An update from Elizabeth, MBA and Master of Arts Management ’12, who traveled to India with the Cox Global Leadership Program:
We are set loose on Mumbai! There is almost too much to do, and most of us haven’t done any reading up on anything. So we’re gonna wing it.
The humidity is daunting. It’s still humid inside the hotel room, so everything we touch feels damp. It’s inescapable. We dress for our company visit, worried that we’ll cut it close and return to the hotel just in time to board the bus. Fifteen minutes later, it’s clear we’ll be leaving plenty of time to return to the hotel and wash up: we’re drenched in sweat.
Jeremy, Erika, Eric, Caroline, Rebekah, and I hop into cabs and start at the Gateway to India – different from the India Gate. One tour site mentions, “impressive, even if it is just another colonial monument.” We take a few pictures, and are not particularly beset upon by other tourists, which is nice.
We wander down the road, based on a map the concierge gave me, to find the Colaba Causeway. We’re staying in the Colaba area of Mumbai, which is not very close to any of the visits we have to make (1.5 hour drive on average they tell us) but is close to all the fun touristy stuff, like Chowpatty Beach, Gateway to India, the Causeway, etc.
We quickly find the Causeway, which is essentially a few blocks of vendor stalls set up along the skinny sidewalk, outside a series of brand-name stores like Adidas, Nike, Reebok. At this point we’re all looking for either specific items or specific people. At one point Rebekah does the smart thing and buys a bunch of small keychains to hand out as gifts without having to make a mental list. I’m looking for a manly gift for my father, who would probably appreciate anything other than a pashmina or silk scarf.
We stop randomly at one stall that is selling much the same as the others: wood-carved animals, marble animals, and a few wooden trays. Caroline gets 3 great wooden trays for a steal, Rebekah gets her keychains, and Erika and I combine forces to get marble elephants. We are all feeling disgusting; anywhere a purse strap touches has a distinct line of sweat on our nice clothes. We grab cabs to get back to the hotel. There are 5 of us (Jeremy broke free at some point) and the cabbie won’t take more than 4. Apparently in Mumbai, piling as many people in as possible is declasse, even for the cabbies. I’m with Erika and our guy gets lost, and of course we’re of no help. But we make it eventually, and run up to cool off, rinse off, and put on a new version of business casual.
Our visit today is to Mudra Group, which does advertising. It’s in an impressive shiny building, and we’re on the 8th floor with a great view of another skyscraper. There’s been a technical glitch so since we’ve arrived early and they’re running late we make a ruckus in the conference room for about an hour before an awesome-looking hippie dude comes in. He shows us a bunch of Mudra ads from his department (turns out we’re in one of Mudra Group’s units called Mudra Max), while talking about the difficulties of marketing to India, because of its diversity. It’s not anything we haven’t heard from other marketing departments, but some of the ads are really funny. It’s also cool to hear from someone around our age who is clearly part of the hipster generation in India. It’s a fun afternoon.
On the way home we’re all discussing the evening plans. Mine start with a nap. Eric, Caroline, Rebekah, and Blake head out to try and find a tea shoppe that last year’s group told us about. They start at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and Towers, one of the sites of the 2009 Mumbai bombings. In the lobby they spy Ratan Tata, which is the equivalent of spotting the CEO of any incredibly major conglomerate like GE, or I don’t even know. It’s a big deal, and apparently they act accordingly by getting giggly and hyper. They then stop at a Chinese restaurant not far from the hotel, to get some appetizers. This turns into dinner, and they give up on the tea shoppe. B
lake calls me at the hotel to try and tell me where they are, and just chuckles at the response to “What’s the address here?” (it sounds on my end like 12 syllables and all consonants). I grab Erika and Jordan, give the info to Stacy and some others, and we all set out in search of “Ling’s Pavilion, like, on a side street behind the Regal Cinemas, not far from the Taj Palace, with a circular doorway.” Believe it or not, we find it and it’s another group dinner, minus John whose ear is still getting to him. I don’t really enjoy the food. It seems a long time since I’ve had Indian food, sadly. But it’s nice to have a night out.
Finally, it’s on to karaoke, where we really outdo ourselves. I choose to make my karaoke debut with a duet with Erika. We’re terrible, but what we lack in talent we compensate for with commitment. The boys do Bohemian Rhapsody. Only two other groups there, so we’re getting up onstage easily. The evening ends on a high note: Eric and Clark sing A Whole New World; Clark doesn’t even need the lyrics screen. Eric searches for, and eventually finds, his falsetto. The accompanying stock footage video is two women frolicking all over some unknown coastal town. When the song finishes, we walk out of the bar as a group to semi-thunderous applause. Thank you Bombay, and goodnight!