This post begins a diary of my recent trip to India.
Route: Perth to Mumbai to Bhuj to Ahmedabad to Lucknow to Jaipur to Delhi (via Bharatpur)
Name of Tour: Beauty Unwound: A Textile Tour of India
Dates: 9 Feb to 24 Feb 2016. (I actually left Australia on the night of Sunday 7 Feb so as to get a good night’s sleep in Mumbai on the Monday before meeting other participants and Sunita on Tuesday 9 Feb.)
Fellow Travellers: Husband and wife, Richard Brecknock and Sue Rosenthal
Guide: Sunita Sinha
Fresh from a wonderful textile tour of West Timor with Ruth Hadlow in June 2015, I searched for another similar experience. I wanted to go on the Indian November 2015 tour by Touch of Spirit but they were booked out. So I enrolled in the Feb tour. They take a maximum of nine tourists so as to fit into locations such as artisans’ homes. Feb and November are the best times to go in terms of pleasant weather apparently. Certainly it was balmy with maxima hovering around 25 degrees during the day while I was there.
The itinerary process was very smooth. Touch of Spirit organised the flight from Perth to Mumbai and then Delhi to Perth with Singapore Airlines. I got my visa to India via an electronic “on arrival” visa. [https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/tvoa.html] Simple to do on line. ] It worked well, except that it was a relatively new method of arriving in India and the staff in Mumbai were very concerned to get really clear prints of my finger tips and thumbs. So I did it at least six times and even then I’m not sure they got a good print or just gave up because it looked fruitless!
Regardless of what the site above says. it cost me nearly A$90 to get the visa. It was extremely quick though….up to the point of getting to Mumbai! You just have to be confident in your uploading of personal portraits from your camera software. No need to visit the Post Office or to get statutory declarations!
I took an overnight bag that was nearly empty and a suitcase with my clothes in that weighed a mere 11 kg. More on this later!!!
Conscious of my age and the different Indian health system, I took out very comprehensive health insurance from the RACWA.[http://travelinsurance.rac.com.au/?gclid=CPrMk7DZn8sCFQx9vQod4-oJrw]
Before 1995 Mumbai was called Bombay. It is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. The formal name of the airport is Chattrapathi Shivaji International Airport. As I emerged into the Arrivals Hall I read that I was entering an exhibition called Layered Narratives. Essentially there is a huge amount of wonderful contemporary Indian art to see here. I was just so regretful that my fear of missing the transfer to the hotel kept me scampering towards the baggage collection point and onwards…. one work that struck a chord, given my huge collection of wine bottle tops was this one:
Above: An art installation by Sharmila Samant created by using bottle caps, in turn a reference to the vehicles of the seven Indian mother goddesses. Credit Siddhesh Savant
On another visit to Mumbai I would definitely allow more time to enjoy this magnificent collection – and the city of Mumbai itself. As I settled comfortably into the Residency Hotel, Andheri East, Mumbai [http://residencymumbai.com ) , I was looking forward to meeting the others on the tour. From a welcome email from Mela of Touch of Spirit Tours I knew that we’d be a small group. Can’t wait!