Bright lights of Mumbai
Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
46Trip End Feb 06, 2006
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We arrived in Mumbai after a very exciting overnight train journey. When I say exciting I actually mean I was excited because they gave us blankets, the carriage was air con and the train left on time!
The trains are something we are definitely getting our heads around now, but trust me it aint easy! We purchased a timetable called 'Trains at a Glance' for 50p, which you need a doctorate to understand. With two post-graduate heads we just about manage to figure out the train number, name and sometimes even understand what class we want... there seem to be about 7 different types ranging from chair (sardine) to 1st class a/c (practically whole carriage to yourself)
Mumbai was pretty odd really. I knew somewhere there was loads to do but it really didn't feel that way. I just enjoyed walking around the city and soaking up the atmosphere, which was really quite relaxed. It was definitely a city which allows you to take your time and think. A lot of the architecture is reminiscent of Victorian London, a few buildings being based on St Pancras station and the University was just gorgeous. The old clock tower within the grounds used to chime 'God save the Queen' and 'Rule Britannia' but it obviously doesn't anymore! It was so gothic; lots of spiral stone staircases. The Courts were the same. We even managed to stand in the street and see a hearing in session. We could also hear them purely because it must be the only place in India drivers are not allowed to use their horns... at all! Oh I could even hear the birds...
We spent an evening sitting on Chowpatty beach and looking at all the bright lights round the Harbour. I tried to imagine what it might be like working here, but it really is quite a small place
We visited the place where Gandhi spent a lot of his time and I was blown away. It had an excellent museum and a whole room of little dioramas put together lovingly by high school students. I guess I just didn't realise quite what an amazing man he was. His ethos and philosophies were so logical and his success in peaceful protest compelling. He understood the differences between people and the importance of absolute equality. He studied law in London in the 1890s (a barrister at Temple Inn) and then practiced as he could in South Africa. It was there he was thrown off a train marked 'White people only'. From then on he dedicated his life to starting and ultimately succeeding in freeing India from Britain. In the course of this he made headway in a great many things, including emphasising better education for women and the necessity of abolishing the caste system and changing attitudes towards 'untouchables' in society. The latter being those people who are at the bottom of the caste system and work the most menial jobs; removing the dead, cleaning toilets that kind of thing. He was a devout Hindu but he once said "there must be as many religions as there are individuals", again recognising that people see the world in their own way and that's not a bad thing
Well I could write so much more! but I've got to stop somewhere. One other thing I experienced in Mumbai was the second onslaught of monsoon. It was one of those moments where I just felt like such a spoiled human being, I honestly have no concept of what it is like to live in those conditions. I could perhaps put up with a few days of being soaked, but the homeless in Mumbai deal with it again and again, night after night, day after day for weeks. The most touching thing I read was the Indians putting together a fund for the flood victims in New Orleans, stressing that although their country had enough floods of their own to deal with, they understood the importance of fast aid when it's needed. They sent 2.1 tons in the form of baby cots, blankets and food packages. We left Mumbai just before the trains lines were closed and felt we had a lucky escape, but I was generally just left with the feeling that I may never know quite how lucky I really am.