we diverged from routine and for my parent’s last weekend in town we road-tripped to Pune with my faiba and fuva. A very packed yet relaxing day.

We hit the road around 6:40am on Saturday morning. The key was to get out of Mumbai before the traffic picked up. If executed correctly, Pune only takes two to three hours to get to. I can sleep almost too easily in moving vehicles, especially when woken before 8am, so I missed the gorgeous drive but by 10am we had in fact made it to Kathraj Jain Mandir, located on a hilltop overlooking the city (the Twin Peaks of Pune if you will). It was an incredibly serene location. We were warned about the heat in Pune, but unlike Mumbai, there was no humidity to accompany the heat, which I much preferred. The temple itself had a dharamshala on site (basic hotel rooms for travelers – just a bed and bathroom) so we temporarily used one of those rooms to freshen up before heading inside the temple for prayers. The temple itself was beautiful, despite on-going maintenance, with really intricate hand carvings and stone work everywhere you looked.

Temple

Much to my delight, we enjoyed some fresh fruits as our post prayer snack – Mango (of course), chikoo!! and lychee!! (I’m getting spoiled with the fruits here) – before embarking on part two of our road trip.

The aim was to spend the afternoon lounging in Lonavala, a popular hill station in Pune district – but not before visiting one more temple and enjoying a fantastic lunch at the Kailash Prabat Hotel. This was my first hill station excursion and boy, was it a joy! So Lonavala is huge. I was imagining a “station” in the “hills” if you will. According to my dad, under British rule, during the summer, the Europeans couldn’t stand the heat so they “stationed” themselves in the mountains for the season – thus the term “hill station.” It’s a full on city or town in the mountains and Lonavala specifically is known for its chikki (chikki is the original KIND bar, but they’re usually harder to bite into – although you can get soft chikki).

My faiba’s friend is a member of Club Mahindra, an Indian time-share situation with 40+ resorts, so we were luckily able to spend the afternoon hanging out on their Lonavala property.

Lonavala

Top right: Faiba, Fuva, Dad, Mom

The location was completely peaceful but getting there was another story. From the main road to the property is exactly ten kilometers. Unfortunately that’s ten kilometers that you’re basically off-roading since the one lane that has been built to get you to the resort is ridden with potholes and piles of rocks or other debris. It took us approximately 40 minutes in our Toyota Innova to drive that distance. No surprises here: It turns out that that particular road is government maintained, and the government won’t allow Club Mahindra to fix the road because they claim they will get to it. With infrastructure and the Indian government, crores of rupees will be set aside for fixing roads specifically, and then any number of things, except what has been planned for, will happen. One example – a plan is created for X number of potholes to be fixed with concrete. Instead Y number of potholes are fixed with sand and asphalt, and the rupees not spent, due to cheaper materials and less work, gets pocketed by someone – this temporary solution allows more dollars to be allocated to fix the same potholes next year and now we’ve entered an endless cycle. Everyone has a handful of stories ready to share about how the government is corrupt. Where it gets interesting is when you as a citizen are forced to compromise your integrity because the system as it stands is broken.

I’ve really taken for granted how straightforward the ‘right vs. wrong’ line is in the United States.

0

Temple Run

No matter where you live in Mumbai, I would bet there is a place of worship (most likely a Hindu temple) within a five minute walk from your home. There are plenty of very large and well known temples/churches/mosques in each neighborhood plus every society (AKA housing complex – and there are A LOT of these) has at least one temple on its grounds. In addition I’ve also seen many smaller temples set up essentially roadside but tucked behind street stalls or next to buildings. Some of these smaller temples are not enclosed, so passers-by are able to see people as they practice their faith, exposed to the streets. I witnessed a group of men performing aarti while I was strolling the street stalls in Bandra around 7pm on a weeknight. I initially felt a little disoriented – Can I just walk by this holy ceremony? Should I be shopping here? Can I turn my back to the idols? etc. – but I do think it is nice, especially for those who believe in idol-worship, to have a convenient place to practice your religion everywhere in this city. This is a photo of the Jain temple in Walkeshwar:

IMG_2866

[Tangential thought: I have heard or seen enough commentary to make me very aware of the open intolerance of faiths that are different from one’s own. Most of this intolerance is rooted in tradition and comes out when discussing marriage and other such personal topics – this, while unfortunate, just doesn’t surprise me anymore. But some statements I’ve been completely caught off guard by – for example when a Muslim man is insulted that a Hindu singer/songwriter is performing a Sufi song, enough so that he makes a racial statement to express his ‘frustration.’ These are real sentiments expressed by educated, well read, globally minded people…

It goes without saying that there are also millions of people in this country who embrace our cultural and religious diversity. (Ah, Isha said to me the other day, in response to my indecisiveness about something, “Americans are so diplomatic.” I hadn’t noticed or thought of it before, but I clearly try to be.)]

So my friend Kishore was telling me about how he does yoga at 7am every morning by the Sea Link – basically where I live. “What kind of yoga?” I asked. His response: “I don’t know. It’s in a temple. Temple yoga.” The complete story is that a local yoga guru, who has started a trendy yoga studio out in Bandra, grew up in this run-down society in Worli. He gives back to his community by teaching hatha yoga every morning in the society’s temple’s kitchen-hall for a nominal fee – 500 rupees a month, 100% of which goes to the temple. You may be wondering, as I was, how one would find out about such hidden treasures. The answer is always ‘word of mouth.’

I get to work around 10:30am so 7am is early for me in Mumbai (I know I know. I can feel you all rolling your eyes.) but since I have been eager to try different classes while I’m here I decided this week to give it a shot. You may have read my “Finding Routine” post where I discuss Yogacara, this beautiful, tiny, clean yoga studio that I have been going to. “Temple yoga” couldn’t have been more opposite but was completely wonderful in its modesty. The kitchen space where class was held had the equivalent of three walls. The length of the room had half walls on either side. The no-wall-spaces opened to the temple. Large rugs were stacked in the corner of the room. As people walked into the space they worked together to cover the floor with these rugs and then lay their yoga mats, which mostly were large towels, on top of the rugs. Temple bells were going off occasionally in the background but no music. No fans. The instruction was really challenging. The students, maybe fifteen in the class, were mostly older men or younger woman. The older men had looser hips than me. The whole experience was quite humbling in the best of ways.

With that, I’d like to close the temple segment of this post.

Two quick highlights from yesterday:

1. Food trucks – Food trucks don’t exist in Mumbai. As far as I can tell it’d be hard to make them successful. There’s too much traffic, unbearable heat, zero parking, no open spaces for an Off The Grid style event, etc. (In truth, I doubt there’s a real market for food trucks – nothing beats India’s streets as far as delicious flavorful snacks are concerned.) What Mumbai does have, along the food truck line, is Sweetish House Mafia. A woman, who remains anonymous, has purchased a nano (covered in her branding) and hired a driver to go to a different Mumbai neighborhood every evening and sell her “cookie-of-the-day.” Yesterday we lucked out. The nano parked in front of our building! (We did get a good number of people to vote for Indiabulls Finance Center so maybe it wasn’t all luck.)

SweetTooth

Yesterday’s cookie was an egg-less dark chocolate truffle. Four cookies for 100 rupees. The packaging could stand to be upgraded but the cookie was delicious.

2. Coke Studio: Part 2 – Coke Studio at Blue Frog is becoming our Thursday night tradition. Two of the bands yesterday were so so great: Rang and Highway 61 if you’re interested (FYI their live performances were better than these recorded tracks but give them a listen anyway. They’re still excellent).

We ended up kicking it at Blue Frog for a bit after the show. Some of the members of the aforementioned bands were also just hanging out as well. Katie and I went to chat with the lead singer of Highway 61 who clarified that the shows we are seeing at Blue Frog right now are actually auditions for the main MTV show. June 6th is when they announce finalists and then THOSE final performances will be aired (something like that). Then we chatted with one of the two main vocalists for Rang (this band was the ‘well-known popular band’ of the night and their song “Jaan” is basically an anthem for Mumbai). I mentioned to him that I loved their final song “Jaago.” Well guess who now is a proud owner of the track? He emailed it to me on the spot. I officially have friends in high places in Mumbai.

Five of the six bands that we have seen thus far have had a streak of activism + positive messaging in their music. The two bands yesterday for example: Highway 61 dedicates many of their songs to resolving conflict in Kashmir (their main song writer is Kashmiri and many of their songs are sung in Kashmiri as well. There are so many languages in this country – every band I’ve heard seems to be from different region and sing in a different language! As a friend said yesterday, “every ten kilometers there is a different dialect in India.” This, seriously, is only a slight exaggeration). Rang has started a movement called “Quit Running” – which is all about breaking away from the accepted career molds in India and following your dreams; a central topic in the movie 3 Idiots as well.

It’s all just very noble.