COLABA IS FOR MANY VISTORS TO MUMBAI THE FIRST PORT OF CALL, AFTER THE AIRPORT OF COURSE (HEH! HEH!) Colaba is the heart of tourist Mumbai, which might sound insulting to some people who live there -- but that said, despite all the tourists and touts around, this place does still have a typical and typically unique Indian vibe -- a typically Mumbai vibe. Colaba is usually the place I stay when I visit India, it is home to some of the city's most fabled restaurants, and also some of the most eminent attractions, such as the fabled Gateway to India. The streets are lined with once spectacular buildings with ornate NeoGothic balconies and columns that have unfortunately been the victims of an unforgiving climate and a perpetual lack of funds, brought about in large part by a fifty-year-old rent control law which removes any incentive for landlords to maintain buildings. The dilapidated exteriors, however, often belie very elegant interiors.
There is everywhere evidence of a lot of wealth in Mumbai. We have Bennetton's, Reebok and Baskin-Robbin's (where Mumbai's most expensive ice cream is a third the price it was in Taipei - approximately 75 cents a scoop), and the 5-star hotels are full of young people chatting away on their cellular phones.
Then, of course, there are the sights at the opposite end of the spectrum - far from the world of cellular phones. It is the 7-year-old girl dressed in rags tapping on the car window begging for food or money. It is the countless families living in shanties or simply under a flap of discarded plastic on the sidewalk. It is the babies toddling barefoot around trash-strewn street corners dressed only in a torn shirt. It is the young women with thin babies on their hips who follow you along a shopping street imploring at your elbow for a handout. It is the kids the age of our preschool daughter rummaging through a trash dumpster for the makings of a meal.
Yes, those were my first impressions too -- amazing natural beauty, blue skies and ornate crumbling buildings and those long sandy Arabian beaches -- and above all the complete mish-mash of Absolute Wealth and Absolute Poverty. According to the LONELY PLANET MUMBAI CITY GUIDE, you can't stay in Mumbai for five minutes without having an adventure. It is a bit of an exaggeration, but true in spirit -- every day in Mumbai was an adventure for me, and the only quiet place was locked behind a hotel door...
Oh, how I wish I was back there!
n o t + t h e + r e a l + i n d i a ?
A LOT OF PEOPLE ON THE INDIAN BACKPACKER CIRCUIT SWEAR THEY WOULD NEVER VISIT MUMBAI/BOMBAY UNLESS THEY REALLY HAD TO DO -- and the reason is, they say that Mumbai/Bombay is not the real India. Mumbai is not the only big city to suffer this anti-big city prejudice among the international traveller elite -- Bangkok and Singapore and even Reykjavik (Iceland) also get dissed by crowds of people who think the real fun is to be found in the Sticks. They are mistaken, sorely mistaken -- in most countries I think the real life and experience is to be found in the city. While it is true that Mumbai is a world apart from the ordinary Indian way of life -- there are McDonalds on seemingly every block, and Citibank outlets even in the slums -- while all this is true, it seems to strange to suggest that somehow Mumbai is not the "real India". If you want to see India in a nutshell, and especially if you want to taste India in a nutshell, then a week in Mumbai would do you good. But not everybody is so sold on Mumbai's charms as me.
elizadolittle claimed: "I have been to Mumbai a couple of times and I swear this city stinks. Every time I come here I find the following:
"++-+ The population of the city is increasing day in and day out. The civic authorities over the years have done nothing to improve the situation. One look at the local trains and you feel as if the entire nation is traveling in them.
"++-+ This city is so damn expensive. Everything and anything under the sky and above the earth costs a fortune. Food, lifestyle, housing. Gasp, gasp. So fucking expensive.
"++-+ The city lacks compassion. People are so busy (or self-centred) that they do not have anytime for others. My husband once told me of an incident: he was about to catch a train at Goregaon station when he spotted a man's body, left unattended in a corner. It seems that he had suffered a heart attack. All people had done was shove him into a corner so that his lifeless body wouldn't come in the way of their schedule.
"++-+ This city is damn dirty. Garbage is piled on roads as if doing it is the most natural thing to do.
"++-+ Mumbai represent the rising disparity between the haves and have-nots in urban India. Just below savvy sky-scrapers one notices non-descript slums, the havenots of the poverty ridden. This city is also home to the biggest criminals, lowliest beggars.
"++-+ Mumbai is getting increasingly polarized. Hindus and Muslims are no longer staying together amicably. Probably got to do with the rise of a certain Shiv Sena, guided by the "benevolent" Bal Thakrey.
Yet, it does have its plus points:
"--+- It is the most vibrant city of India.
"--+- I just adore the free spirit of the people living here.
"--+- Mumbaiites (sic) know how to freak out.
"--+- Mumbai is the land of true-blue professionals.
"--+- The temperate climate of the city is one of the reasons why it has thousands of people coming here every day to seek employment opportunities.
"--+- Mumbai has a true night-life. Being a party animal, I love this trait of the city."