After two beautiful months travelling through India, immersing in the rich culture, indulging in the eclectic culinary offerings and meeting an inestimable amount of wonderful people, it was in Mumbai, my final stop in India, where I finally crossed trouble.
The feud started as William and I had finished looking round a couple of art galleries in colaba. The Jehangir art Gallery hosts exhibitions by local artists and when we visited had some fantastic shows on the theme of imagination, incorporating Indian life and philosophies into an abstract, contemporary showcase. After that enlightening gallery we headed to the National Gallery of Modern Art which was a big letdown. Expecting it to be contemporary art, we were more than disappointed with the poor photo gallery it had on showcase, especially after such a brilliant exhibition of modern art in Dehli.
So after a cultural day walking round art galleries we decided to go for a few drinks on Colaba causeway. This was extended to slightly too many drinks. Around 11pm we accepted an invitation into a bar by a couple of locals who were offering cheap whiskey. We thought it would be nice to buy them all a round of drinks, and in return, I got drugged. With my head firmly planted on the table I woke up to William shouting, "Max get up let's get out of here," my head was spinning and being bombarded with absurd comments such as "you gringos better pay for the coke" and "go away, we didn't even ask for coke and we haven't taken any of your coke". I quickly grasped that they had planned to plant cocaine on us and make us give them an extortionate amount of money. On our escape back to the hostel we were followed by two of them, one of which had recently been released from five years in prison and the other who was evidently high on cocaine.
We consciously stayed a little way from the hostel as the argument continued; we didn't want the guys to know where we were staying. We were on the marina, just down the road from the iconic Taj Mahal palace and Gateway of India, when the altercation started to intensify. We were soon being threatened with rocks and knives in a last, desperate attempt to gain some money from us. Eventually we walked past a corner with two policemen standing smoking. They could see how nervous we were as we told them our problem and after ten minutes of shouting against an impervious language barrier a big police car arrived.
'I was threatened with a knife and the words "I will kill you".'
The ex-convict surreptitiously walked away as the cops began to beat the despicable rat, high on being an insidious tyrant. What we didn't see was how 'the boss', i.e. the third man involved, had driven by on his motorbike to furtively pay off the cops and get his vile friend out of trouble. So now they had lost more money and their target tourists had evaded their corrupt claws. I didn't get much sleep that night and things were to get worse.
The next day was the Ganesh festival where thousands of locals swarm round a mobile Ganesh sculpture listening to blaring music and using it as another excuse to celebrate. William and I were passing by and stopped to get our tourist photos when someone from the crowd grabbed my hand. The rat that got a beating from the police shook my hand and smiled at me, glistening his rotten teeth at me. He was more calm now and sensing that the happy crowd wouldn't appreciate a scene he whispered "see you later". I knew I was getting a flight back to England that night so I predicted that I couldn't possibly bump into them again. After all 18,000,000 people reside in Mumbai.
That evening William wasn't feeling well and decided to stay at the hotel whilst I met up with an Australian shop owner who owned a boutique in colaba. I met her in her shop for a coffee and also to purchase another t-shirt she had designed. I stayed there for an hour, fell in love with a Parisian who entered for five minutes and mistook me for the shop owner, and chatted about how much I liked Mumbai. My view was to change slightly after the walk back.