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Archive for April, 2012

Mumbai; harsh, but ingenious at heart

mumbai1 India is a mesmerising country with beautiful traditions that I wanted to visit for long time, and with Mumbai modernising rather rapidly I thought now was a great time, so the past fourteen days I’ve spend my time in one of the craziest cities on the planet. The city carries a huge enigma with the ability to inspire, delight, frustrate, disgust, thrill, amaze and confound – all at once. If you’re looking for a jovial and laid back holiday, Mumbai is not for you. But the city does great in bringing you world perspective. Travel here, and you will have your mind dazzled and your stomach stirred. Rich and poor coexist – as poor shelters are increasingly dwarfed by skyscrapers and grotesque shopping malls. It epitomises the city’s contrast, which is too noticeable to escape. With disbelief, guilt and discomfort, I walked the streets and ate at restaurants, overlooking beggars who are often just children with nothing but their clothes. The traffic is anarchy, as stray animals roam the streets and trains carry more passengers than they really should. Smog and noise drape the city, day and night, as those are just a few of Mumbai’s peculiarities. While Bombay was build on tradition, Mumbai is being built on a hyped-up frantic kind of energy. As a city, it’s a work in progress, although many  may want you to think otherwise. Over twenty million people live in the metropolis, as fortune-seekers all over India travel here. Delhi may be the official capital of the nation, Mumbai is without a doubt the epicentre of its economy. The recent surge has raised a new middleclass with money to spend, however – for now – that only applies to a happy few. There is only one bus for every 1,300 people; 17 public toilets for every million; and just one civic hospital catering to 7,2 million. Yet, somehow the city continues to sustain itself, perhaps because at heart, Mumbai is an ingenious place. mumbai4 While the city itself is one massive sight to smell, see and feel, the Banganga Tank and the Elephanta Caves offer historical spots to soothe the inner-archeologist, while one can literally be in touch with religious and sacred locations such as the Jain and Haji Ali Dargah temples. Since shoes are forbidden on these sights, one has to walk bare-feet on the cold marble, forcing a mythical contiguity to the sanctuaries that have stood there for ages.

So yet, after two weeks of being on high alert, showering with a bucket of cold water and nights of little sleep, I actually looked forward to go back to the comfort of home, although while writing this, I already thoroughly miss the madness of Mumbai.