All’s well that ends well – III
This is the third of a three-part series on our journey back to India.
We disembarked at the Mumbai airport, and made our way through the immigration formalities. As we headed towards the conveyor belts, we were accosted by two porters. I had hired a porter in Denver, and he had accepted what I paid him after he delivered his services. But this is India. A small part of me was happy to haggle – one more sign that I was really back home – but I managed to keep it from showing.
Outside the arrivals gate, our taxi was waiting for us (I had made arrangements before leaving Denver). We took our seats, but before the driver started the engine, I stopped him and stepped back out – to get some Vada Pav. Of course, we had eaten Vada Pav in the US, but then here was the authentic stuff – heaven served on a paper plate.
The taxi took us to Andheri, where we halted for a few minutes. I dropped my wife & daughter at my wife’s aunt’s place, and took the taxi to Vashi – where I was to deposit all the luggage in the guest house that my company had booked for me.
As we made our way past the Juhu Bus Depot, I asked the driver to stop for tea. He asked me if I could wait for another 15 minutes, for his favorite tea-stall was on our route. Of course, I agreed, and 10 minutes later, we stopped near the Sion station – at the fork in the road where you either go left towards Panvel, or right towards Dadar on the Sion-Panvel highway. The driver parked the taxi, and we walked over to the tea-stall.
It was a seedy joint, with fellow taxi drivers standing in a circle, each with a cup of piping-hot chai. A few also had Nankhatai in their hands for dipping in the chai before eating.
“Do chai dena sethji,” I called out. Promptly, the owner poured two glasses and handed them to us. We drank the tea & returned the glasses. But I was not done yet, and asked for a Vada Pav – only to learn that they were fresh out of those.
“Bhajiya Pav chalega,” the vendor asked.
I had never had deep-fried battered potato slices instead of the Vada, but decided to taste it this time. The vendor prepared the dish for me, and poured a generous helping of a hot-sweet sauce on the Pav. I ate it, and it was fantastic. I wiped my hands on my jeans (the sauce had dripped all over), and paid the Vendor.
Satisfied and sated, I settled comfortably in the taxi as we made our way to Vashi. The bridge on the creek was empty of traffic – after all, it was just 7AM. As we made our way towards the toll bridge, a local train followed us along side – it was empty too. The sun had risen, and Mumbai’s concrete jungle had started to manifest itself through the mist over Thane creek.
Yes sir, it feels good to be home.