Maximum City

Trip Start Mar 19, 2006
1
25
Trip End May 11, 2006


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Wednesday, May 3, 2006

So, nearing the final stretch of my India travels, I came to Bombay to visit my friend Raj and stayed at his place in Banda West--apparently the neighborhood for Bollywood celebrities. I had my eye out for them, but I realized that I would not know one if I saw one. I did see Gregory David Roberts, the author of Shantaram fame, taking high tea at the Sea Lounge of the Taj Hotel and thought that it was a long way indeed from the zhopadpatti (slums) that he had so eloquently written about in his book.

While I spent more time in Bombay than any other place in India, I did not spend the time doing much sightseeing. I did see the Gateway to India, took a boat out to view the Elephanta Caves, walked about Colaba, visited the Haji Ali and got thrown out of the gardens while trying to catch a glimpse of the Parsee's Tower of Silence--where their dead are 'buried'. But most of the time was spent with Raj as if I was living there, doing the daily commute into Town through an more than an hour of Bombay traffic each way, hanging around his offices (the aptly named Jolly Makers Chambers II) at Nariman Point and going out to eat in this city of 18 million.

And eat we did. After almost a month of mostly good, if touristy, restaurants (sprinkled with some home cooking) during my India travels, Bombay was something else. There are enough middle & upper class people in this ethnically diverse city to support a restaurant culture. While the locals preferred the many varieties of excellent, non-Indian cuisine, I was blown away by the quality and selection of Indian cuisine available in the city. No other place that I had visited to this point captures the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country that is India, a nation with 19 offical language and hundreds of sub-ethnicities! In Bombay you can find excellent examples of Goan, Bengali, Punjabi et al the myriad other regional cuisines of India. A doctor friend of Raj's told me that heart disease and obesity were problems in Bombay, a stark and suprising contrast to the rest of India (and indeed most of the masses of Bombay), but not surprising as I felt especially turgid after a week of constant eating!

Its a massive city, and a modern city if done that uniquely Indian way. And of all the places I had visited, Bombay is where I felt most familiar and comfortable as it reminds me of New York in many ways.
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