I’m back in India. Briefly, the trip from Zanzibar overland and sea and lake through Tanzania, into Uganda, and then Mumbai:
Last morning on Zanzibar finished “Morning Before Kenya,” a short story set in the States: husband, wife, and two kids at breakfast, the day the husband, a flower importer, is leaving on business for western Kenya.
Ran on the beach. Felt awful. Then terrible seasick ferry ride back to Dar es Salaam. So hot in Dar, the hotel room three floors above the loud and busy street, windows thrown open and hot breeze. The ceiling fan sucked.
Early the next morning 6 a.m. on bus, watching Africa go by, cloud shadows across farm land and people resting in the shade of solitary trees. At midnight arrived in Mwanza, on Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake.
Overnight ferry to Bukoba. Bus into Uganda, where we watched Obama’s inauguration in a packed Kampala bar, everyone getting drunk and celebrating and the celebration in bars spilling out onto the streets.
Went rafting on the Nile. Did interviews and photos for an article on the good chapati stands all over Uganda. They make an omelet with any combination of onion, cabbage, tomatoes and roll it in a greasy chapati.
Flew back to India through Qatar — long-bearded Muslim men spitting betel nut juice into air-sickness bags; Kenyans ordering more Heinekens — and into Mumbai at 3:45 a.m.
Mumbai. I wandered through the Saturday market on Kurla Road in Andheri. It’s a busy main thoroughfare near the airport, and people lay their blankets literally on the street. Early morning, though, it’s still quiet.
Their best-selling goods: spices, almonds, steel wool, lingerie, rat poison.
There are barefoot children with blackened feet. They collect plastic bottles. There are school children going to Saturday classes dressed in uniform with mid-shin socks and black canvas shoes. Students skip class and snack on vada pav — the famous Bombay veggie burger:
Bus to Pune — a westernized college town with management, business and media colleges — about 150 kilometers southeast of Mumbai. The land between is very flat and green, soft hills in the distance, and rusted conical stands hold up electrical wires far out on the plains.
Nearby the highway there are dusty fields where packs of half-naked boys play cricket. Their homes are thatched-roof shacks. It’s a major highway; the rest stops have McDonald’s. They serve McAloo Tikki’s: basically a fancy vada pav, a potato-and-spices patty with fresh tomato, onion, and Thousand Island dressing.
I visited some restaurants in Pune for articles and interviewed the owners and chefs. One was an Irani cafe (kitchen above) in business in the same location since 1924; the other a Hindi-menu-only place serving a special Maharashtran meal with typical local dishes: cinnamon-spiced kidney beans; a sweet cabbage and yogurt salad.
I’m in Rajasthan enroute to a desert festival in Jaisalmer.
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