Free hit counter

Ok

By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

03/24/2014

Interview "Must do things in Mumbai"

The Indian (great) magazine Culturama, "Your cultural gateway to India", featured me in their “Who is in Town” and asked me to answer some questions about “Unique/Must do things in Mumbai”! So here is what I prepared... Here in PDF.

1)     A brief background of how long have you stayed in Mumbai, first impressions of the city and what the city means to you today?

When I lived in Pune, I used to take visitors to Mumbai and I hated the city: too big, too hot, too humid, too congested! Being in Mumbai was all about being glued to the plastic-covered seat of a tumbledown taxi, gasping for air and dozing off helplessly.

So I was quite apprehensive when my new job took me there in January 2009… Luckily the “winter” weather was merciful and I quickly grew to appreciate the liveliness of my neighborhood.

2)     Could you tell us a little bit about the unique things you get to do in your home country? And how has that changed in India?

 Whenever I plan a visit back to Paris, my parents offer to book a play, an exhibition, a museum, a concert etc. These activities are still pretty rare in India so you need to be creative to keep yourself busy on week-ends!

In France sport facilities are also easily available whereas in India, unless you are a member of a club, this British legacy, or willing to sweat your butt out running on the busy roads, being sportive is a challenge.

 3)     What are the three must-do unique things for an expat in Mumbai?

 1.     After visiting the 10 spots every guidebook recommends, just forget your map (which is not of much use anyways in Mumbai), hop in a local train and get lost!! Walking is not easy – the pavement is uneven (when there is pavement), the traffic insane – but you may just stumble upon a heritage ‘village’: quiet lanes with exquisite old bungalows*.

2.     Once your face is red, your shirt wet, your feet killing, your ears buzzing, take a deep breath and remember you are an expat! Rise above by visiting a rooftop bar (FourSeasons). Sipping a Mojito watching the sun set over the slums below is not as easy as it seems; it takes time to overcome the guilt feeling of spending in one drink what most people earn in one week… But spending time (and money) in relaxing experiences like brunches at a Five-Star pool by the beach, afternoons at the spa, diners at the Peshawri may actually prove very useful to make the working days easier!

3.     Mumbai is famous in India for her street food so don’t be shy! Try bhel-puri, pani-puri, vadapao, dosa, goat brain (Bademiya). You may experience some digestive turbulences but the risk is less than in the capital where getting a ‘Delhi-belly’ from street food is almost unavoidable! As you turn into a Mumbaikar, eating is likely to become your favorite past-time and will make you a restaurant-hunter**.

 4)     What are the three tips an expat needs to keep in mind while exploring these must do options in Mumbai?

 1.     Mumbai is quite safe, so don’t be paranoid over your bag…

2.     Drink a lot of water as the city can drain your energy very fast!

3.     Ask locals for help rather than your phone. If possible learn some Hindi, people will really appreciate…

 5)     Is there a funny, memorable or endearing anecdote that you encountered while exploring Mumbai?

 I once took my parents to see Victoria Gardens. I didn’t know what to expect so after seeing the elephant statue from Elephanta caves, I thought we were done. But then I spotted a very big queue and assumed there was something to see so we just joined in… Twenty minutes later we found out we were at the zoo and us, three white nitwits, immediately felt like zoo animals! We were out in fifteen minutes, suffocated by the heat and the attention of the crowds (to top it all, it was a Sunday and a day-off for Eid and it seemed that all the Muslims of Mumbai (and there are quite a few) had decided to celebrate it at the zoo!).

 6)     What are the three things an Indian needs to keep in mind while exploring your home country? And the three best unique things to do you would recommend to an Indian?

 1.     The French are shy and may react rudely when accosted in the street. If you learn a few words to break the ice, they may actually be helpful!

2.     French food is amazing. If there are not many veg dishes on the menu, ask the waiter and he will know what you should order! Do carry Tabasco if you really fear the blandness!

3.     Discovering France requires a lot of walking so bring good shoes and energy!

 * Try Chor Bazaar, Banganga tank (Malabar hill), Ranwar village (Bandra), Khotachiwadi (Girgaon).

** You will then hunt the best Italian pizza (Metro Pizza), French crêpe (Suzette), Belgian bread (LePainQuotidien), Japanese sushis (Aoi), Mexican fajitas (Sancho’s), American hamburgers (HardRockCafé) to forget, the time of a diner, that you live in India! (and sometimes (only sometimes)) you need that!)

 

india,mumbai,expat,culturama,must do things

 

03/18/2014

The tribulations of a Parisian turned Mumbaikar in Paris...

I usually need some time to get back to the French reality, to recover from the night flight and more, perhaps, from the months spent in India (yes, India is tiring: all the senses all the time stimulated: so many people, so much noise etc.): I spend around twenty-four hours after landing asleep!

And then I rediscover some stuff I had forgotten that bring me joy and discover some stuff I got used to and kind of miss… 

india,paris,france

Ah the joy of being a tourist in Paris (the most beautiful city in the world ;) )! Especially when I arrive in March and it’s springtime: the sun is out and the sky blue! I love wandering the Parisian streets for hours without anything to do but look around me, look at the monuments, the people, the full moon behind the clouds... The authorities warn us that there is a peak of pollution? I do experience some throat pain but I think it is mainly due to the dryness (in any climate below 80% of humidity I now have my lips chapped after a few days): peak or no peak, Mumbai is at least 3 times more polluted than Paris*! And impossible to just walk around in Mumbai: Indian cities have not been designed for pedestrians. But, once my feet have well pounded the pavement, once the night has fallen, dragging along the temperatures, I regret to be unable to just hail a rickshaw, or (let's be crazy!) a taxi...

The joy of being able to sit at a terrace and order a Croque-monsieur, or in a bistro and eat fry foie gras, snails and veal sweetbreads and finally a chocolate fondant! But how surprised I am when the bill comes (even in not-so-fancy restaurants): we are always close to hundred euros per person – who eats well drinks well and I (re)discover the taste of the French for wine! I recently invited three friends in Mumbai and the total bill, with 5 dishes, half a bottle of wine and a pitcher of beer, came up to less of 35 euros! My wallet is not the only one to suffer... My stomach, or my liver, went bluntly on strike! I must say, I have almost become vegetarian, out of convenience.

The joy of taking the metro (outside rush hours) and mingling like a sheep in the herd. Nobody stares at me as if I was some kind of E.T.: I am again A-NO-NY-MOUS... But I easily lose control of my staring-at-people (bad) habit: there are so many so well-dressed people everywhere, tourists, students, beautiful people, ugly people, I don’t know where to look! – and I end up drawing up attention... And how surprised am I when, after refusing a taxi ride 30 metres away from home, the driver asks me to at least take his number because he finds me cute!

The joy of understanding what is happening around me! Of being able to listen to the conversations at the neighbor tables! But then, fast enough, the feeling of too-much-information that makes me “disconnect” from my own conversations comes back and I find myself in that bubble I escape to when I don't understand anything about anything around me and I can let my imagination wander free there... For the story, I once took a rickshaw in Kerala with a colleague and he was amazed by the fact that he could hardly communicated with the driver (who didn’t speak Hindi nor English, only Malayalam). I could only wish him welcome in my world!

The joy of being back with my family and the old and good friends! And the sadness of leaving a piece of my heart in India…

The annoying rediscovery that shops are closed on Sundays in Paris and you have to reinvent your activities. The joy to spend quality time with the family on Sundays (because the shops are closed)!

 

* Mumbai has an index of 92.7 and ranks 15 of the most polluted cities whereas Paris is 115 with 62.5 (source: http://www.numbeo.com/pollution/rankings.jsp )) ;Peak at 82 these days in Paris: http://www.airparif.asso.fr/indices/resultats-jour-citeair. In 2008, the annual mean concentration of particulate matter of less than 10 microns of diameter (PM10) was 38 micrograms per cubic meter vs. 132 for Mumbai (source: http://worldbank.tumblr.com/post/41207322814/outdoor-air-... ))

03/14/2014

Bike road-trip to Murund fort, Maharashtra

What happens when IndianSamourai decides to go for a bike road-trip?

 

 Well you get 4 bikers with their ass on fire after driving 340 kilometers on the roads of Maharashtra (which are only a mix of holes (craters I should say) and speed-breakers) and a black face because of the last kilometers in the traffic in the outskirts of Mumbai.

But ABOVE ALL 4 bikers (or at least 2 passengers) delighted by their ride on the Konkan coast, by the sailing (where we felt like illegal immigrants as the boat was overloaded), by the exploration of the fort in the middle of the sea (where it is possible to escape and leave the Indian tourists following the guide), by the break on Kashid Beach (and especially by the nap in the hammock while the lunch was getting prepared just for us (and it took an hour) in a tiny shack)!

A perfect Saturday!!

 

Murud, Maharashtra - Feb 2014

india,maharashtra,murund,murund fort,konkan,konkan coast