Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Traveller's dysentery is not just exclusive to India, but we had learnt the dos and don'ts and were pretty confident that our ultra-careful approach would pay off. Happily, my wife would remain healthy throughout the holiday. Instead, it was yours truly who contracted "Delhi belly" - albeit on arrival in Mumbai.
Day 1 - just before start of play; crowds still sparse

Friday 23 November
A new day dawns and it's an early start. Play on the first day of the 2nd Test between India and England is due to commence at 9.30. We have arranged to meet friends Alison and Nick in front of the ticket office at 8.30. I have had to hurry out of bed numerous times during the night but feel just about well enough to walk with Jenny to the ground - only a 10-15 minute stroll away on Marine Drive.

We meet our friends and are eventually able to secure season tickets for INR 600 (or EUR 8.50!) each in the Garware Pavilion - a very good result all round. All is going fine until midway through the morning session at around 11 o'clock, when nausea and shivers suddenly kick in and I have to beat a hasty retreat to our hotel. Although I feel refreshed enough in the afternoon to return to the stadium for us to watch the whole of the final two-hour session of play, the writing is well and truly on the wall.

View from hotel roof - spot the cricket ground floodlights
Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 November
Days 2 and 3 of the test match are spent exclusively in our hotel room. My wife does Florence Nightingale proud, while I either sleep, watch the cricket on television or consume salt tablets and other, stronger medication including antibiotics. These two days see some of the best international cricket in 2012 - Keven Pietersen's 186-run knock being the highlight [sigh].

Monday 26 November
The antibiotics have done their job and I am strong enough for us to return to the ground and watch England wrap up the test by 11 o'clock on the fourth day, with a day and a half to spare. I try to absorb every single second of this final hour and a half.

Cricket practice on Oval Maidan
Of course, my disappointment is great at missing a major chunk of the match. However, this feeling is tempered by the prospect of free time in which to explore southern Mumbai. In the afternoon, we embark on a walk around the Churchgate and Fort districts. We cross Oval Maidan, the huge municipal park on which people of all ages are playing cricket. Apparently, the further a match is being played from the main path that dissects the park from east to west, the better the quality of cricket - or so the local wisdom goes. We pass the imposing buildings of the university and the high court before reaching Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST for short. The latter is the most impressive railway station building I've ever seen. It was also one of the sites of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist who was captured alive, had been hanged just a few days prior to our arrival in Mumbai. What is more, 26 November marked the fourth anniversary of the attacks.

Tuesday 27 November
Feeling even stronger, I'm well enough to accompany my wife on another walking tour - this time through the swanky Nariman Point neighbourhood and into the backpackers' mecca of Colaba. We pay the obligatory visit to the Gateway of India, but get accosted/harassed by incessant hawkers. Not the most pleasant experience, so we take snapshots of the Gateway, the bay and the splendidly restored Taj Mahal Palace (probably the best-known 2008 terrorist target) before seeking refuge in a nearby deli/coffee shop. In the afternoon, we explore Colaba Causeway, continue a mile or so north up to Horniman Circle and then return to the hotel via Oval Maidan. Obviously, this is but a fraction of what a megacity like Mumbai (with a population greater than Greece) has to offer.

Part of Horniman Circle
In the early evening, we eat at a popular pizzeria on Marine Drive - my tummy is still too delicate for Indian fare. Thankfully, things will improve during the final stage of our holiday - in Goa.

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