Solo Travel to India Mumbai
Mumbai was unlike anyplace else I visited in India—such a different vibe than Delhi! Delhi was rooted, historical, the seat of the Mughal Empire. In contrast, Mumbai is a major financial center and the movie capital of the world, the center of the Bollywood film industry. It is reported that 14 million Indians go to the movies each day to see one of the 800 films produced each year. Evidence of the British Raj (Sanskrit for reign) is everywhere, in the downtown city layout and architecture. It is a vibrant, world-class, cosmopolitan metropolis with omnipresent poverty, even in the affluent areas, a mother rocking her baby in a craddle on a street, all their family possessions around them, a shack next to the movie cinema and café. It was my first big city since I had visited since Delhi or Jodhpur in Rajasthan. Quite frankly, I was getting used to seeing some night skies and occasionally hearing the wind in the trees—well, at least in Kanha National Park.
I had a bit of culture shock—there were so many things I had not seen for so long—mass consumerism (including gelato and chocolate shops), sleeveless tops (and women in sleeveless tops!) , women sitting alone in cafés (with Wi-Fi laptops!), women smoking in cafés, espresso, sweeties out holding hands (usually no PDA here), gun shops (?!), and Christmas trees (albeit in the foreign ghetto of Colaba and downtown Fort area). The ocean—albeit a polluted one—made me a little homesick for New England.
Lonely Planet’s description of Mumbai sums it up: measure out one part Hollywood; six parts traffic; a bunch of power-rich moguls; stir in half a dozen colonial relics (use big ones); pour in six heaped cups of poverty; and a smattering of swish bars and restaurants (don’t skimp on quality here for best results); equal parts of mayhem and order; as many ancient bazaars as you have lying around; a handful of Hinduism; a dash of Islam; fold in your mixture with equal parts India; throw it all in a blender on high (adding generous helpings of pollution to taste) and presto: Mumbai.
I spent the day wandering near Fort area, near the University of Mumbai, medans with cricket, and popped into a mid-19th century private library, the J. N. Petit Institute—complete with a private tour from the director, when he found out I was a librarian in a past life. I was too embarrassed to admit I confused it with the Sassoon Library, where I hoped to do some reading and rest.
Apparently those adorable Premier Padmini taxis (see below) are being phased out.
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