01.09 beautiful people

today i meet up with abbas, another torontonian in the 'bai.

at india gate, he appears with his sister. he's in head-to-toe electric "talk-to-me" blue, a massive camera dangling from his neck. with the tou-rist 'tude, we head for lunch.

after, we walk down what must be "madaaam" street for a session of nodding and smiling and politely waving "no thenkyoo" followed by the ihw. at the keychain-walla, abbas orders 40 keychains engraved with the names of all his staff, and one for me, my folks, and my sister. i get mine in arabic, curious to see how it looks. it's kinda pretty...

at jehangir art gallery, painter gautam vaghela's exhibition knocks me out. his ancient fortresses and monumental mughal architecture along with such ferocious, vivid colour and dreamlike mystical creatures floating high above in bright reds, greens, oranges and yellows are pure genius. the old dude at the desk yells over and tells us to stop taking pictures. dude. it's gautam vaghela himself. abbas chats him up and snap snap snap takes his picture. i'm floored. the two other galleries inside are equally as impressive, but gautam's visual style is unmatched.

next off to the market for abbas-style charity work, also what i secretly call "robin hood" action. he buys twenty bags of rice from two shopkeepers, who load them into cabs. off we go, shopkeepers and all, to pick up crates of chai and then finally reach the mother theresa home for the disabled. 400 people live there. they have no families, no supports except for tireless sisters who run this place. amazing to hear three blind girls with facial disfigurations sing so beautifully. one girl, komal, makes purses and greeting cards to sell and make enough money for nursing school. i "buy" a card from her before we go. another girl follows me, trying to tell me something and pointing to her cheek all the time. i stop and give her a kiss but she keeps following me finger pointing at her cheek. i say, "ok - you give me a kiss now!". uproarious laughter. i didn't realise then that she was asking for help. she has a really bad toothache and was in a lot of pain.

i'm really moved. there are so many people in mumbai but none of them appear to be jaded, cynical and negative like so many people back home. on the contrary. so many indians, the poor, the homeless, even the disabled - may not have a shot at any rosy future, but they do what they have to do, what they can, to survive. and that's simply beautiful.

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