Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ivory Towers

Vivek, our A&K guide introduces us to Jasmine, our Mumbai guide.  Elegant, sophisticated and beautiful, with the most incredible jeweled sandals, she takes us thru the city.  The contrasts are heartbreaking, this slum next to a Country Club...

On Malabar Hill slums hunker down in patches next to multi-million dollar homes.  Think Beverly Hills meets the Ozarks and you’ll get the picture.  Temples and vendors line the alleys, Audis and Mercedes are parked next door in front of mansions, whole families of homeless people live on the sidewalks.

Dhobi Ghat, the open-air laundry - and expensive new apartment towers behind.  We wonder how long before Dhobi Ghat becomes a posh tower.

Old and new, rich and poor, those with a bright future and those struggling to feed themselves and their families, whole families living on the street.  Our guide Jasmine, beautiful and cosmopolitan, says there is no resentment.  Hard to grasp.  

There is a 27 story blocky tower owned by the richest man in India (whose name I cannot remember - you can Google him).  Seven floors of the tower are garage for his 200 cars, the other 20 are his residence.  Dual helipads on top that he can’t use because his rich neighbors don’t want the racket.  A staff of 600 from the Oberoi (which he owns) to keep things together.   His Ivory Tower of a house cost a billion dollars.  God only know what that would be in rupees.

Jasmine says India is the one place all six religions live in harmony - Sikh, Jain, Parsi, Jew, Hindu, Muslim.  Apparently Lutherans are not part of the mix.  She is Parsi, a group that came from Iran eons ago, and they worship the elements.

Another kind of tower: we drive past a patch of jungle that hides the Towers of Silence.  Very private, only Parsi can go in and there are fewer and fewer of them.

The Parsi don't bury or cremate, that would pollute the elements, which they worship.  They place the bodies on a 17 foot tall tower, the Tower of Silence, and the vultures and the sun take care of the rest.  Not ashes to ashes just dust to dust.  Not sure I'd want to be vulture dust...not sure I'd want to live in an Ivory Tower.

It's a different world.

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