Another time when we were talking about travel, Jillian spoke about a wonderful experience she had had in Mumbai or Bombay.
If you don't tell her, I won't; but India was another country I omitted from my list a few posts ago. Oh dear!
This is a really nice story and well worthy of being included in the best experiences category. India, unfortunately, is often on the other side of the best/worse experiences for travellers and I can vouch for this. One evening while walking on Chowpatti beach, during the most fantastic Ganesha Chaturthi Hindu festival, celebrated in honour of the elephant-headed God, Ganesh - remover of obstacles and the God of beginnings and wisdom, when Hindus immerse idols of Lord Ganapati with a variety of herbal leaves and plants into the Arabian Sea; I realised, too late, why no Indian people were bare footed in the sand. Oops.
Back to Jillian. On her 1st visit to Mumbai, she was able to snag a kind of a taxi, a really old, rusty and run down, but garishly painted in swirly rainbow colours, car of some sort with an unkempt scraggy young boy as a driver. The longish journey into the southern Mumbai suburb of Colaba was punctuated by very loud, very colourful fireworks, and a madly waving driver indicating with hands and bobbing head large numbers of incredible sights not to be missed, although the road appeared quite capable of taking care of itself without eyes, or hands on the steering wheel.
And the SPEED. Oh well that's another thing altogether. This guy took a shine to Jillian - a slight mix-up with money and a largish tip changing hands may have helped. He adopted her. He became her personal taxi driver in Mumbai. Slept on the bonnet of the cab outside her hotel. "I look after lovely white lady without man." he used to say. He must have had other clothes in the cab as he was sometimes in an ordinary shirt and trousers, sometimes an Indian dhoti with a shirt, not very clean and not always much more than threadbare. His odour was acceptable most days so he must have had a bit of a wash in the nearby Arabian Sea. In itself this is a risk as some of the stuff floating in and on this water had the ability to make things worse. Much worse.
Mumbai is a city where traffic cannot even begin to be described, taxis and hire cars are seemingly non-existent, cows roam the streets and motor bikes make up a greater population than sheep in the whole of New Zealand. And everything that moves - (except for the cows which can sit in the middle of the road often not moving at all for hours; and of course, because they are sacred you can't touch them), everything moves at lightning speed.
Walking is hard because of the beggars living, eating, feeding babies, defecating, yelling, and sleeping. The streets are often an extension of the slums. Jillian was very nearly run over by a young chap with no legs zooming along the footpath at warp speed on a skateboard.
So, it is good, no read REALLY GOOD, to have your own personal taxi driver. He can move anything - except cows (even a personal taxi driver can't do that), park anywhere, help you avoid the unavoidable beggars and peddlers and spruikers, circumvent for you the prominent back street, garishly decorated, overpriced emporiums where you can get the best fake Prada bags ever made. "I mean even the leather is fake," Jillian screamed hysterically at me.
And he can recommend shopping for real bargains, theatres for Bollywood movies, street food to avoid and that to eat, sights to see and – those that are a rip off. He can inform you of traditions and religious stuff to help you avoid the major gaffes most of us make.
In short he is an additional God to add to the possible 330 million others.