We landed in Bombay after midnight, but the customs agent sent us to the back of the line because we had no visas. No one told us about that before the trip, but, sure, that was our fault.
At 2:30 in the morning, we were the final two in line. The temperature was in the 90’s (degrees Fahrenheit). That agent—and, sorry, but he looked like a crook—said he had to keep our passports, and we could enter the country, but we should hire someone to get them back before we checked out of the country. What choice did we have? This is scam city, and a more active form than in Cairo, yet to come.
There was a very large sign behind him warning anyone not to exchange money with these officials. So he proceeded to ask us how many rupees we wanted. Oh, great, now what? Do we ignore him and walk out, invoking his rage to purposely lose our passports, or get thrown in jail for exchanging money? We got a few rupees. No problem.
The taxi ride was uneventful. We checked into the Holiday Inn, and got a room with the noisiest air conditioner I have ever experienced. But it worked. We specifically picked this hotel because it was a Holiday Inn. Certainly, it would be sterile.
The next morning, we went down to breakfast in their coffee shop, which was swarming with flies. Yes, this was a Holiday Inn.
Pearl walked just outside the hotel area to the beach, and came running back, as a whole mob of children was chasing her to sell rocks. Not gemstone quality, but plain old rocks. What a cultural shock.
We took an arranged tour of the city. I can still remember the utter poverty. People living in cardboard boxes…mothers with deformed children begging…carts hauling dead people to special areas for vultures to pick on…this was a totally different world. Bombay was a shock to our senses.
The tour guide was especially proud of a church basement where 8-10 year old children were sewing in semi-darkness, almost swollen with pride because at least they had shelter and food. The Hanging Gardens of Bombay approximated my hanging roof garden in Honolulu. The Gateway of India was swarming with a million people. People bumped into you at this tourist attraction because of crowd surges, but as far as I could determine, there were no pickpockets. Singapore has about 2,000 people/square mile…Bombay is almost ten times that density. 20 million people? I can go on, but a couple of days later we finally found ourselves back at the airport six hours before our flight, to retrieve our passports.
You can imagine our anxiety as we waited for 5 ½ hours with our baggage, waiting to check in. Through a major miracle, the youth we hired came running back…we barely were able to check through…just got on board, and the plane left India. That was our last trip to this country. Eliminate India as a best place to live.