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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 35: A day in Mumbai

INDIA | Monday, 10 December 2007 | Views [783]

Monday 10th December

I had originally little intention of spending any time in Mumbai, having had my fill of big, noisy, polluted cities. However, my first impressions of the place were surprisingly good. It looked similar to a European city, with modern buildings and spaces populated by a mixture of people from different backgrounds.

There are evidently many affluent people in Mumbai, both young and old, and a higher proportion of professionals and students than anywhere else that I had seen in India. My main point of reference was Delhi, and Mumbai seemed to make better use of its space than that city, which is split between Old and New, with the former over-crowded and the latter having an almost criminal level of under-population (if such a thing can be described as ‘criminal’). Mumbai seemed to me to be better integrated, although the slums lining the railway tracks on entering the city are evidence of the chronic poverty problems, of which I had heard a great deal beforehand.

It was also considerably warmer than the northern states that I had visited, and it was easy to work up a sweat as I made my way through the town. The ‘downtown’ area of Mumbai is comparatively compact, with some of the major sights all within walking distance. An interesting monument which reflects the importance of Mumbai during the period of the British rule is the Gateway of India arch, which stands overlooking the bay. It was built in 1924 to commemorate the visit of George V and his missus in 1911, and was also the point of embarkation for the last British troops to leave India after Independence in 1948.

In the area surrounding the Gateway, the district of Colaba is the main tourist haunt, and the main road running through it is lined with western shops and restaurants. One of the restaurants on the Colaba Causeway is called Leopold’s, a place made famous by the book that I – and most other travellers that I have met – have been reading: Shantaram. It’s a fascinating read, and made all the more interesting when the setting is made more familiar after a visit such as this. Judging by the crowds inside Leopold’s, it is a continued favourite with foreigners, just as it was with the protagonists in the book.

The collection of parks – or maidans – that sit within the commercial area of Mumbai are busy with people taking a break from the city. The Oval Maidan in particular is full of guys – and some girls – playing cricket for hours, some perhaps taking a break from classes at the university across the road. More serious outfits play in whites and are watched over by umpires, and are obviously part of a league. All of them seemed to be very talented, and yet more evidence of India’s obsessions with the game. It makes me wonder sometimes why the India international team aren’t more dominant; perhaps this is due to a lack of organisation or funding (in a country where money seems to ultimately end up in the pockets of corrupt politicians) or an attitude that playing is primarily for fun and not necessarily just to win. But what would I know about cricket anyway?

I was glad to have visited Mumbai in the end, but also happy that I wasn’t staying for longer. There are undoubtedly plenty of other things to see and do there, but I was just as happy with this taster. My main goal was getting to Goa for a bit of chill-out time, having been busy travelling about for the past three weeks. And that’s where I was finally headed to next.

Tags: Sightseeing

 

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