Blog: My journey to India - part 2

2010-09-29 00:00

I have a butler at my beck and call.

Sorry guys, I just had to get that out of the way first because average folk such as myself never get to utter such things.

Gathering by my first sentence, you would be correct to deduce that I, along with seven other print, radio and T.V. journalists from various South African media companies, are living it up in the lap of luxury in what is easily one of Mumbai's top five-star hotels.

It's the Taj Hotel, in case you were interested.

Tired and dreary from the nearly nine-hour flight the night before, imagine my surprise when the larney bus we were being chaufferd in pulled up in front of the Taj where a small group of locals in traditional attire were awaiting our arrival.

Greetings of “welcome to India” were accompanied by the draping of flower necklaces, the burning of incense and the dabbing of a red substance onto one's forehead.

While basking in the luxurious surroundings of the hotel, what happens to catch my eye?

A Louis Vuitton store. In the lobby.

“I would sell my own mother for one of those bags,” I remarked to one of the hotel's employees, who chuckled before telling me that Mumbai's very first LV boutique before others sprang up in other parts of India was the same one I was drooling over at that very moment.

Right.

I am staying at a hotel that has high-end boutiques such as Dior, Burberry, Mont Blanc and the like in the lobby and I'm expected to stay sane?

We'll see how that pans out over the course of the next few days but so far so good.

So I was telling you about the butler.

He knocked on my door just as I was about to doze off and told me I should not hesitate to call him as he was there to cater to all the journalists needs.

But what does one do with a butler?

Well, according one of the other journalists, they are good for ironing your clothes in the morning. True story.

He told us this on our way to the Mumbai stock exchange yesterday morning and we all thought he was on to something.

Time will tell how far this butler's buttons are pushed because some of us are clearly on a mission to see how far we can take this. On our way to the stock exchange, we had an opportunity to get a glimpse of the streets.

What really struck me was the fact that Mumbai is a city full of contrasts. It's so glaringly obvious that you couldn't miss it even if you tried.

For instance, on one hand you will come across a marvellously constructed building that models itself after Victorian architecture but then right next door to it, a dilapidated structure sits in binary opposition.

And there are examples of this all over the city.

The slums we spotted while we were being transported to the hotel after our arrival would not look out of place in Edendale.

But that's the thing about India: it clearly represents the best of both worlds.

Easily the best sight after the first night: a blue-eyed blonde crossing a busy intersection in down town Mumbai while wearing a sari. You know what they say: when in India, do as the Indians do.

But one thing that is definitely not pleasant is the searing heat. Okay listen, I'm not going to sit here and say I wasn't warned about the humidity because I was.

But to actually experience it? I have no words.

Before I left I thought: “Oh please! I live in Pietermaritzburg. If you can survive the blazing summers here then you can basically survive them anywhere!” Oh how wrong I was.

My advice: take one of those miniature portable battery-operated fans. You'll need it.

As for the food, I just don't have words. The Taj has really gone out of its way to treat us like royalty and we're all definitely going to get a bit porky if this continues.

But I must say, having people fuss over you everywhere you go takes some getting used to. It's been lovely chatting to you but unfortunately I have to go now.

We're about to hit the city's down town markets and something tells me I might need a foot massage when I get back.

Hmmmn... isn't that what butlers are for?

Read Blog 3 of My journey to India

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