Day 263… Mumbai is probably the most cosmopolitan city in India. It’s also home to the largest film industry in the world, Bollywood. Full of high-drama, romance, suspense, music and dancing, Bollywood films are all-singing, all-dancing extravaganzas. It’s pure, unadulterated entertainment and escapism, so even if I can’t understand the language, they still make an interesting spectacle.
Combine India’s version of LA with a hefty dose of traffic, busy streets, lively bazaars, briefcase-clutching businessmen cutting international deals in soaring skyscrapers and some impressive colonial architecture, and there you have Mumbai. The city is a mad mixture of horrific poverty standing side-by-side with prolific consumerism; this is the financial capital of the subcontinent and it has the shopping centres, bars and restaurants to match – but more than half the inhabitants live in the slums. Mumbai can be a bit of a shock to the system and an assault on the senses. But once I get my head around it, I can appreciate all the city has to offer. We wander the streets and discover some of the beautiful old colonial and art deco buildings, treat myself to a meal in one of the country’s best restaurants, or shop until I drop in the bazaars. Take a short walk through the heritage quarter of Mumbai and head for the nearby Gateway of India and the famous Taj Hotel.
And this is where that meal i regretted comes in. I dropped early, like immediately after. I throw up and sleep 5 hours. But in the arvo I’ll be damned if don’t do our booked tour of the city slums. Now i hear you… some are wondering a) why would anyone WANT to see slums? Others are all, like b) HOW could you feel good about doing that? Well, I did it because it is important to see the other side of the street sometimes. It’s important to put your life in serious perspective. And as to the HOW, well a good portion of cash goes from the tour guy back into these poor communities… where 1,000 rupees (or about $35) could mean a months wage… or more. So yeah… like Auschwitz-Birkenau. .. like the Killing Fields. .. this is important to see… and important to tell people about. As we wound up at the massive open air laundry here… we literally jump a local train back (indeed… 2 are left behind with the guide to catch up… whereas I Indianna-Jonesed it onto a MOVING TRAIN to keep up. Reminds me of the time years ago at Sydney’s Biennale when my mate Tristan agony I ran late to the final ferry and did the same to board it back with the gang. Good times). In the evening, visit Chowpatty beach for a few minutes where colourful crowds of people mill about in the cooler evening air. Palmists, balloon sellers, magicians and acrobats all compete for my attention, vying to show I the magic of Mumbai before I crash again before trying the final dinner agony nd our secret santa xmas. I get to the seating and gifts, but pull out early, back to die again. This time badly. To my awesome india tour group… Sorry I couldn’t stay last night… its the only farewell dinner i have missed but the bug/food poisoning is the worst I’ve ever felt. Was a god given pleasure to know u all… look me up back in oz. And merry xmas!