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Mahjong In Mumbai

Part 1: My Mumbai Mahjong Adventure
Part 2: Sightseeing in Mumbai

Saturday, March 14, 2009. The shortest route to Mumbai (still affectionately known as Bombay by those who live there) would have taken me across Alaska, Russia, Mongolia, and China, but a direct flight wasn't available at a reasonable price. So I flew from L.A. to London, thence to Mumbai.

When I arrived, Sushila Singh was there to meet me and give me a ride to her home. I'd been corresponding with Sushila for at least 10 years, and this was the first time we'd met in person.

(Note: images are all larger than seen here. You can right-click and Save As, to download the full image and view it in slightly larger glory.) (Note: for site storage reasons, the full-size images are not available on the Web.)

The first order of business was a welcoming ceremony. I was given a necklace of flowers and a red dot between my eyebrows. Then I got to see my room. It used to be Sushila's son's room, but since he started a family of his own, it's now Sushila's mahjong room. The Indian beasts were brought out in my honor. We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!
The next morning I took a little stroll around the neighborhood to get some sun and adjust to the timezone. I came across a man who was trying to drive into a driveway but couldn't because this lady's cow was there. "Can't you move your cow?" he shouted. (She could, and did.)
Sushila's daughter, Abhilasha, took me for a little sightseeing. This is the Prince of Wales Museum.
Not sure what building that is over there, but it looks nice, don't you think? A lot of attractive architecture in Mumbai.
Next we went to the outdoor shopping street. I got some souvenirs (we had to haggle for them, of course). The T-shirts I bought here are of good quality cloth, but have already started displaying stitching flaws and need repair.

Behind Abhilasha, you can see the Leopold Café sign. That's one of the sites attacked by terrorists on 26/11. It was very hot, so we went in and had a cold beverage. (I was glad to find that Diet Coke is readily available in Mumbai.)

This family was a little in the way of the pedestrians. Odd place to sit down for a powwow.
Next stop: the Taj Hotel. Abhilasha checked out some goods offered by a street vendor.
The front of the Taj Hotel is still undergoing repairs from the 26/11 attack.
A man tied strings around our fingers, put a red dot between my eyebrows, and said a prayer for us. So Abhilasha gave him some coins. Oh, and somebody offered to take our photo.
The Gateway of India is undergoing routine maintenance (apparently it had been scaffolded even before the 26/11 attack).
The next day, Sushila assigned her servant, Padam, to take me on an excursion to the Haji Ali Mosque, on an island a short walk out into the Arabian Sea. After we passed through the security check, the first thing I saw was a man crawling on his hands and knees; he had no feet. Heartbreaking.
There are many little shops along the approach to the Haji Ali causeway.
The causeway to Haji Ali.
Looking back towards the shore.
And we've arrived at the mosque. Time to put headwear on. We both put on handkerchiefs. We also took off our shoes to see the interior of the prayer room (a young man guarded our shoes for us, for a couple of coins).
Out back of the mosque, a lot of folks walk out onto the (basaltic?) rocks to be near the waves.
You can buy Coca-Cola in the courtyard of the mosque. (We didn't.)
An Islamic flag flies over this building within the mosque's grounds.
I sheepishly admit that I took a lot more photographs than I'm showing you here. Who knows why I'm even showing you this one...
A view of the mosque from shore, without zooming.
Next, we headed towards Mahalaxmi Temple. (Or Mahalakshmi, if you prefer.) This is the outer gate.

(Note: images are larger than seen here. You can right-click and Save As, to download the full image and view it in slightly larger glory.) (Note: for site storage reasons, the full-size images are not available on the Web.)

A very pretty little (and old) shrine along the way.

(Note: image is larger than seen here. You can right-click and Save As, to download the full image and view it in slightly larger glory.) (Note: for site storage reasons, the full-size images are not available on the Web.)

Ancient Shiv Temple (but you probably already figured that out).
Colorful clothing hanging out to dry, above a corrugated roof and a Coca-Cola advertisement.
You can see the dome of the Malaxmi Temple at the far end of this alley.
The alley is lined with lots of vendor stalls. Kinda reminds me of Kaminarimon, in Asakusa, Tokyo. Photography isn't allowed inside the temple, sorry.
After we exited the temple grounds I observed this building. It kinda reminds me of a riverboat (like we used to have when I lived in Cincinnati).
At this approach into the Mahalaxmi temple, there's a soldier stationed with an assault rifle. He's behind those cement bags (under the umbrella). 26/11's impact lingers on in Mumbai, just as 9/11's impact lingers on in airports around the world.
Back at the Singh home. This mini playground/garden is always abandoned in the high heat and humidity of the daytime, but as the area falls into cool shadow, all the families bring the kids out to play. By the way, this garden is the roof of the parking garage. Sushila's husband Pete parks his cars behind one of those doors down there.
But ENOUGH with the sightseeing. What I came to Mumbai for was mahjong! Sushila had arranged a gathering to take place in the large living room in the home of Sushila's friend Damyanti Chinai.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009. The main event!
My assignment was to give a speech. So I stood and started telling mahjong stories.

The ladies were a very attentive audience!
Yak, yak, yak. Here's the book I wrote...
...and this is what the American ladies use when they play.
I hadn't planned my speech in much detail, but it seemed to be going well enough.

But I did kind of blather on (I wanted to give everybody their money's worth, I guess). I'd given my camera to Nita Kapadia, who seems to have started eyeing the champagne here. That's a statuette of Ganesha looking on.

Sushila, as the chief plotter and planner of the event, got to do the honors of opening the first bottle, once I finally shut up.
Some after-speech chatting with the ladies.
Sushila makes a point.
Then there was the food. Dee-LISH!
Thursday, March 19. Day two of the mahjong event.
We gathered at the home of Chandrakala Aggarwalla. She lives in a highrise just a stone's throw from the Taj Hotel. Wonderful view of Colaba from her balconies.
Chandrakala is a lover of games. I was enchanted by this little Tic-Tac-Toe set, played with toy ships and airplanes.

(Note: images are larger than seen here. You can right-click and Save As, to download the full image and view it in slightly larger glory.) (Note: for site storage reasons, the full-size images are not available on the Web.)

There were several tables set up to play mahjong. These ladies are playing Mumbai-Style.
Sushila chats with some ladies as they prepare to play.
Chandrakala had invited a newspaper reporter to come interview me. Here you see Chandrakala herself being interviewed.
My assignment was to circulate, to play a little bit at each table.
This lady has won a hand. Check out her tiles -- she's made a pure straight, with a duplicate of any tile in the straight, plus two knitted pairs of terminals. (Remember, this is Mumbai-Style.)
Sushila plays, while tea is served.
I didn't make a fool of myself. Here you see I won a pure hand in all pungs.
I'll drink to that. Cheerio!
On the drive back along the Queen's Necklace, I grabbed a snapshot of a romantic couple watching the sun set over Back Bay.
I expected to see more high-tech billboards and stuff. Here's an ad on the side of a bus.
Okay, in keeping with my previous travels, I had to take a photo of the plumbing. The shower in my room wasn't nearly as befuddling as the controls in my hotel room in Copenhagen. To get a warm shower with this setup, make sure the red light is on, then turn the far right handle to the left. Or was it to the right. Whichever way it is willing to go. Then turn the lower-right handle upwards. Hmm, then did I have to turn anything else? (All right, so I waited too long to write this, I forget how this plumbing works.)
An interesting building front in the Singhs' neighborhood, Cumbala Hill.
This is the local grocery.
Banyan roots looking to gain a foothold but doomed to disappointment due to the traffic... now that I think of it, that sounds just like back home in Los Angeles.
The view upwards. A lot of highrises on Cumbala Hill.
Friday, March 20. Day three (last day of the three-day mahjong event). We gathered in the Cricket Club of India (CCI). Here I am teaching the ladies how to play foreign styles of mahjong.
At this table, I'm introducing American-style mahjong, as Sushila looks on.
One of the ladies brought a Vietnamese mahjong set. The Vietnamese players use jokers, so we had enough jokers to play American-style. The card needed a little explaining.
Another group, at another table, studied up on Japanese-style mahjong.
The Japanese-style "orderly discards" needed a bit of explaining.
The American game can be a bit of a head-scratcher!
We used some nice wooden dice of Sushila's, and a very odd thing happened. Look, this die came to rest on its corner!
This lady won a hand. It's a 2468 hand (from the 2008 NMJL card). Pair F's, kongs of 2's and 8's in one suit, and pairs of 4's and 6's in the second suit.
And so the 3-day mahjong event wound down to its inevitable conclusion. One last group shot.

On Saturday the 21st of March, the interview appeared in the newspaper, DNA (Daily News & Analysis). Pretty much everything I said was misquoted. (^_^) But that happens with American newspapers too.

(Note: you can click the image to see it larger. Even better, go to the DNA website and read the original article there! It's at

Part 1: My Mumbai Mahjong Adventure
Part 2: Sightseeing in Mumbai

Sushila Singh launched her Mumbai Style Mahjongg site in 2012:

© 2009 Tom Sloper