Mumbai is the new face of India. It’s a cosmopolitan city in which 55% of the population live in slums. Contrast survives side by side with the most expensive properties in the world next door to aluminum boarded shacks. It’s crowded, multi-ethnic, humid and crazy!
I stayed with a friend here who has been living here for a few years, in a suburb of Mumbai. As with all big cities Mumbai is also made up of several areas which make up the city, but the real Mumbai is really only the Colaba area which is the southern tip of the peninsula.
People from all over India come to Mumbai in search of the Indian dream; to have a job and make some money to support their family, most of whom are from smaller villages. Hindi, Marathi and English are widely spoken along with pockets of many other Indian languages. Mosques, churches and temples fill the city along with trains. The metro is the lifeline of this busy city.
I only had 2 days to explore so I spent my first day in Colaba by the sea where all the main touristic sites are such as the Gateway to India, Chowpatty Beach and the Taj hotel. Mumbai also has a surprisingly good collection of art galleries. I checked out 2 galleries with an impressive collection of Indian art.
Colaba has a historic feel with the British architecture and English names of the streets. It’s where Mumbai hangs out along with the tourists, and is the hub for backpackers. Most of what I know about this area actually comes from reading the novel ‘Shantaram‘ (an excellent look into Mumbai life from an outside perspective).
My second day was spent in more of local area. We took a ferry across a creek to Manori beach. It has small resorts more for local tourists and is a pretty dirty beach filled with abandoned sandals. The heat is immense right now so we hit this place early in the morning but it still got hot by 10am. This area is filled with fisherman and we stumbled across the local town which had colorful houses and little temple, North Indian style. Walking through this area was very rewarding, reminding me of Virdhunagar because the people had a very basic lifestyle.
Mumbai seems like a new world altogether. It’s the NYC of India where the elite live by the southern coast and the middle working class reside in the suburbs. Yet the Indian culture is still thriving through the various ethnic communities that have brought a lot of character to the city.