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Science Centre

Started: 2016-01-30 20:41:33

Submitted: 2016-01-30 22:26:00

Visibility: World-readable

3 January 2016: In which the intrepid narrator spends one final day in Mumbai and begins to make his way home

On the morning of our last day in India, we arranged to meet for breakfast my second cousin, Karisa, who happened to be living in Mumbai with her husband, Michael. (She's on one of the branches of my family that we don't keep in regular contact with; we share a great grandmother, my father's maternal grandmother.) Both of them worked for the American consulate in Mumbai; she worked in some sort of support role in the consulate, and he worked as a consular official doing consular interviews for Indians who wanted US visas.

After breakfast, my parents and Willy returned to their room to pack, and headed to the airport to leave Mumbai. They both had early-afternoon flights back to their respective homes: my parents left on an Emirates flight to fly to Dubai, Seattle, and Walla Walla; Willy left on a Jet Airways flight direct to Jaipur. Calvin and I bid them farewell in the hotel lobby, then went back to our room to contemplate the rest of the day.

I wanted to see one more thing in Mumbai, rather than lounging about in the hotel room all day long (though I had to concede that Calvin would find that quite satisfactory), so after letting him play with the iPad for a while I drug him out of the room, out of the hotel, and down to the curb, where I got a taxi to take us to the Nehru Science Centre. This was the furthest north in Mumbai we'd been since arriving at the airport four days prior, so we had a long drive past Marine Drive and up and over several hills on our way to our destination.

Or at least what I thought was going to be our destination. I wanted to go to the Nehru Science Centre, a science museum targeted at children that Willy told me I should take Calvin to, but the Google Maps profile page showed a photo of the Nehru Centre, which was a couple of kilometers away (though fortunately at least in the same neighborhood). By the time I figured out the mistake, my taxi had driven away, so after dragging Calvin into and out of the wrong Centre, I hailed another taxi and convinced the driver that we really wanted to go to the Nehru Science Centre. We got there without any further incident.

Calvin reluctantly let me drag him into the science centre and perked up a bit when we made it to the aerospace exhibit. He showed very little interest in the models but was amused by the not-totally-working hands-on exhibits of lift and drag. I noticed the exhibit emphasized Indian contributions to aerospace, and had a special display case dedicated to Kalpana Chawla.

We breezed through the galleries dedicated to prehistoric animals and Indian contributions to science and technology until we reached the hall of mirrors. Despite the fact that this gallery was mobbed by an army of grade-school children in identical uniforms, and was (as a result) quite loud, Calvin enjoyed this gallery, playing with the various exhibits designed to show tricks one can play with mirrors, including partial reflection and a number of parallel mirrors showing infinite reflections. We both enjoyed the kaleidoscope room.

Jaeger photographs Calvin in the kaleidoscope room at the Nehru Science Centre
Jaeger photographs Calvin in the kaleidoscope room at the Nehru Science Centre

After spending some time in the hall of sound, and getting a turn to spin the crank to move a ball through a gravity-driven maze, Calvin decided he was done with the museum. We headed out into the gardens for a snack, and I looked for the generator Willy asked me to find. I found the Khopoli Generator, from one of the oldest hydroelectric stations in India, commissioned in 1911. It has since apparently been replaced, and is now a static exhibit in front of the science centre.

Khopoli Generator outside the Nehru Science Centre
Khopoli Generator outside the Nehru Science Centre

After two weeks of eating Indian food, I was entranced by my guidebook's description of The Barking Deer, an American-style brewpub in Mumbai that turned out to be not especially far from the science centre. Calvin did not especially want to visit the restaurant -- he preferred room service and ice cream back at the hotel -- but I promised him ice cream and set out to get a taxi to the restaurant. This proved tricky; the drivers I talked to didn't understand enough English to figure out what I wanted to do, and had trouble reading the Google Map to figure out where I wanted to go with respect to where we were. (One driver told me the map wasn't in India, even though it showed Mumbai.) At some length I found a driver willing to take me there (or at least give it a good shot), so we set out, and made our way to the restaurant with minimal difficulty (though it helped that I looked up at the right moment and saw the sign in the alley we were passing and exclaimed that we'd reached our destination).

Inside was like going back to Boulder without getting on a plane, though my waiter was still Indian. Calvin and I both ordered veggie burgers and fries and thought it was great. (I did have to break my promise of ice cream, though.)

Veggie burger and fries at The Barking Deer in Mumbai
Veggie burger and fries at The Barking Deer in Mumbai

We caught a taxi back to our hotel, and after enjoying Mumbai evening traffic, eventually arrived around sundown. We were both sated from our mid-afternoon meal and didn't feel compelled to eat again. I nipped out to grab cash from an ATM and returned to the room to wait until it was time to head to the airport.

Our flight was originally scheduled to depart Mumbai just after midnight, but the aircraft that would be turned around and sent back as my flight was delayed by three hours leaving Newark, so United had to delay my return flight. (They were nice enough to text me advanced notice -- as soon as they realized the aircraft was delayed, the middle of the morning in India -- so I could adjust my plans accordingly and not spend an extra three hours at the airport.) I booked my hotel room through Monday, even though I would be leaving for the airport in the middle of the night, so that I could hang out in the hotel until we needed to go to the airport.

Our flight leaving in the middle of the night provided an awkward and insurmountable obstacle for sleeping. Normally I'd try to get Calvin to bed well before we needed to leave for the airport, but it seemed a little weird to put him to bed just to wake him up again for several hours of formalities at the airport -- especially when I was trying to adjust his sleep schedule by twelve hours back to North America. So I made a half-hearted attempt at getting him to sleep, and didn't fight very hard when he resisted. I eventually took a forty-five minute 'nap', with my alarm set to wake me up in time to leave for the airport at 23:00.

I finished packing my bags, got Calvin dressed, and checked out of the Taj President at 23:00. We got a taxi to the airport, which took us along Marine Drive and got caught up in an unspecified procession blocking much of the road with Klieg lights mounted on bullock carts followed by diesel generators on flat-bed trucks, surrounded by people on foot. It wasn't clear to me whether it was a wedding procession or a religious procession or what.

(This entry is dragging on so I'm going to break it down the middle at midnight, Indian Standard time, just as we're about to arrive at the airport.)

For a few more photos from my last day in Mumbai, see Photos on 2016-01-03.