France the French way


Cricket and Curry!

Posted: 2011-10-08

This is not a story about France. This is a story of travel. I came to India as a 17 year old in 1975 and swore I would never return!

I’m writing this today from Mumbai (Bombay, India)!!


My wife and I are visiting our son. Alexander is in India for three months training and playing cricket. He is 19 years old and on his own in this challenging city. After only two weeks he now speaks some Hindi and only eats Indian food for all meals. He trains seven days per week, for 8 hours per day in 40 degrees (Celcius) temperatures with 90% humidity.

We knew what to expect when we came here. We have seen in the evening homeless people by the thousands sharing the footpaths with wild dogs in order to sleep. We have seen families sleeping together with no shelter on traffic roundabouts piled with the ever present litter and surrounded by the stench of heat, humidity and humanity. We have visited slums as large as suburbs. We have been constantly pestered by mothers holding their young children begging, little urchins selling leis, grown men selling giant balloons and drums to take home! We have been taken to small local eateries that will never appear in any travel guide book, stepping over the usual squalor and filth to the scrupulously clean traditional restaurant with the tastiest, cheapest food we have ever had. We have had coffee amid the luxurious world famous opulent Taj Hotel, with shops of Louis Vuitton and Dior awaiting your beaded purse! We have been treated to a meal and drinks at the exclusive Cricket Club at the Brabourne Stadium – the home of Sachin Tendulkar, where cocktails are served at the end of each day on the cricket pitch, while one sits on wicker chairs.

We’ve just returned from visiting a nearby slum. Yes, there was the stench, heat, filth, overcrowding, but only to be greeted by the happiest faces of the children as they went about their day. This is a land of contrasts, as understated as that is.

I often hear travelers to France who comment that “the only thing wrong with France, is the French”. Usually such a comment comes about because someone has received what they perceive to be slow service in a restaurant, or issues caused through problems with language. Such comments are insular, short-sighted, and ridiculous.

People make up their own countries – their idiosyncrasies, tradition, history, religion, superstitions, food and music, all go in to make up a melting pot of what sets us apart culturally.

If the service is slow in a Parisian restaurant, could this just not be that this is their pace for eating and socializing? The French post offices and shops closed at the most inconvenient times – they are having their lunch with their families, with a wine!!

When visiting another country, take Alexander’s lead. Accept, absorb and appreciate all that it has to offer. This is India – the Indian Way!

Freight - Mumbai style!
Heartbreak at every turn.
A normal day in Mumbai!
Alex Reese plays cricket in India
Alexander leaves for cricket practice at 5.30am!
Alex finishes cricket practice - back for another shower!!
Zaheer Kahn's central Mumbai cricket club where he still goes to play.