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Sunday in Mumbai

Elephanta Caves, Bollywood, Fashion Street and dinner with Jewish community members
Sunday, February 28

This morning we’re off to sea! An hour’s boat ride takes us to the Elephanta Caves, a large group of Hindu caves containing rock cut stone sculptures dedicated to the god Shiva. But before we can get to the caves, we are met with two exciting firsts. One is wild goats, cows and monkeys galore. The second are 200 stone steps to the caves lined with our first real exposure to shopping and bartering; and the prospect of being carried up said 200 steps by four willing and eager Indians on a throne-like contraption. No takers from our group today, fun as it seemed!! At the top, we are in awe. Carved-out columns in the side of the island invite us into the cave where gods have been intricately whittled into the stone some ten to fifteen hundred years earlier. We only make the round of one cave in an hour before we have to get back to the boat, but not before we do a little damage on the way back down the steps.

Far across town, we take a turn off the highway, down an alley and through the tall gate into a Bollywood studio. We are greeted by Ambika Hinduja, a powerhouse of the industry who along with her mother and sister make up the only all-women studio in the Mumbai Film Industry, the preferred moniker of Bollywood insiders. One of their head architects ushers us around the building to six different sets - three empty, three working and filming while we move through – all glorious.
After our tour we meet the Hinduja women for a very candid Q&A and if you close your eyes you swear you’re hearing your own mothers, aunts and grandmothers bickering, only with a lot more authority and knowledge of film.

We learn that a) comedy and drama sell, b) political movies rarely get past production, and c) you don’t mess with these women. They are funny and charming, and if Bollywood is anything like Hollywood you know there’s more to what they’re saying, but you don’t care, it’s too much fun.

We only have a few minutes before dinner, but we need white clothes for Holi so we stop at a Fashion Street (street market) to buy Indian clothes, probably some type of pajama pants and a tunic. Some of us have a flare for bartering, I definitely do not, so I stick with the group and hope we can cut some kind of mass deal. Most of us ladies find the same genie-type pant and feel we’ve found a fair price then go off on our own to find a top. The men unfortunately have slimmer pickin’s but everybody finds what they need.

We make our purchases just in time for dinner with members of Jewish community at South Indian vegetarian thali restaurant. We are joined by Mr. Sharon Galsurkar who is the director of the Jewish Education Resource Center at ORT India and Gabriel Ashtamkar, Welfare Executive, JDC-India (India office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). Waiters bring each of us so many tasty treats each one spicier than the next, and just when we think dinner is over, it just begins. Each of us receives our own huge silver platter with every type of conceivable flavor, shape and color. Delicious! Once again we pose our Indian dinner companions with the same question “How is it possible that Indians remain so fit when they eat like this at every meal”!? We never get a satisfying answer, but the satisfying meals more than make up for it.

Jessica Gronich

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