May 2009. First stop Mumbai and Hotel Suba Palace. We arrived in India under the cover of darkness and jet lagged. Even though I had never left the North American continent, I was traveling with three seasoned travelers. Two of which had spent a considerable amount of time in India. We collected our luggage and made our way to customs. This being the height of the Swine Flu epidemic, there was a doctor in customs asking questions and taking temperatures (up to that point they had not had a case of swine flu in India).
Once we made it through customs we headed towards the exit. First stopping to exchange money. I guess we made a fair trade. It was late and I have never had good math skills. I still have the receipt they gave me. Then just before the sliding glass doors there was a pre-paid taxi stand. My professor and her husband got us a taxi and we walked through the doors.
Heat washed over my body. There was a courtyard of sorts, surrounded by railing. It was filled with men and women there to greet family and friends. We moved through the bodies and found our taxi, piling in while the drive put our bags in the trunk. I remember driving through the parking lot, full of Ambassador taxi’s and traveling out under a small metal bridge onto the dark Mumbai streets (I wonder if this memory is an accurate account).
In the darkness, the edges are softened. My only other memory of this journey is a street corner with a yellow sign. Hotel Suba Palace is in Colaba just off a main road. The hotels entrance is cramped. It is a landing and then you walk up a flight of stairs to get to reception. One or two bellmen greeted us and helped carry the bags. My memory is gone. It returns in the hotel room. It includes all western comforts. Except a shower curtain. I am sharing the room with the other graduate student. We take turns using the shower and I am ready for bed. It is late probably between 4 and 5 am. We have to be downstairs for breakfast at 9 am. (As I have been told the best way to combat jet lag is to just get up.) My roommate wants to continue reading her Harry Potter book, she asks if the light with bother me. No, into my teenage years I slept with a light on. I pass out.
We spent three more nights in that cozy hotel. On each of those three mornings this cute black bird’s squawking woke me up at 5:30 am. It set the tone for the rest of my trip. There was only one other day on the trip that I slept past 5:30 and I was not feeling well. I would wake up, with no alarm clock around 5:30, read part of Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (once I reached the end of the book, I would just start over from the beginning. No telling how many times I read it), take a shower, and once the sun was up I would go outside. I never strayed far from where we were staying, but who wants to be cooped up when their in another country.
On the last morning at Hotel Suba Palace, I decided I should photograph my little alarm clock. I did not know at the time that the bird was reconfiguring my brain so that I would wake up every morning at the same time for three weeks. Now I have this photograph framed in a very ornate frame, I can see it from my bed.