Trip Start Feb 01, 2009
28Trip End May 08, 2009
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Mumbai is unlike anything we had been to so far in India. As it was the centre of British colonialism, the streets were well planned and the architecture very european. Drivers even appeared to obey stop signs and traffic lights (to some degree anyway...) Security appeared to be pretty visible across the city, with the Mumbai attacks occuring only a couple of months before. We went and visited the Taj Hotel, central to the attacks, and it was pretty heavily bordered up. The cafe, Leopolds, that was also attacked still had bullet holes in the walls at the entrance - rather sobering.
As we were staying in the Mumbai equivalent of Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, we felt slightly detached from the city itself and it took a while to get our bearings. We felt like lazy tourists, using Mark's driver to drop us in and pick us up when we were done, so we may not have seen all the sights, but after nearly a month on the road, it was really nice to have a comfortable place to go back to and watch a movie at the end of the day (Thanks Mark!)
After some deliberation, due mainly to the fact that we didn't want to appear too voyeuristic, we signed up for a tour of one of the largest slums in Asia, Dharvai, just outside the city centre. The tours are designed to showcase the productivity, as opposed to an excuse to look at how the majority live, and it was pretty eye-opening. It is home to over 1 million people (about 1/16th of Mumbai's population) and is the focus of much of their small-scale recycling and manufacturing. It contributes something like US$635 mllion each year to Mumbai's output so there is a real push to recognise it as an important element of the city. It was also the location of the early part of Slumdog Millionare (the scene where they are running away from some thing apparently - we went and watched it at the cinema the next day but couldn't work out exactly which bit...) No cameras were allowed in the tour though, so we have nothing to show you what it looks like, although it was highly organised with main streets, schools, markets, Mosques, temples and electricity - quite impressive.
One thing we have found throughout India (which I think we have discussed in earlier blogs) is the strange use of language and grammar in advertising. Possibly the funniest/worst example of this was on the back of a bus we drove behind. The premise was that in the face of the current global economic climate, you should stop stressing and treat yourself to a relaxing getaway, with the theme intending to be 'go hang out somewhere else'. Unfortunately, the wording got slightly mixed up an the add ended up saying something along the lines of: 'Stressed? Sick of the fiancial crisis and want to get away? Go Hang Yourself'. It's a shame Microsoft Word doesn't have a 'correct use of the english language check' to compliment the spell check.