Mumbai is such a huge city, 22 million people live in the metropolitan area which is just shy of the total population of Australia! The city is spread out over a fairly large area and there was no way that we were going to be able to see everything Mumbai had to offer so we had to pick and choose.
One main choice we had to make was whether to go on a visit to the slums or not. We decided not to. It is plain to see everywhere in this city (and India) that there are a large number of people living in absolute poverty and their housing consists often of just some corrugated iron built up to make a room. They seem to squeeze these into gaps between buildings or next to railway tracks or seemingly anywhere they possibly can. We have observed this poverty but thought that paying to go on a sightseeing tour to observe people’s hardship wasn’t something we felt comfortable doing. In fact there have been plenty of instances of poverty we have seen that we have had no desire or need to photograph…we will always remember.
Still while the slums are one aspect of Mumbai they certainly aren’t the only thing here and we consulted the Lonely Planet and picked a few highlights to squeeze into our last day. They were fairly spread out so we decided to use Uber to get around which was going to a lot easier than constantly arguing and negotiating with taxi drivers. While they all have meters it seems that every single one we get into the meter doesn’t work so we thought a break from getting conned was in order so a break from taxis it was.
First stop was described as a 2 km long wall on which had been painted murals. We found it easily enough and sure there were murals but the whole thing wasn’t overly inspiring so we snapped a couple of shots and headed on to the next stop.
The Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat is a laundry area which has existed for 140 years and houses 5000 people who are all involved in washing, drying and ironing thousands of items of clothes. We stopped on a bridge and watched in fascination the goings on below us. It was amazing to see all the troughs and the double story shacks surrounding them covered with rows and rows of lines set up to dry clothes. A young girl was peddling some hand bags and while we didn’t buy any she started talking to us and it turned out that she lived in the Ghat with her mother (who ironed) and her father (who washed). She was able to give us a little insight into what was going on. It wasn’t just hand washing anymore there were machines too so while it didn’t look from the outside that any progress was being made they were obviously moving with the times a little.
We thought we would take a walk through the city to the next port of call and unfortunately didn’t exactly pick an exciting area to walk through but what was interesting to note was that almost every square metre of land seemed to be taken up by hand built houses. I have no idea what rights these people have to the land they have built on but it just seems to be the way things are done. We have heard tales in other places of the slums being taken down and people moved on and I suppose that probably happens here too. It’s certainly a very poor existence and the number of beggars is astounding.
By this stage the humidity and heat was getting pretty bad and unfortunately the Lonely Planet did pretty poorly with its recommendations of a mosque and a Jain Temple. Neither were particularly exciting and we were feeling a little exhausted and frustrated having traipsed across town in the heat to see them so back to the air conditioning of our hotel for us.
We waited for late afternoon and the heat to subside a little before we set out again and this time we headed north from our hotel towards the Chor bazaar passing by the Crawford market. On our way their we marvelled at the wonderful CST train station and the surrounding buildings but we seemed to enter another world when we got to the markets.
The streets around the Crawford Market were absolutely crazy! They couldn’t have been more full of people, stalls, cars and cows if they tried. The volume was incredible and we were almost deafened by the constant horn blowing and both of us were swept along with the crowd as we were agog looking around at everything going on. What was really great to see was that these markets were actually being used and the stall owners were all doing a great trade.
In amongst all the action we came across Hindu temples, Jain temples and Mosques all in the couple of square kilometres of the market. It was surreal to look up at the amazingly beautiful temples which were situated in these streets of craziness. We have said it before but will say it again that the energy here in India is incredible and then it seemed to multiply in the centre of Mumbai!!
The sun was down by this time and while we had felt perfectly safe throughout our wanderings we decided not to risk anything and set off to see the other side of Mumbai. This side of Mumbai was full of fancy hotels, restaurants and bars. We felt in need of a couple of drinks so went to a bar where we got to enjoy beers and gin and tonics for the first time in a while!!
What a great, crazy experience Mumbai has been. T
A short part of the 2 km of murals.
The Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, one of the many unbelievable things in India.
These aren’t the real slums but have been built on the pavement. They almost seem unreal.
Lunch tiffin boxes being delivered, over 200,000 delivered everyday with amazing reliability.
The action around the bazaars.
This mosque was right in the middle of the markets.
As was this amazing intricate Jain temple. Made entirely of marble.
A familiar face in the crowds!