Part 2: Gatecrashing England’s hotel
It’s almost too much to take at times. Trying to cross the roads, trying to block out the noise, trying to breath when crushed on a train with crotches being pressed into you from every angle. If there is one thing however that makes it all worthwhile – it’s the food. The best Indian restaurant back home isn’t a patch on the food you get served over here, the flavours are just incredible in anything you eat.
Ordering the food is a different matter though.
“I’ll have a Paneer Dosa please”
“No, no it’s too dry, you should have something else”
“Erm, ok I’ll have a Paneer Masala”
“Why you want Paneer, you vegetarian?”
“No, I just like Paneer”
“No vegetarian? You have something else then. Chicken” he says as he turns page of the menu over.
“Er, well I didn’t want chicken but give me that one” I say, pointing to the Chicken Masala.
“No, not that one, you can have this one instead” he replies, pointing to some other random dish.
“Care to explain why you even bothered bringing the menu over?”
His choice however, was spot on and from now on the waiter can always decide what I’m going to eat.
After food, I head down to one of Mumbai’s only tourist attractions; the Gate of India with Fish and his wife Sara. Next to it is the grand Taj Mahal hotel; the same hotel that was attacked by terrorists in 2008 with over 100 people killed.
As we glance over we notice a lot of action going on; tanks surrounding it, roadblocks, armed police and soldiers patrolling. Then three coaches pull up and all the locals run over to take photos.
We walk over and ask an Indian lad what’s happening.
“It’s the Indian cricket team”
“No it’s not “ replies another. “It’s the England under 13’s team” he adds bizarrely.
As they depart the coach, we notice it’s actually England. The two Indians are still arguing between themselves over whether it’s India or England under 13’s.
We take a couple of photos and then start to walk off as all the Indians are scrambling for a view and being pushed back by police. But then I stop and suggest we head back and try and get into the hotel.
“Don’t be stupid” says Fish. “It’s locked down like Fort Knox, we won’t get past the first line of tanks.”
“Let’s just try it. We’re the only Westerners around here other than the England players and their staff, they’ll just assume we’re with them”
“Not a chance we’ll get in”.
Me and Sara just storm forward, through a barrier and then straight past the first line of soldiers, with looks on our faces that say, ‘we’re with the team, we’re allowed past here’. We’re getting glances and soldiers hesitating to approach us but not quite bringing themselves to do it in case we’re someone important. Past the second, third and fourth line and we’re in! Fish meanwhile is 2 lines of security back, shaking and with sweat pouring from his head and his t shirt drenched. Down to the final line of security and he finally gets pulled. A full search and few questions later, he manages to talk his way through.
*Note to terrorists: just look confident and stride forward with purpose, it’s a piece of piss.
We’re now in the most extravagant hotel any of us have ever set foot in. We head to the lounge and order a pot of tea each. At £3, over 10 times the price of anywhere else in Mumbai. Now in a situation like this, the first thing you obviously want to do is tell everyone about it. So a quick check on the phone for wifi throws up what appears to be unsecured access to the hotels internet. The login screen however asks for ‘surname and room number’
Pietersen, room 101. Pietersen, room 102. Pietersen, room 103. Pietersen, room 104. A few attempts later and in walks Andy Flower and Jonny Bairstow.
“Alright, how’s it going” they say as they walk up to us, either thinking we’re some extremely well to do fans or part of the travelling party.
“Alright Andy. What’s your room number? I’m trying to get into wifi”
A strange look follows and they walk quickly away.
Cook and Trott walk in next. It’s often said how friendly the England cricket team is and you hear many stories of them going out for drinks with the fans after matches and you can see some of that here as we decide to leave the wifi questions alone and just have a brief chat about the series. It’s left with Cook of saying goodbye and thanking us for our support.
A nice touch from the England captain and a real star of the game, coming across like the stories you hear about the footballers of the past before they completely lost touch with all reality and turned into the prima donnas of today’s rapidly escalating out of control football world.
Up next: Test 2 – Day 1 at the Wankheda Stadium
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