Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Magic Carpets of Mumbai

Last weekend I went on a magic carpet ride with a couple of friends.  We visited Manzoor's carpet shop.

In the fall Manzoor had a carpet party (there's a party for everything these days), a gathering, at a colleagues' apartment.  He brought carpets from all over Asia.  Iran, Turkey, India and Pakistan were just a few of the countries represented.  At that time, he brought a few carpets over to my apartment that I "tried" out.  Some other friends did too.  Kelli wrote a post about it as well here.

By "try out" I mean that you keep the carpet at your home.  You use it.  Walk on it, lay on it, play board games, whatever.  Manzoor will periodically check-in to see how you like them.  If you've narrowed it down, he'll come by and pick-up those you don't want.

 I've gotta give Manzoor credit.  It's a good business strategy.  Get the product into someone's home so they can see just how much they "need it."  My "trial" forced quick carpet attachment. I found I "needed" one.  One for my bedroom.  That carpet I fell in love with and bought.

From this purchase, Manzoor learned about the types of carpets I prefer, kilims.  My weakness.  More modern tribal designs.  Bright colors.

A couple of weeks ago, Manzoor sent me a text sharing that he'd gotten some more kilims and asked if I wanted to come to his shop and see them.  He said he'd arrange transportation for me and some friends.  Around 11:30, Manzoor arrived to my apartment with a carpet in hand.  A large one that he instantly rolled out onto the floor (I'm still thinking about that one too).

Then we got in the taxi he organized and picked up Jenn and Gretchen.  Manzoor's carpet shop is near Chor Bazaar in the central of Mumbai.  It took just about an hour to get there from Bandra.  It was the first day in a while where just riding in the taxi made you sweat.  Gotta love the heat in the city!

We arrived to a building that was well over 100 years old.  We climbed the stairs that had impressions from years of wear.  We gripped a beautiful railing and saw the exposed wires that we've gotten accustomed to seeing which run along the walls.  We reached the third floor and entered a room.  A room about the size of my apartment living room.  The room was divided into 2 parts.  One part behind a wall seemed to contain a bathroom and kitchen.  We sat in plastic chairs and the carpet shopping or unrolling began.

Carpet after carpet was laid out before us.  Initially, as Manzoor always says, "Just look."  After they had unrolled about 20 carpets, they began to roll them back up. If any caught out eye, we asked them to pull them out and put them to the side.

This process continued for about 2 hours. First they showed us my preference, the kilims.  Then they shared other carpets that he thought Gretchen would like.  At the end of our time, we did a final check.  I found 12 carpets I wanted to try out.  Gretchen found several as well.  Jenn didn't take home any.

So this week, I've narrowed down the field as you can see.  There are still four carpets I'm testing out.  Three in the slideshow and one that I forgot to capture.  I'm taking my time and going to really "try" these carpets out to see if they'll join the other one I purchased earlier this year.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sweet Home Chi-mum-bai-go

Last Saturday night, I joined a few friends for Day One of the Mahindra Blues Festival.

The music was amazing.

The venue was Mahboob Studios in Bandra.  One of the big film studios, in the suburb where I live, that's tucked away behind a popular grocery store that until this weekend, I didn't realize existed. The studio grounds were great and the set-up perfect for the evening.  Complete with fancy flush port-o-potty toilets and running tap water.

There were a few different indoor stages.  We were able to get fairly close to the stage and to find friends easily.  It wasn't crowded so there was room to move, dance and get around easily.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when John Lee Hooker Junior and band sang "Sweet Home Chicago."  Got a little excited about the homage to my home.

It was a fun night with friends out dancing and enjoying music.  I didn't go back for Day Two but definitely will next year so I can hear the original "Sweet Home Chicago" and enjoy some more of the blues.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kala Ghoda Arts Festival

Last weekend and the upcoming one, the Kala Ghoda Arts Association is hosting its annual art festival celebrating literature, film, theatre, music, visual arts and dance. It's open from February 4th through the 12th.

Saturday, I went to the festival with Barbara, Mike, Gretchen and Deb.  We arrived early, around 11, when things were just opening.

It was a warm, beautiful day.

I particularly enjoyed many of the sculptures on display, as you can see in my photos.  There were loads of local artisans selling their works, (I bought a diffuser with a lotus blossom design), non-for-profit organizations selling many hand-made items to support their work, beautiful saris, cool clocks and a stage set-up for performers.

A highlight for me included meeting some lovely teenage girl photographers.   A local NGO worked to empower the girls in their community.  They gave the girls cameras to capture family and friend moments.  The girl photographers followed their fathers (as best they could), mothers, sisters, brothers and grandparents in their daily activities. Daily life captured.  Their images included friends holding hands, a father at work in a hole and an adorable sibling eating their dinner.  The girls giggled through the introductions and the compliments.

If you live in Mumbai and haven't gone yet, it's worth a trip.  Beautiful artwork and if you link to their website, there's truly something for everyone.  I'm hoping to head back this Sunday for one of the heritage walks and maybe to connect again with the watch vendor I met as well.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Warmin' Up

Over the weekend, well, since Friday, Mumbai's warmin' up.  Think that winter may be coming to an end.  

Mumbaiker in a sweater.  Taken while I wasn't sweating in a blouse and jeans.
On Friday, ASB's Elementary School had its Sports Day.  Yes, American readers and I guess Brazilian too, a day which is usually celebrated at the end of the year was honored on February 3rd.  Why?

Ask a  Mumbaiker.  March, April and May are when it really heats up.  In the past, that's when Sports Day was celebrated.  Luckily I work with loads of smart individuals who pushed forward the date so we could take advantage of the cooler temperatures.

Now that I think about it, I haven't seen rickshaw drivers wearing ski hats in the mornings.  And I've had to shed the sweaters and scarves that were comfortable when I first came back during the day.  Over this weekend just waiting in the sun started to make me sweat.

It was nice while it lasted...
 Goodbye winter.  Hello spring which really feels like summer.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Flower Power

On Sunday morning, Mike and Barbara invited Deb and I to join them for a trip to the Dadar flower market.  I'd seen photos on Facebook from colleagues who'd visited before our holiday break and knew it would be a great place to explore, take a few photos and perhaps make a purchase.

We arrived to the market around 10 a.m.  The flower market, which immediately at the bottom of Dadar  Station steps, opens at 4 a.m.  I wondered what we'd be able to see going later in the morning.  Would there still be flowers and sellers?  Would we be greeted by brooms instead?  We definitely were not disappointed.

The market is a small area in and around the train station. Much of it is a narrow lane that crosses under the road overpasses and into the street on the other side.

Flowers are used in so many celebrations in India and this market is one that merchants and shoppers from across the city come to buy flowers as gifts, garlands for religious celebrations and we even saw a car draped in flowers for a wedding.  I'm sure during festivals, such as Ganpati or Diwali that the market is ten times as busy.

Baskets of marigolds, rose petals and jasmine greeted us.  We tried to keep out of the way while men carried large bags on the tops of their heads through the narrow lane.  It was hard to stay out of the way while admiring the brilliant colors along with flower vendors holding up bunches of roses and pointing out the garlands we should buy.

When it's time for new flowers, I'll definitely visit again and enjoy a train ride while it's still nice and cool in the city.