Stopover in Mumbai


Mumbai has never been a destination for us – too noisy, too big, too expensive – although we’ve enjoyed seeing the CST and Churchgate train stations and all of the other Raj style architecture in the area. Last year we attended a five-day meditation retreat in Mumbai and became good friends with the family who organized the retreat. Even though we didn’t make the retreat this year they invited us to stop as we passed through on our way from Goa to Varanasi. They live in one of the new towers mushrooming in central Mumbai.


We arrived Friday night and our host was free over the weekend to ferry us around showing us some very interesting areas of Mumbai we probably would never have seen on our own: upscale Colaba, once a Parsi neighborhood with Victorian homes that have colorful stained glass windows and verandahs covered with flowering vines;


reliance hous

The most expensive residence in the world owned by one of the Reliance brothers. Estimated to be worth more than $1b, it boasts a cinema, swimming pools helicopter pad, gardens and lotus pools and a beautiful Krishna temple – but the exterior leaves much to be desired.

…and nearby Chowpatty Beach


We passed by a small café engulfed by a banyan DSC_0780

From the Hanging Gardens, designed by the British on top of a water tank, we could see the “Queens Necklace” – the circular bay lit up with its string of streetlights. It all looks much better at night. Our final stop was the best kulfi shop in town.


But best of all was the family. We love traveling and enjoy each other’s company but it is wonderful to be included in such a loving family.


Living Among Animals


by Michael Golding

I’ve talked about how much I enjoy living outside when we travel and especially in Goa. Our room opens on to a small balcony where we eat breakfast and lunch. At night we sleep under an open window – a cool breeze off the ocean blowing in.   And the sound of the animals – bulls snorting, pigs grunting. Night and day, we are surround by animals.


by Michael Golding

Each morning pigs appear out of the bush to eat our breakfast scraps, competing with a squadron of militant crows with their annoying squawk that drowns out other delicate bird songs.

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Monkeys swing down from guava trees, startling us in our path. Rita’s given up trying to protect the fruit.

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The one-eyed cat wanders through the garden around noontime. A persistent cow blocks the entrance to the banana lady’s shop.

Brahma bulls with horns erect stand in contemplation on the beach.


by Michael Golding

Dogs imitate tourists – splashing in the waves, sprawled on empty sunbeds…


by Michael Golding

…watching the sunset.


by Michael Golding

At night, they adjourn to the restaurants and sit beside us waiting for handouts Motionless geckos wait patiently for their prey next to the light bulb


by Michael Golding

They are in our midst and we are in theirs.

india  2011 jpg (89)And then the bell tolls and it’s time to leave Agonda. On our last night as we go for dinner with Michael, it seems almost everyone we’ve befriended is out on the street to say goodbye. Hugs from fellow tourists – Jen and Tony from England, Peter the talented violinist and his wife from Switzerland, Krystyna and her 88-year-old mother from Poland. The Indian shopkeepers, Geeta and later up the road Lakshmi, step outside their cultural boundaries and also hug me. Last of all, the banana lady waves from behind her mountain of bananas, papaya and melons…the persistent cow stops for a moment to give us her final appraisal. Harder still is to say goodbye to our new friend Michael who kept us laughing for the full six weeks.

Why does it seem easier to make friends here? Over morning chai we spend hours talking, sharing experiences and stories. From different countries, cultures and political environments, learning what our Russian friends think of Putin and the fighting in the Ukraine, and to hear their perspective of the US role in world politics. More enlightening than what CNN serves up. And how much better the Russian version of Dr Zhivago is than the old British version we’re so familiar with in the west.

There is plenty of time to get to know each other, no one has to rush off to work, take care of their families and so on. At the same time there’s an element of urgency. A stay may be only a week or as much as four months, but no one is here forever. If you have something to say or do, best hurry up and do it.  But there’s always next season – God willing.

A Conversation in Jallibag

We are conflicted about positing with so many of our friends suffering in the cold and waist-deep in snow. We’re going ahead given that not all of our followers have the same fate. 


It was time to take a break from the beach. We’d heard of a lovely place up the coast. Michael, our English friend and Chaitanya, a young Danishman, joined us.

We had exchanged a beach for a beach. Jallibag is quite similar in appearance to Agonda– a long stretch of fine sand, bordered by headlands at either end. But no tourist shops, no sun beds – not even cows on the beach. Just a couple of dusty restaurants sitting among the pine trees beside the beach. We imagine it looks like Agonda must have 20 years ago.


Which restaurant to chose for breakfast? Our Masala chai was like dishwater. Michael’s filter coffee was a paler shade of grey –“This is not coffee. Make me a stronger cup.” he demanded of the waiter.
“Ok” He obliged, and returned with a small bowl of extra coffee grounds.
“Do you know how to make filter coffee? The coffee grounds need to be BREWED in HOT water.”

The waiter took the glass away returning with a darker version. Michael, who needs his coffee in the morning, is getting more niggled. But the waiter doesn’t seem to notice. The drinks must have had some caffeine because the chatter was in full force.   I went swimming…

For lunch we tried the competition, certainly it’ll be better. We consulted the menu and selected the few listed veggie dishes – Palak paneer?
“Sorry, no palak. “
“Ok. Then aloo gobi.”
“Sorry, no gobi.”
“What do you have?” Fried rice we’re told.
“With veggies?” I ask.
“Yes, of course!”

A large bowl of rice appeared with only a glimmer of a veg. Our companions’ meals were no better. We concluded you don’t come to Jallibag for the food.

P1010588In the afternoon we swam in the river just up where it meets the sea. Or at least I swam – while the men waded around still deep in conversation. Then someone suggested we explore the other end of the beach – probably me because I was getting tired of this endless conversation. There’s a long stand of tall scrubby pine trees running parallel to the beach – welcome shade and subtly aromatic. The breeze created a soothing hush.


Gerard’s still in a talkative mood, “That sound reminds me of winter in New Hampshire. It makes me feel


I’m impatient. “I don’t want to be reminded of New Hampshire in winter thank you very much. I’d rather listen to the rustle of coconut palms. They’re so much more elegant than these scruffy pines that look like they’re infested with bugs.”

“Bugs?” Gerard begins to scratch. “Where are the bugs?”

Michael says, “I could imagine staying here a week.”
Gerard agrees. “It’s so peaceful. I could stay at least a week – if it’s not too buggy.”
23 year old Chai thinks it would be a little too quiet for him, although it might be conducive for his daily yoga practice. Beginning to also scratch, I say, “For me it’s way too buggy.”
“Where are the bugs?”
“Just wait until the sun goes down.”

The taxi pulls up and the pros and cons of Jallibag continue to be discussed ad nauseam on the way back to Agonda.