Saturday, 7 July 2012

22 hours In Mumbai June 17th 2012

Leaving the airport..
Leaving the terminal building on what is surprisingly small road given the international status of this gateway to India and Mumbai. A building site surrounds us as construction on new airport infrastructure and facilities is evident, and well overdue I would say looking at all the tuk tuks and taxis lined up along local roads for what seems miles on end. On the way to downtown then, which can take anything upto 2 hours for what is a relatively short journey.
Mumbai, the subject of first year high school geography and now I am here seeing it for myself, albeit some several decades later. The most populous city in India with its social and economic system at breaking point. Some might say its already broken and beyond repair, and perhaps it is looking around here, buts its not for me to argue and cast opinion on the politics of another nation in this blog. Extreme poverty as the route south runs alongside shanty towns and slum dwellings that line both sides of the expressway. It's hard to see the extent from ground level, but coming in on the plane, the whole slum perspective can be gained - covering vast swathes of land, all the way to the coast. Males blatantly urinating against a wall, garbage everywhere, on every street piled up on every corner. It's dirty, it's grim, no question.

It's quite cool here, cloudy but at least it's stopped raining, for now anyway. Much was often made of the Bombay stench during school lessons but I haven't really noticed it as the taxi driver continues our journey to Colaba. Mumbai expressway traffic is similar to the British M25 experience - good for a few miles then queued at entry and exit junctions, and this is at 2 in the afternoon. Highrise  and tower blocks in the distance indicates we might be approaching the downtown area. No emotion from the driver whatsoever, no smile just silence and perhaps concentration - better not disturb him then. Snapping scenes from the open windows then without any commentary. Slum dwellings in between decaying concrete housing blocks. New buildings are springing up on the right towards the coast - tower blocks, highrise apartments for the emerging middle classes I would think.

It's slow going in the middle of downtown. Traffic is stop start, more stop than start! A limping old timer sidles up, mumbling something about 1 dollar whilst at the same time a kid skips in between the traffic. An immediate reaction is to lock all the doors. This looks like a typical distraction scam in that the old timer has us looking one way whilst the kid attempts to snatch a bag or  anything else he can see to make off with. Not this time, although I still keep one hand on my bags indicating to a  would be thief that today isn't going to be! I would think it might be a completely different story at night though!
Here we are in Colaba. I'm dropped off an area with a few guesthouses dotted around, I guess there will be more in backstreets. It's smarter here being the main tourist spot, although there is still evidence of decay and poverty, just not as prolific as an hour and a half ago. Just a few steps and soon in conversation with the locals, which in India leads to just one thing, and so I quickly move on. So, here I am, in a strange place with nowhere to stay yet and it's just started to rain again.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Paul,
    We enjoyed your report. Not good news about your arrival downtown with rain starting to fall and your search begins for a hotel.
    Michael and Virginia
    Penang, Malaysia