I moo’ed at a mullah

The first day in Mumbai and we wander in the streets from our hotel. It is just a way of getting the feel of our local area and we put down the map once we have got on to the Colaba Causeway.

I always like a good market and we turn left as soon as we see some fruit and vegetables on sale. Away from the traffic and into the smaller streets which are lined with stalls.

It’s not just fruit and veg. You soon smell the fish and chicken which is on sale with no protection from the midday sun.

Everyone is friendly here and full of smiles.

A group of young children have made up a game by throwing a sandal forward and I could only guess that it was a matter of each child tying to throw their flip-flop as close as possible to the first one, much like boules or petanque.

One little boy wearing just dirty white pants emerged from a building to pee against a motorbike (twice).

We were amused by a man who was trying to brush cockroaches away from his property into the street. It was funny because they kept turning around and running back in. Even he saw the funny side of it, as did a girl who was trying to help. One cockroach was flicked almost to the other side of the street where it was swiftly pecked on and eaten by a chicken.

An older man is on a static bicycle and he is pedalling away, which is turning a device with which he is sharpening a knife.

The road turned to a lane, and the lane into an alleyway. Having walked through a very residential area where the alley was two people wide, we emerged at a harbour. Children were splashing about in the sea, jumping off steps and two older boys were trying to catch fish with a large piece of fabric. On the rubbish-filled beach, right out in the open, a man was squatting to have a poo and splashing water between his legs.

The second day in Mumbai, we take a taxi. I have read about a cow sanctuary at Bombay Panjrapole, a bit off the beaten track and a good place to start the day’s explorations.

We say hello to see how friendly the driver is. He’s a skinny old man dressed in his white

robe and cap. He has a long white beard but no moustache.

We ask Mohammed to take us to Bombay Panjrapole.

He didn’t understand. Bombay Panjrapole. I showed him the name written down, I repeated it but I wasn’t getting anywhere.

It’s a cow sanctuary, I said.

‘Mooooo,’ I said, with my best cow impression.

‘Ah! Bombay Panjrapole. Yes. One cow, two cow. Bombay Panjrapole,’ he said.

He still had to stop a couple more times to ask directions (I hope he also moo-ed at the people he asked) and then I had to help a bit with the directions on my map app.

He confessed that he had never been here in 37 years taxi driving and he was quite taken with it. (Taxi and tuk-tuk drivers are always willing to wait in order to get more business from you.)

‘One cow, two cow. No, so many cows!’ he chuckled. ‘Hehe.’

His growly laugh was something akin to Steptoe’s.

We liked Mohammed enough to ask him to pick us up again at 5.30 pm as we wanted to go to the Royal Opera House for a night of jazz. He said that six o’clock would be better, he used the excuse that the traffic would be (relatively) lighter and the temperature (marginally) lower. What he meant to say was that it suited him better because he had mullah duties at his mosque.

So at 6 pm we hop in his taxi.

‘Royal Opera House,’ I say. Where? Royal Opera House.

He doesn’t understand.

Which hotel?

In exasperation, I look at David to help me out here. Nothing.

I knew it was coming. If I can moo at a mullah, I can damn well do my Maria Callas impression and sing at him in a loud high pitch. (My singing is awful.)

I even extended both arms out (within the confines of the small sweaty taxi) to get my point across. Twice.

I try showing him the map, it’s near French Bridge. Ok ok. What hotel?

I showed him the map. Eventually, he said: ‘Oh. Opera. Opera House. Yes yes. He he.’

I swear he does it on purpose.

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