“You have the wrong ticket,” he said curtly, with not so much a polite explanation. I checked again. And looked at the board listing out the various entry fares – for Indians and foreigners. I assure him that I have the correct one but he shakes his head. In broken English he says, you. pay 150. I almost burst out laughing. I speak in my Mumbai-a Hindi then, “Kya chacha. hum kayeko 150 denge. Kucch bhi haan!”
This is not the first time that I have been profiled by security guards to be non-Indian. I have smaller eyes and a very casual sense of dressing. Thanks to which I get called ‘Cheeni’ a lot ( though it would be nice had they even tried to guess a bit of my Assamese lineage). But it is always amusing when people who see a lot of foreign tourists still fail to recognise one. Unless of course they do and they still would like you to pay a bit more.
The same rules apply to almost all places of tourist interest – different rates of entry for Indians and those from abroad. I have often wondered if this happens anywhere else as well? I don’t think so. But we cannot complain now, can we? After all we are the ones paying less.
I was standing at the gates of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya or Museum. Since morning I had wondered what can be one part of the city I have no seen in the six years that I have made it my home. And I realised, even though I have crossed it several times and even read about it occasionally, I have never actually visited the Museums in Mumbai. And I am using the plural form because there are more than one of course, though by far this is the most famous.
I have always wanted to tour a city on my own, and I have also always wanted to pretend I am a tourist in my own city. Bombay, or Mumbai lets me to do that. And so I rented one of those small pocket radio systems that has pre-recorded information for all the exhibits.
The museum is a treasure trove of history, obviously. For example the fact that Bombay was placed as dowry to the British when Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, got married. All for the useful values of a port like Bombay. Or the story about a curse which killed excavators and broke the king’s hand who owned it as well.
The exhibits are divided by ages, as usual, and some are more interesting than the others. What might get on your nerves are people coming just to take selfies, or kids running amok with no interest in anything – not even in dinosaurs! However, a room is dedicated to art and you are allowed to sit down and scribble/ paint something on your own as well.
It’s a good three hours spent within the confines of four walls – intricately decorated walls, but walls all the same. So yes, if you are in Mumbai for a few days, or have been here for what feels like forever – this is a good Sunday you can look forward to. As long as you get the right ticket!