Josh and I woke up this morning with a desire to get all of the touristy stuff out of the way before the real work begins on Monday morning at the Rotunda Clinic. We popped over to the free breakfast provided for guests on the executive level floor (ooooooh, fancy!) and enjoyed lots of fresh fruits, eggs, toast, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Friends have told us to avoid any fruit unless it has not yet been peeled to prevent washing in local tap water, but we figured that this hotel seems pretty consistent in their 5-star service. We will be eating most of our meals here to avoid any potential stomach issues.
The front desk provided us with information about renting a taxi for 8 hours to provide a tour of Mumbai’s highlights, but we opted for flagging down a local cab one-way to the Gateway of India overlooking the Arabian Sea. Amazingly, the cab driver offered us the same 8-hour package deal for 70% less than the price quoted by the front desk! We took him up on the offer and were whisked around the city to various shops (carpets, pashminas, carvings) and to a few of the major tourist locations around the city. In order to get free parking close to the Gateway of India, there is a bit of shadiness on behalf of shopkeepers and cab drivers working together to make extra cash. The shopkeepers provide a ‘ticket’ to any cab drivers that bring in tourists who could potentially purchase their goods. Of course you are under no obligation to purchase anything, but the shopkeepers are very insistent on providing you with the best quality and best price. After leaving the shop, you are then free to walk to the local touristy spots while your driver’s car is safely parked in the shopkeeper’s area.
We did this twice, and when the driver stopped the car outside of a third shop, we told him that we were through with playing the game. In the first two shops, we were specifically asked if this was our first shopping stop (because the shopkeepers want exclusive rights to a cab driver’s customers), and we said ‘yes’ because we knew that the cab driver would benefit from it. Apparently these ‘tickets’ can be worth some cash to the driver, and if left up to him, we would probably still be circling the area looking for other shops to browse.
From there, we popped over to the local museum, but it was closed for renovations through the end of the month. Maybe we will visit again in 9-ish months when we return to complete the surrogacy process. On the way back to the hotel, we drove past a few beaches, a very large Mosque built on an island in the Arabian Sea, the Bandra West district (where Rotunda Clinic resides), and hundreds and hundreds of corrugated steel slums. The cab driver explained that the average salary for someone living in the slums would be about 4,000 to 7,000 rupees annually (1,000 rupees is about $20 US). You can’t help but feel depressed by the conditions of so many people here.
It interesting how everyday activities are so easily seen and don’t seem to surprise anyone passing by… we saw children bathing on the corner, a man shaving another man next to a tire shop, and countless women preparing some type of green leaves spread out on brightly colored handkerchiefs. Others were washing dishes in a pot of stagnant water in their kitchens, which could be seen from the cab because the house itself was no more than a flat steel roof, four poles to hold it up, and a few tarps to keep out the elements. There is so much poverty here that you almost have to shut your brain off.
Now we are back at the hotel and Josh is napping while I sip a masala chai in the lobby. Our meeting with the clinic begins at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, and I can’t wait to meet our surrogate. More tomorrow evening…