Friday, April 04, 2008

Mumbai and the Unexpected Friend

"It is at Bombay that the smell of All Asia boards the ship miles off shore, and holds the passenger's nose till he is clear of Asia again"

Rudyard Kipling

Travelogues suck. There - I said it. Every single time I've been somehow duped into reading one, I feel like I'm sitting in some souvenir-chocked living room with a cup of tea in my hands, mechanically saying "How nice" every minute while some middle-aged bloke with a tan continuously showing photo albums under my nose and incompetently describing just how freaking awesome his lame vacation was. Maybe that's why I always feel a bit apprehensive about writing them myself - 'cause I'm convinced that everyone else agrees with me to a degree on this, and will most definitely ignore my travel posts like I do others. It's like standing on stage in a comedy club, and there are only empty chairs in the audience.

I can be painfully self-aware .

Sure, it was my vacation - and more importantly, this is my journal too, - so why give a hoot, right? I ought to just keep my hoots and write at my own pleasure. But still, I feel that I owe it to my readers to at least try to be not boring. This aberrant sense of responsibility, of fulfilment of duty... I think it's a clear sign that I am starting to consider writing in this weblog to be more an occupation, rather than a hobby.

Oh yeah, Mumbai.

How should I tell you about Mumbai? One way is, I can simply bombard you with the pictures I took on my walking tour of the city.

Like so,

The Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus (which probably means Awesomest-Train-Stations-Evar in Hindi) was the first thing we saw when we first got off the train.

Same thing from the front.

Ditto. Bored yet?

The Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) Building - headquarter of that lovable bunch of people who supply water to the city, maintain the roads, cart away garbage and, err, treat sewage.

Some street. It's good to know that the bloody colonists were good for something.

The Taj Mahal Palace, facing the harbour. It's a hotel, by the way.

The Gateway of India - I suppose it's pretty cool, standing at the harbour and all. Too bad it's under some restoration project. Wikipedia has awesome pictures of that block of rock.

And finally, the Mumbai Harbour and the Arabian Sea.

I didn't see many stuff in Mumbai since I was only in town for like 4 hours before having to hop aboard the next train. For some reason, we took into our heads during the planning phase to spend as little time as possible in the bigger cities we were stopping in. I kind of regret that now but no matter - I'm taking a week off my August vacation to see Mumbai and New Delhi proper.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure no one was entertained by my little pictorial up above. But have no fear! I have taken the liberty to also include another approach in this post,

Here's attempt number two; quirky stuff I (and I bet you) have never seen before,

On the Mumbai metro, which got no doors. That blue blur outside was another train going the other way. Overpopulation is a serious problem in India, I have heard - it's ingenious how the government's dealing with it.

People taking a shit beside the metro rail. All along the metro rail. I like to see how the boys from the BMC treat with this stretch of sewage.

Josephine and Joon Keat in front of that cool station building (I sheared off the top bit when I cropped this pic). There is something very wrong in this picture. See if you can spot it.

Do you know the tourism tagline for India is "Amazing India".

It must be cheaper to hire people to stand around with advertising banners strapped onto their backs than it is to rent ad spaces on lamp posts in India.

Okay, I guess I have digressed enough, and slyly managed to show you a whole lot of lousy photographs of my Bombay day trip.

I think I ought to get on to the main point of this post; this guy,

The Wimpy Guy.

I remember asking for his name, which he gave - and which I promptly forgot to remember. So, I just have to refer to him as "the Wimpy Guy" because he's the manager of the Wimpy Burger restaurant in the Churchgate terminus. Oh, in case you don't already know, Wimpy is an international chain of hamburger restaurants based in the UK.

And no, they weren't named that way because the burger patties they serve were unmanly. They were named after some cartoon character. 1954 points to anyone who can tell me who and why.

I wish I took a stack with me just so I can offer them to anyone I see crying.

I wanted to write about him because he greeted us with "Apa Khabar?" when we went to the counter to order.

I can tell you that it is a bloody unsettling experience to hear one's mother tongue spoken by someone who lives half an ocean away in a country where half its people thought that Malaysia is a city in Thailand.

And no, that's not all he could say. He could also take our orders in Malay. And hold full conversations with us in Malay - which technically means that he actually speaks Malay better than some *coughJosephinecough* members of our group!

We asked him how did he learn it, and he explained (still stalwartly using our national language) that he once worked in Brunei - and that he has an Indonesian girlfriend. He said that he knew we were Malaysians from the way we talk (very loud) and the way we act (very jakun1), so that was why he started talking to us in Malay.

What struck me was how happy he was to see us. He couldn't stop smiling and jesting. At one point, he patted one of his subordinate on his shoulder and said to us, "Dia tak faham apa kita cakap. Dia keling.2" He cracked up at his own little joke, and stringed us cracking along. I suppose talking to us must have been a truly nostalgic moment for him, and he told us too just how much we made him miss his days in Brunei. I seriously half expected him to cry.

After we finished lunching, he insisted on taking us to a nearby taxi stand and getting us a decent price for our cab ride to the harbour just so we don't get ripped off. And he also gave us his number and asked us to call him if we ever need his help again. Gosh, what an absolute capital guy!

And I don't even have the decency to remember his name.

The Churchgate terminus where the Wimpy outlet is at.

Anyway dear readers, if you are ever in the city of Mumbai in the near future or far, and somehow find yourself at the Churchgate terminus (which you probably will considering that it's a historical landmark of some standing), look up the Wimpy Guy for me and help me ask him what his name is again. Ask him if he remembers 11 Chinese backpackers from Malaysia which wandered into his little fast food joint on a February day in 2008 - 11 Malaysians which he entertained and helped. And if you are a Malaysian, a Singaporean or a Bruneian, I'm pretty sure that he will help you get a cheap cab too.

And tell him I say, "Apa khabar?" okay?

Has friends in weird places,
k0k s3n w4i

1 "Jakun", a slang word in Malay used to refer to... err... I think I'll explain this with an example. Imagine a man who lives in a small village in the middle of some forest all his life. One day, he travels to a massive metropolis, and the sight of cars, skyscrapers and indoor plumbing put him in a mixed state of excitement, curiosity and embarrassing overreaction. We call such a person a "jakun". The closest English equivalents I can think of is an "island yahoo" or a "yokel" but understand this; "jakun" is as much an adjective as it is a verb or a noun. It's an attitude, and unfortunately, for some people in Malaysia, it is pretty much a way of life too.

"He don't understand what we are saying. He's a keling," it meant. "Keling" is a rather derogatory term for Indians back in Malaysia though. Much like "nigger" for the African Americans.


pinksterz said...

i know how boring a travelog is! and how i suffer writing them but then i want my experience in my blog T_______T

eh the picture of uncle ah keat and josephine: WHAT IS THE INDIAN GUY DOING BESIDE HER?! so scary @__@

and there is a jakun entry in wikipedia anyway. hahaha! i found it last time :P

p.s. remember got one girl jtsc tagged your cbox last time saying she's coming to india to study? she decided to go to a business college instead. there goes my hope for a place to stay (and tripmate too) IF i ever want to go to india for a vacation T__T

bevE said...

got bored second word into the quote long before ur caption

only some few decent pics, but not good enough to call excellent

that indian guy looks very ghostly a bit like pontianak

i am ur harshest critic

one part made me laugh
"jakun" bit

thats all

should have boycotted d

Xorkes said...

owwww.. the pics.. :)
i feel nostalgic all over again..

calvin said...

i have always say that beve will never boycott the travelogues here.

i have to agree that sometimes, travelouge can be boring and most people if not all, will just browse through the pictures. everyone knows your style of writing, which i think not as boring as what been said by some. just like how you and pinksterz put it, we want to record down our experience in somewhere for future readings.

my fav pic will be the picture with the "amazing india" caption :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

pinksterz: I believe he is engaged in the activity of... err... molesting her? he looks like a beggar tho'
yeah, I remember jtsc. anyhow, if you want to come india, Manipal is the last place you want to visit anyway. Just buy a Lonely Planet guide and find ur own way about (like me).

beve: you're the sort who'd get bored at your own wedding day. of course I don't have excellent pictures. it's not like i'm packing a DSLR or something.
it's the way he bend his hand.
you're my only critic.

xorkes: oh hey, xorkes. u've been to mumbai, huh?

calvin: i actually prefer travelogues that have more words than pics. then again, saying that i prefer one sort of travelogue to another is like saying i enjoy eating cockroaches more that I do spiders.
that picture with the "amazing india" caption... you ain't see nothin' yet.

bevE said...

hah u know of all ppl i'd be the excitement of my wedding day :P xD

its good to have at least one critic right

blog's not complete without one

u sound too serious

neither is calvin

michelleg said...

that indian guy beside ur fren is scary!!!

and what an interesting meet with that 'apa khabar' guy.. lol..