*** Well, I was unable to upload any photos – and I have soooo many! Stay tuned, will either add them later or do a separate post just with photos. What an interesting and amazing day.
What can you say about Mumbai? It is the most crowded, diverse place we have ever visited! The Mumbai music, as I called it, is the constant beeping of horns as over 35,000 taxis and who knows how many cars, scooters, bicycles, trucks, buses, dogs, goats, cows, etc all try to get to the same place at the same time. And people walk right out into the traffic because that is the only way they get anywhere!
This is the festival time in Mumbai, celebrating the elephant god, Ganesh, and there are celebrations all over the city. Shiva is the main god that they worship, but the story of Ganesh is interesting – I won’t try to write the whole thing here, but it’s interesting to look up and read about. Mumbai has 20 million people and 80% are Hindu but you do see Muslims and some Catholic influence from when the Portuguese ruled the country. There are 51 children born every minute in India. There is still British influence, too, and all signs are in English as well as native language.
Our guide is Yamini and she is terrific. She mentions that more people in Mumbai have cell phones than have toilets! Mumbai is the “new” name for Bombay, named in 1996 by the government to erase any places, roads and features that had connotations of the Raj.It is still pretty unpopular in India, especially the renaming of museums, etc. Yamini says that people can’t even remember the street names, they are so long!
We drive along Marine Drive, build on land reclaimed from the Back Bay and fronting on the Arabian coast. Because of the many street lights, it is called the Queen’s necklace. Our first stop today was the Babulmath temple, one of the original shrines of the city. It is dedicated to the god Shiva. It is very crowded on Mondays because it is said that people who pray there on that day get their prayers answered. No photos could be taken inside. We had to take our shoes off to enter and there were people giving floral offerings and pouring water and milk as offerings.
The cow we saw on the way to the temple has an interesting story. It is owned by a woman who “leases” the cow out to another woman. The second woman makes money by selling people who come to the temple some hay to feed the cow. So as an example of Indian ingenuity, everyone wins. Both women make money and the cow gets to eat!
We then drove through old sections of the city, some looking like slums and then some in art deco style. The city is second only to Miami in the number of art deco buildings.
We had a walk through the Khotachiwadi, an original setttlement of the 19th century. People here are now limited to getting water only 1 hour a day. There is a serious drought and the people who live here are not wealthy enough to buy water, so they fill up big tanks every morning.
We visited the home and studio of James Ferreira, a renowned fashion designer who lives and works in a 150 year old mansion. He is trying to protect the neighborhood from having the old homes torn down to build high rises, and so he invites people into his home. He served us lemonade and a lovely assortment of cookies and tarts. I was asked to be the model for showing how to tie a sari.. here is the result! We also had a forehead dot put on as we entered and we were showered with flower petals.
We went to the Gateway to India and saw this colorful group of women. Curiously, men and women had to go through separate entrances right next to each other and came out together. The other picture is of the Taj Mahal hotel.
We then stopped at the Churchgate Railway Terminus where we saw the Dabbawallahs of Bombay. Each morning, more than 5000 dabbawallahs call on suburban housewives who pack a freshly cooked lunch into small circular aluminum or stainless steel containers – dabbas. Typically each dabawallah collects 30 – 40 boxes, puts them onto poles or more commonly, bicycles, and then transports them in the luggage car of the train to the consumer (businessperson usually). Each day over 200,000 lunches are delivered, and the dabawallahs have never lost a lunch. The service costs only a few rupees a week and is a great example of division of labor in India. The recent film “the Lunchbox” is about this service and I will watch it for sure when I return home.
Yamini asked if we wanted to see the laundry – Bombay is known for lunches and laundry, she said. We were on a tour with only 10 people – we paid extra for it – and it was so worth it, if just to see the laundry. Words really can’t describe it, but here are some pictures of the washing, the drying and the beating of garments with stones. And this wasn’t even the biggest one in Mumbai!
We had a wonderful Indian lunch at the Khyber restaurant – here is the menu – and it was all served to us, one dish at a time by friendly waiters who couldn’t do enough for us.
After the lunch we went to the Albert Museum. It highlights arts and life in 19th century Bombay and was very interesting. There was a display of women’s apparel in a temporary exhibit. The people loved having their picture taken and many wanted to take pictures of me with them!
Our last stop was the Crawford market which was named after the first municipal commissioner, Arthur Crawford. There are mountains of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as a bird market, and many cats, dogs and rabbits for sale.
A very interesting day – one that some people said they wouldn’t want to repeat (in fact one said INDIA stands for “interesting, never do it again”.) I don’t agree with that – it is an experience we will never forget. Now on to other areas of India.