Friday, December 28, 2007

Five Mumbai Scenes

1. "Let's get mutton leg," Aliyah said.

Knowing that in India mutton often means goat, I double checked the menu before replying, "But that's goat."

"So?" Aliyah said.

I hesitated. "Well, after we saw them slit that goat's neck today..."

"Don't be a baby," Aliyah said.

"Could you really eat goat leg after that?"

"Sure, I could eat goat leg," Aliyah said. "I just don't want to eat its neck."

2. They seated us on the rooftop terrace at Indigo, a chic restaurant in south Mumbai. Before handing us each a menu, the waiter slipped a piece of paper inside that listed the day's specials.

The title of the specials menu? Dinner with Ben Foumin.

"Oh my God!" Aliyah said. "That's amazing."

"Yeah, it's pretty funny."

A half hour or so passed, during which they brought us three baskets of bread (we'd eventually get two more, for a total of five). "The bread service here is terrible," Aliyah joked. "I know," I said. "What does a guy have to do to get some complimentary focaccia around here?"

We soon opened our menus again to order dinner.

"It's so weird," she said.

"What is?"

"The chef's name."

"What's the chef's name?"

"Ben Foumin," Aliyah said. "What a coincidence!"

"No," I said. "Ben Foumin is my name."

3. "Are you Jewish?"

The question from the Indian security guard at the old synagogue in south Mumbai caught me a bit off guard. I replied with a truncated Larry David-esque soul-searching stare.

"Are you Jewish?" The guard said it louder this time.

"Yes?" I squeaked.

The guard turned to Aliyah. He didn't ask her anything, but he did offer her a cookie.

4. Our eyes were turned skyward to watch the monkeys in the trees when I heard a small splat.

I looked in front of us. There was a small pile of monkey poo no more than a foot away.

I stared at it for several seconds. Then I looked up at the monkeys. Then back at the poo. Then back at the monkeys. Then at the poo. I thought some more. Then I looked at the monkeys again. Then at the poo. Then at Aliyah, with whom I shared this revelation.

"Those monkeys just threw their poo at us!"

5. The Muslim man skinning the dead white goat in a dirty alley of Dharavi slum smiled and pointed his knife at me. Then he pointed his knife at the goat, then back at me.

"Same same," he said with a head wobble.

"Um," I said.

"Your shirt," Aliyah said.

"Oh yeah," I said, realizing that I was wearing a Thai-bought shirt bearing the strange message "SAME SAME."

The man pointed at me again with the bloody knife, then back at the dead white goat and started laughing.

"White, white," he said. "You are brothers."

"Ha ha," I laughed very uncomfortably. "Yes, we're the same color, me and that goat."

"Same same," he said, pointing the knife again.

"Bye bye," I said.

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