Colonial and modern

The above picture was taken in the car coming into the city from the airport. It shows what one first experiences as Mumbai, a mixture of 21st-century skyscrapers and 19th-century, ah, "low-cost housing".

We decided to spend three days in Mumbai because (a) we had never been there and it is after all one of India's major cities; (b) we wanted to see some of what Salman Rushdie talks about in his books; and (c) it sounded interesting and was a natural stop-off on the way from Varanasi to Karnataka -- well, sort of. The most remarkable things we saw were all the buildings left over from the Raj, the British rule over India. But there is also a relative backwater, a little piece of village life left at the foot of Malabar Hill, with luxurious apartment buildings in plain site. Our last day, we took a boat out to Elephanta Island to admire the cave temple and sculptures from hundreds of years ago -- a foretaste of what we would see in the south in Badami (Karnataka).

Dhunraj Mahal, an art-deco building
Taj Palace Hotel
Dhunraj Mahal, an art-deco building

David Sassoon Library
This building once knew better days as an elegant hotel
Hotel Majestic behind Regal Circle
Elphinstone College

Cricket on the Oval Maidan (which is rectangular)
Sport for smaller children

Fresh fruit for sale -- looks delicious
Art Deco building in the Colaba area of Mumbai

The above pictures were taken during a long walk John made the first day, starting from our hotel in the district known as Colaba and going up to the Oval Maidan, a rectangular playing field. That evening, we took a car up to the top of Malabar Hill, to look at the Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park. The next day, we had a guided tour by car of more widespread sites.

Kamala Nehru Park on Malabar Hill
Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach
Crawford Market
Crawford Market
Crawford Market Fruit vendors inside Crawford Market

Close-up of a fruit vendor
Another view of the enormous Crawford Market

'Bouquinistes' close to the Crawford Market, which
 may be the world's largest outdoor book market
Mumbai Police Headquarters across from
Crawford Market

We visited the Crawford Market, the exterior friezes of which were designed by the father of Rudyard Kipling. It is quite large and very lively and colorful. After that, we drove up Malabar Hill and then to the area of the Banganga Tank, at its foot. This area is amazing, almost like a small village in the heart of the city.  We saw what one might call low-rent housing there too, But John went into that area for a look and it was relatively clean. Please understand, we are not making a case here for slums.

Banganga Tank
Flamboyant Indians kids in the tank shallows

Apartment building
Luxury high-rises just north of the tank
Apartment building on the way back from Malabar Hill

The slums where the dhobis (laundrymen)
used to live - picture taken from Malabar Hill
Small square in the people's quarter just off
Malabar Hill, next to Banganga Tank

We then visited the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, this some-136-year-old dhobi ghat which is Mumbai´s oldest and biggest human powered washing machine. Here thousands of kilos of dirty clothes are washed every day by thousands of men. As we have often noticed, in India, manual labor is still cheaper than machines.

After that, we dropped by the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (which the English called Victoria Terminus), Mumbai's main train station. It is considered the most impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture in all of India - designed in 1887 -1888. On 2 July 2004, the station was nominated as a World Heritage Site by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO.

Mahalaxmi dhobi ghat

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus - Victoria Terminus, popularly known by its acronym VT

Street workers
Inside Victoria Terminus, "a brilliant specimen of
the Victorian Gothic style of architecture"
Indian street workers in front of our hotel,
in the Colaba district of Mumbai

And India still does not know (or care?) about worker's rights or protection. Men were working in a hole in the street in front of our hotel, pulling around heavy chunks of concrete. Did they have steel-toed shoes? Nope, sandals.

Next: A day at Elephanta Island, an impressive cave-temple with gorgeous sculptures.

Back to India 2009.