I am a huge fan of Mumbai. I have probably been to the city only a couple of times but each time it has managed to bowl me over. Whatta city! Now I understand why people feel so passionately about it. Though my initial reaction was not great: the grime, dust and plain rubbish lying on the streets is a real put off! I saw a sea of blue plastic cover from the flight and was wondering what they were! Later I found out that that was Dharavi, the world’s largest slum.
But there is the whole other side, the really bindaas people who dress really well. My cousin who was showing me around the city had put it very well: he said, “You can’t make out who lives in a chawl and who lives in a penthouse.” I suppose that could be because of the concentration of textile mills all over the city. It is afterall an industrial city.
The roads at least where I was staying Dadar were very wide with enough space for the pedestrians. Coming from footpath-starved Chennai, this was such a relief. The roads were made of concrete because it rains 4 months of the year and tar roads won’t be able to take it. I saw morning walkers in and around the Shivaji Park area. The first thought that hit me was that the Municipal Corporation really cares about its citizens. By contrast, in Chennai one gets the feeling that the Corporation is like this bulldozer that theatens to roll over all citizens!
In the evening of my first visit, my cousin showed me around town. According to him, I had seen only about 30% of the city! I saw the usual landmarks of Mumbai: the Taj Mahal hotel, Victoria Terminus now called Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Gateway of India, Colaba Causeway, Haji Ali mosque (from afar), the Siddivinayak Temple, and Worli seaface. We then headed for a mall which housed just about anything: from clothes stores which turn into nightclubs at night (the Provogue Lounge) to Dollar stores and restaurants. It was called the Phoenix Mills and the entrance to it was via a basti. Well, it looks like a basti to me. I was wondering where he was going till we came upon this huge gliterring plaza! The Sports Bar was a place that was decently crowded on a Thursday night.
Dinner was at this place called Baghdadi. The food was excellent and cheap! While driving down Marine Drive, I could see groups of people just dancing to some tune in their heads! There was no music nearby other than the music of the waves breaking on the shore. The waves were very high and it was the start of the monsoon season. A slight drizzle turned into a downpour and changed back into a drizzle in no time. I wanted to have vada pav but couldn’t because by then people has packed up and there was no place to park. It seems it takes 3 hours to cover the entire Marine Drive streach by foot. I will do that one day!
The old Colonial-style buildings with its curlicued facade made a huge impression on me. I loved old buildings: there is so much history trapped in them! Gape was all I could do. It was sheer beauty in stone! The Mumbai Municipal Corporation have a rule where people who live in these old Colonial mansions cannot change the exterior of their homes. They can modernize the interior and add all sorts of latest gadgets but they cannot touch the exterior. This rule preserves the “look” of Mumbai. Unlike here, old buildings can be demolished and made into concrete monstrosities!
Blame my “I love Mumbai” outburst on this cool blog I found about Mumbai. It’s regular Mumbaikars who talk about their city. So, check it out!