I started this post by opening the folder of pictures that correspond and I find now, like when I was there, that the entire thing is completely unbelievable. Mumbai itself is a city, the likes of which you won't find anywhere else on earth.
I found it equal parts fascinating, scary, loud, and beautiful. I think that what really troubles me about writing about it is that there is so much to say. Basically, prepare to be bored. What hit me first, travelling in December from the mid-atlantic, was the heat. It was so lovely and warm and sunny every day. Every. Day. But, December is in the dry season. It is temperate and the rain is held off for months at a time. What remains constant in Mumbai is the chaos. I was met immediately with a cacophony of horns, as I've noted before they are just part of the soundtrack of the city, any city in India.
My suitcase had been temporarily 'misplaced' somewhere in Asia, so when I found my dear friend and host, she took me to a department store and right away I was oggling at everything like an idiot. Christmas trees, affordable clothing...a department store! Right off the bat, things that I naively I didn't expect. Then we went and ate food! Oh, so much food. South Indian food was all new to me and all delicious. I was warned about food, and took great care to eat 'safe' things, but I also didn't want to deprvive myself of local delacies. Obviously, a local guide is essential to toeing this line.
The city proper is built on a long, thin penninsula that used to be seven islands. Land was reclaimed and made into one piece on mangrove swamps. This prevents them from having a subway, but they make up for it with taxis, private cars, busses, trains and most importantly, rickshaws. These three wheeled vehicles were a constant source of amusment for me, and they taught me that indeed, the faster you drive, the skinnier you get and if the space isn't big enough; make it big enough. The rules of the road are complex and largely unwritten (I think) and it takes a deft hand to survive as a rickshaw driver. I'd love to be one.
What I loved the most about the city are it's markets. I am a marketphile(?) anyway, and India might take the cake. I took two tours that led me through the labryhthine streets of the the area of Colaba. This is, I guess, the most touristy area of Mumbai, where there are famous hotels, trendy eateries, and is dotted with colonial buildings from the British Raj. We wandered through food, fabric, flower, meat, fish, and incense markets. One could really hurt their neck trying to take it all in. In a city of almost 20 million, (yeah, let that number sink in for a second) there is plenty of business to for every one. The sights at these markets are the best. I watched a man butcher a goat head for five minutes, I wandered through the same meat market surrounded by various brains, hearts and tracheas, only to be surrounded by stalls of piles and piles of garlic. This segued into rows of insense sellers. In short- a delight for the senses and I say that sincerely.
In Mumbai I saw great poverty and great wealth, ate food sold from a bicycle and from a modern shopping mall. I danced at my first actual club, experienced a Hindu temple, and rode a train without doors. I worry that I'm not doing it justice, but it was a very cool place. I am blessed to know people there who were willing to guide me through the crowded streets, and help me to navigate the madness of it without me making any cultural faux pas.
All this rambling and I didn't even mention the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (my favorite museum name ever), Gandhi's house, or the Dharavi slum. Don't worry. There's time.