Mumbai and the End of India for Us

My intestinal disorder had more or less cleared up and we were excited to be in what was formerly Bombay, and also sad that this was it for India. Our booked hotel (Ugh, I don’t even know if we could call it that!) was the diviest of the dives. All of the “midrange” places ($50-$125) were solidly booked when we had called them from Fort Kochi. The Hilton’s, et all at $150/room at two rooms! were right out of our budget. Especially since we knew that Dubai was going to be in that price range for just a moderate quality place. So, we were stuck with the Volga. At least it had bathrooms in our rooms for $31 (or a shared bathroom for $18). Unfortunately our two rooms were on different floors and this wasn’t the kind of place we felt comfortable with the kids being that far away from us in. Thus Claudette and I split up to the two different rooms for a couple of nights. There were lots of street vendors set up all day long down the main road we were on and there were a couple of pretty good restaurants nearby that we ate at. Mumbai has to be the cleanest city in India that we encountered. Not to say that it’s citizens didn’t just dump crap wherever they wanted, just that the municipality tried to keep up with it more I think. Outside of our room window and one floor down was the rolling fiberglass roof (the stuff we use on greenhouses) of a second floor building below. The apartments on the other side of it from us had been tossing their rubbish out the window for quite a while it seemed and I’m surprised the roof hadn’t caved in. It was incredibly disgusting, but I still forgot to get a picture in the daylight.

We were in Mumbai for three nights and two full days before flying to Dubai. On our first day we walked about ten minutes to the India Gate and had a look around. The shady tour operators gave me some ideas of stuff I wanted to see and do around town. The next day though things seemed to be off to a slow start. Eventually Alex and I took off at about 3:00PM to just get out and do something. We grabbed a taxi to go to the “Hanging Gardens” Park, about 25minutes away. There were no hanging vines or plants in the end, but it was still a pretty nice park to walk around in and escape the massive chaos of 16 million people living together in a city with not near enough roads. (That can describe all cities in India though.) There were many young couples and families having a nice relaxing afternoon, and many hedges were trimmed in the shape of animals that Alex and I tried to guess at before reading the signs. There was an incredibly huge Banyon tree there as well, about 450 years old we were told.

Just down a little ways from that park was another one offering spectacular views of the city and bay below. We had driven up quite a hill to get to the parks and both Alex and I took a bunch of great pictures of the spectacular views. This park had a cool little Bonzai section and kids playground equipment at one end. Following that tour, we grabbed another taxi down the hill and got dropped of at one end of the beach. We leisurely walked along the length of the beach and enjoyed watching all the locals relaxing and enjoying their day of leisure. There was a storm drain outlet about 30cm deep that many people were washing themselves in or with. Yeach! This is after we’ve seen losta people urinate and defecate and dump out all sorts of toxic stuff into the sewers. The one other sad thing we noticed was the cutest little puppy diligently chewing on some sort of food scrap partially buried in the sand and surrounded by crows. Those nasty birds were taking turns walking close and nipping at his tail before running away from his wildly gnashing little puppy teeth. We got close enough to scare the crows away for a bit and give the puppy a little reprieve.

At the other end of the beach was a little fair going on with some small rides. We started noticing the little “ride-on” cars and motorbikes with transistor radios blaring and guys pushing kids around in them. Then as we got closer to the far end we noticed the jumping pillow, circular “vehicles” rides, (separated into cars, planes, and motor bikes) as well as a mini ferris wheel. We were horrified to see a bunch of guys climbing up the structure and grabbing a car (with passengers inside!) and riding it down to the ground about 4m below. This kept on happening and we wondered how the safety police could possibly let such a travesty happen, even in a sociaety which didn’t really value human life that much. This ferris wheel was going so fast (and partly because it was so small, only about ten cars) that some cars were tipping backwards and going almost upside down. That is to say that they were tipping backwards at about 160 degrees! Of course as we got closer I realized something odd about all of the ride equipment. There were NO hydraulic lines, ANYWHERE. The turning rides were completely human powered! Then I looked closer at the Ferris Wheel and it to was completely human powered! Those guys weren’t “riding” it down on the outside of the car, they were in fact PROPELLING it!!! This was rather a shock to my somewhat restricted modernized “Western” thinking I suppose. But they had come up with a novel concept and adapted it to their capabilities. Inginuitive more than anything really I would think. To slow it down they simply started grabbing the spokes and held them a bit until it slowed down. truly unique and bizarre at the same time.

After we grabbed an ice cream from a beach vendor, we hopped a taxi and asked to go to the museum. We’d read and heard from other travellers that it was a fairly good one, and we figured that we could walk fast through the boring parts. (My apologies to all our friends that are history teachers.) We ended up getting dropped off in a huge crowd and he pointed out a doorway that was the museum. The crowd was due to a big organized show/fair in the small park right in front. I think that we concluded in the end it was some sort of arts festival. People could help out a potter and make their own tiny little bowls, and there was a big coloring/drawing station set up for kids. As we continued down the closed off street, there was all sorts of modern artwork on display. Most was pretty cool and we both took a bunch of pictures. There was a pretty neat multi-artists display along a 100m section of sidewalk of addictions. When I noticed we were running out of time, we headed back around to the museum entrance. It turned out that it was actually the Modern Art Gallery of Mumbai, so I guess the driver didn’t really have a clue. Admission was free and we went in anyways. There was actually lots of very interesting and cool displays, but it was so crowded from the gathering of people outside that made the whole experience intolerable. We caught a taxi back to our hotel, which was only five minutes down the road and around a few corners.

Traffic conditions were superior and far more sane than anywhere else in Indi that we’d been to as well. There would only be four cars and one motorbike wide across three lanes, instead of five cars and four motorbikes across in Delhi and most other places. It was interesting to pick up a local (English) paper every week or two as well. The South has problems of North Indians coming down and stealing jobs and causing problems. In a country of 1.2 billion that has a crapload of states, I guess the long line of tribal tensions still run deep. This is a lesson difficult for most Canadians to grasp.

Comments are closed.