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Your name, country and how long in India??

Juhu Beach, Mumbai

JUHU BEACH

We arrived eventually at our 4 star hotel - we had decided to treat ourselves after all our hard saving. Everything, everything about it was amazing - a huge amount of luxury for less than half the price you would pay back home - and after working at a 5 star hotel myself for the past 6 months, it was strange suddenly being on the recieving end. Up in our hotel room there was a sign warning 'all guests to stay inside hotel grounds'. The view from our window did look a little scary to our first-time-in-India eyes and it wasn't quite the glorious beach view we had expected, but we decided to be brave and venture out. Go with the flow. We were there and couldn't exactly hide in our room forever.

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For some reason, Nick, my boyfreind, and I can never escape booking hotels in strange places. At least 4 times on our travels we have ended up in the middle of a red light area - where, although dodgy, strangley we have found is often the place with the most brillaint wee roadside restaurants. This time it looked to us like we had done it again and although it didn't look like a prostitute area, the beach didn't look any better from the beach than it did from our window.

As soon as we stepped outside, an old begger woman latched onto us and would not leave us alone until she was out numbered by it seemed the whole beach. My toe had hardly even touched sand when I was surrounded by tiny skinny kids all wanting to give me henna. I could do nothing but sit and let them have their way and as they decorated not only my hand but half my arm, I watched their serious expressions and discussions, as though deciding which stamp to use next was one of the most important decisions in the world. Once finished, I gave them 150 ruppees (much more than it should be but how was I to know) and got up thinking we would now be left alone. But we were no more than a few more steps down the beach and I was being pulled off again to the sea to wash my hand and Nick was being surrounded by about 15 men all asking him those 3 questions you have to be prepared to answer at least a million times if you ever visit India - his name, country, and how long in India?

By this point we were both feeling shocked, intimidated and just wanting to be left alone - occasionally while in India I considered wildly wearing the black veil just to walk the streets inconspicously. I wanted to much to hold Nick's hand, to make me feel safe, but as public affection is not viewed kindly upon in India I dared not to.

A few of the kids who had done my henna followed us for the rest of our walk and although they pestered us for more money at first with 'no mama, no papa' (how can you resist?), after a while they relented and began collecting gifts for us instead. A tiny skinny boy with broken teeth would not let go of my hand as if he thought I could make him safe and well, whilst the other two girls ran around giving me shells until I could hold no more and they ran off returning with a makeshift newspaper bag for me to carry them all in. Another young boy, slightly taller as the wee one but just as skinny and with the cheekiest little grin, went and fished Nick a tiny fish from a pool in the sand and would not stop giving him 'high fives'. The initial shock of it all was wearing off and I found I was actually quite enjoying myslef. For a small moment we were having fun and they were having fun and they walked us all the way up to the hotel steps - they could go no further for fear of getting hit by sticks by the hotel's managers. Here, Nick made a coin appear behind the boy with the cheeky grin's ear, they stared unbelievably, made him do it again, and then finally left us, each with a 1 ruppee coin held tight in thier hands, wondering where it came from. We retreated thankfully to our hotel room.

I did not no way want to go out again that day, but later Nick persuaded me to come out and have dinner with him at one of the many ramshackle beachside cafes. We ventured out again and I was surprised by how much the attention had decreased from the last time. It seems that in India they always know whether it's your first time out somewhere or not. We sat and ate the most delicious Aloo Chat I have ever tasted.....in the whole of India.

Posted by emils 06:55 Archived in India

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