We’d agreed to spend the day out in the city with another like-minded couple, starting the day with a list of places we’d like to visit, things we’d like to buy and other ideas which could come in handy. Having worked out a route of sorts, we left our negotiator-extraordinaire to do the deal with a taxi driver for a few hours. As is usually the case, as soon as we stepped off the ship we were besieged by offers and after a few false starts we found ourselves being taken to a vehicle.
Had we seen it first, the deal might not have been done, for this little black and yellow taxi had seen better days. Many of them. It was now held together with – who knows? Willpower? But three of us squeezed in the back, leaving our ace negotiator the front seat so he could keep his eye on where we were being taken.
It was tight. Very tight!
Setting off in altogether a different direction than we had previously, we tried hard to keep tabs on where we were being taken. We drove through small streets of unimaginable conditions – not the slum shanties shown on TV but nevertheless crowded communities where life was being lived in public, on the pavement and under makeshift shelters. No elegant buildings here to identify and use as place markers; we simply had to hold trust and believe that we would end up where we wanted to end up.
Which we did. Our driver took us to the Zaveri Bazaar, supposedly the centre for jewellery but our magpie eyes went straight for the colour!
The pavement sellers on this street were peddling all kinds of bright things and though we didn’t want to buy any of it, we loved “just looking”.
Hard to resist such goodies but once you’ve had one pink wrist from a cheap bangle, it’s a little easier.
A small 5rp sticker and a trinket of Ganesh was the major purchase here, then a daily paper and the new edition of Vogue India – 5rp and 100rp respectively, from the newspaper seller around the corner.
As always, I find myself asking “what might I do with that?”, before giving myself a strict talking to and reminding myself that however cheap these things are, I have no need for them!
Moving right along then, finding our driver sitting exactly where we’d left him, springing into action the minute he saw us return. Only he could open the doors of the car – the handle didn’t work for me!
We squeezed in and made our way through the busy traffic to the VT – the main station formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, where we wanted to spend a few minutes watching the comings and goings.
Passing another news stand en route, we smiled at the headlines of the local tabloid press. The same the world over, eh?
Ten minutes of observation, of sharing our love of such places with our friends and we were ready to go again. Our driver had parked his car under a shady tree and was ready to go again – next stop a “proper shop”, Fabindia.
Our guide yesterday had told us that we’d find wearable clothes here, of the kind she wore herself. Realising that these wouldn’t be priced like street clothes, we knew from experience that paying that bit extra was worthwhile, that “bargains” are often throwaway things once we’re home. We dived in to a sea of colour, pattern and a treasure trove of exactly the kinds of things we’d been looking for. Soon, we had taken over the changing room, trying on all kinds of churidar, salwars, kurtas…we were hot and sticky and it wasn’t always easy to change quickly. Our heroes became our runners “please, look for this in XXL”, “another pair of these in black”, “see if you can find something to go with this”. Soon, we’d amassed a little heap of clothes each – deciding to go for it, even if these things were pricey.
My heap of treasure included two churidar, one salwar, one long kurta and two long dupatta. When I reached the till, the total was about £70. Amazing. If I’d known (or taken the time to work out the prices) I’d have been less restrained!!
(I included the link to the Fabindia online store, because I just know it’s somewhere I will return!)
Hearing the equivalent of “are we nearly there yet” from our hero bag carriers/fashion advisers/negotiators, we agreed to just one more stop on Colaba Causeway for shoes. We left our driver under a tree and once again, he waited whilst we went looking.
But what a stop it was…quite a party too. The other recommendation from our guide yesterday was for a brand of comfortable shoe to be found in this area. We took a look in “Citywalk” and immediately found ourselves in shoe heaven. The attentive service from the half dozen or so young men was such fun, the entertainment value even better.
Our chosen shoes were delivered for us to try on by means of a rather less technological advanced method than the earpiece and microphone connection to the storeroom. Here, the stocks were in the loft and having worked out what size/style we were after, the assistant called up through a hole in the ceiling to the stockroom assistant up there in the blackness somewhere. Ten seconds later, a box of shoes would be dropped through the hole, to be ably caught by the cricket fan below, much to our amusement.
Of course, things gathered pace and not just one box came flying through the hole but two, three at a time. We were soon surrounded by so many shoes it looked like “Nieman Marcus on a Saturday afternoon” (and if you haven’t experienced that, you’ll have to use your imagination. It won’t be far from the truth!)
By this stage, the party was really going. The men were sharing banter with the assistants, there was much laughter and the shoe box tricks were getting more elaborate. Finally, one decided to show us his party trick..how many boxes could he catch in one go…first one, then another and another dropped through the ceiling, till he was balancing six boxes on top of one another. We applauded, he went for the finale, throwing all six boxes back to the stockroom in one go.
Except he didn’t quite make it and all six pairs of shoes, boxes, packing and all came down upon our heads! The whole shop fell about in fits of laughter. How can shopping get more fun than this?!
With bags of shoes (yes, of course, we bought!) my offer of drinks and nibbles at the Taj was appealing to everyone and our driver completed the deal we’d agreed with him when we set off. Good man.
But oh, what a relief it was to fall out of that tight, hot space and into the cool, elegance of the hotel where we stayed on our last visit here. Since then, of course, there have been events…the siege of just over two years ago has resulted in the need for huge security measures and a great deal of restoration. But it looks as beautiful as ever, the attentive staff and gorgeous decor makes this such a special place and, well, hang the expense. Those G&Ts and nibbles were the perfect end to one marvellous day.
We still had a wedding to go to, as well.