My Journey Through India

Ever since I met my friend Tasha in graduate school, I have always wanted to visit India. We have had countless discussions on the similarities between her upbringing in India and mine in the South and as a result India was added to my list of countries to visit before 30.  So when she invited me to her wedding, I didn’t hesitate to RSVP “YES”. And since I was going to India, I might as well visit the largest city there…..Mumbai. So my best friend Nina and I embarked on the 20 hour journey to India together.

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Nina and I at the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai

If I could use four words to describe Mumbai, it would be People, People, and Great Food. I don’t think I have ever been surrounded by so many people in my life. Let’s start with lodging. Normally I stay in Airbnb’s but since Mumbai is a huge city with over 22 million people and there’s a lot of variability from block to block I decided to stay in a hotel. The Colaba neighborhood is a popular tourist area where there’s a mix of hip modern restaurants and shops as well as old-age cafes and vendors. It’s also where the Gateway of India and the famous Taj Mahal hotel are located. After help from multiple friends we decided to stay at Abode Bombay, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of the city. From the outside, the hotel looked like a dump, but behind those beautiful wood doors was a hip, modern, hotel with old Indian charm. The cost was reasonable (India in general is cheap) with prices ranging from $60-150 USD a night. Breakfast was included every morning and it was absolutely delicious. I was addicted to the cookies. One of the things that also intrigued me about the hotel was it commitment to the community. They employ single women and mothers for their hotel car service and massage students from the School For The Blind in their spa.

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Abode Bombay in Mumbai, India
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At the Jain Temple in Mumbai

The hotel also offers City Tours where they partner with local tour guides. The first tour we did was the Half Day City Tour. The first stop was the Dhobi Ghat which is an open air laundry mat where families come to wash their clothes.  The next stop was one of the largest fishing areas in Mumbai which smelled horrible. lol. We also stopped by the Babu Amichand Panalal Jain Temple and the Ghandi House before having lunch at a local spot in the city. Later on in the day we went to Dharavi, the largest slum in India, which houses over 1 million people. The area sits in the middle of India’s financial district. Now let me say this….this is not your average slum, it is separated into two areas an Industrial area and a Residential area. In the Industrial area the residents make a living by melting down containers for large Indian companies and/or making different tools and items for larger corporations. Dharavi has it’s own stores and markets that sell household items, food, groceries, clothes, etc.  as well as schools. The residential area is filled with people who have lived there for generations. After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for New Year’s Eve. There are a million things going on in India for New Year’s Eve so I would suggest pre-booking a party before arriving. We partied at the Hard Rock Cafe for $40 USD. The ticket included food and drinks. We had a blast and met some really cool people in the city. I also forgot to mention that India has Uber, it is recommended that you use it instead of Taxis.

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I was a celebrity in India. People see very few black people!

On New Year’s Day we took a boat over to Elephanta, an island with a collection of cave temples dedicated to the Hindu God, Shiva. Upon arrival we met up with a local tour guide that gave us guided history lesson on the island and the different temples. Beware of the monkeys, they will steal things out of your hand lol.  The next day we headed for Ahmedebad to start in the wedding festivities for our friend Tasha.

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In front of a temple at Elephanta
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Lunch in Mumbai

Tasha’s wedding is hands down the best wedding I have ever attended. Tasha’s family was extremely kind and welcoming throughout the entire trip. The Hindu pre-wedding and wedding ceremonies are filled with family, love, culture, music, and fun. The first day was the Mehendi ceremony and is where the bride gets Henna on her hands and feet. As wedding guests we also received Henna (check out my pictures below). All of my clothes for the wedding festivities came from FabIndia. And one of my favorite purchases was the silk vest I wore to the ceremony.

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Me at the Mehendi Celebration.
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View of Mount Abu from the Jaipur House

The next day we all traveled from Ahmedebad to Mount Abu. The region is the Rajasthan state near the Gujarat border. The trip was roughly 4 hours by bus. Mount Abu was gorgeous and the hotel (Palace Hotel, Bikaner House) where Tasha had her wedding was the prettiest venue I have ever seen. We stayed at the Jaipur House which featured a delicious breakfast every morning, old Indian charm, and amazing view over the mountain. The first night was the Sangeet Ceremony. Sangeet translates to “music”. During the Sangeet there were dance and music performance from both families, delicious food (I think there was five different buffet stations), unlimited alcohol, and full on dance party that went until 4am.

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The Michigan Crew!
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Me right before the wedding ceremony

Finally, the wedding day arrived. The Haldi ceremony took place first thing in the morning. During this celebration, turmeric (Haldi) is placed on the bride and groom by wedding guests. This is done to bless and purify the heart and soul of the couple so that they may have a strong and happy marriage. After that, was the Baraat or procession of the groom where wedding guests and family dance around him as he approaches the wedding site. After it is over the bride and her family come out to greet the groom and the couple exchanges a floral garment to be worn around their neck which symbolizes their acceptance of each other.

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Tasha after being painted in Turmeric
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Tasha greeting Akash after the Baraat

The Mandap or ceremonial area was beautiful. It was decorated with flowers and candles. After it was over, the reception started which featured more delicious food, fire breathers and twirlers, music, dancing, and FUN. I was exhausted lol, but it was well worth it. The next day we traveled back to Ahmedebad where we spent our last day touring the city with Tasha and her family. On our last night Tasha’s grandmother cooked us dinner and it was my favorite meal I had in India 🙂

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Michigan crew with the bride!

I loved India. I loved learning about the culture and the history. Now that I am married, it is a place that I can not wait to bring my husband to. If you want to learn more about how I make international travel cheap as possible check out my post here.

From Aeriel, With Love

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