Archive for 28/04/2009

Mumbai – next impressions

Posted in #worldview, Culture, Travel on 28/04/2009 by nicka77

Having had the chance today to travel beyond the tourist zones of Colaba & Fort to spend some time in the business district of Parel, I can see even more clearly the dichotomy of Mumbai.

Towering office blocks of chrome and glass encased in highly policed compounds house multi-million dollar business empires, while street traders and children haggle their wares in shacks of rotting wood and corrugated iron on the crumbling pavements outside.

There is still a surprising lack of any Western influence, and I am obviously a novelty to many of the people I pass as I walk around both inside and outside the gated business areas. And this just confirms my view that the entrepreneurial spirit and success of India is indeed wholly Indian born.










Although I am a strange figure to many of the people I pass on the street, and am acutely aware of dozens of pairs of eyes watching me intently everywhere I go, the people of Mumbai are incredibly friendly. People are constantly coming up to me to chat, or wave and say hello, or offer help and assistance if I look even remotely lost.













I’ve had many people coming up to me to ask me where I’m from, and on hearing London will talk animatedly about cricket, or that a friend of theirs is working in Europe, or that they are studying for an MBA and hope to one day work in London. I had one man run up to me, asking me questions about Aberdeen because he was going to work at a solicitors there.

The overwhelming sense of acceptance and friendship is not something I had expected, but that is almost certainly due to my own prejudices and stereotypes, and indeed due to coming from a city that is famously un-welcoming to strangers.










My cab drivers have all been incredibly interested to find out more about who I am, and always ask for my opinions on the elections, the IPL, the terrorist attacks, and indeed of Mumbai and India overall. They ask all these questions, watching me intently in the mirror, whilst driving through seemingly packed traffic at breakneck speeds, a hand constantly on the horn, barely missing cyclists, pedestrians, motorbikes and other taxis. It’s a miracle that I haven’t been involved in anything more serious than a couple of clipped cyclists.

I also love the fact that the Routemaster is very much alive and well in Mumbai. They are sorely missed in London, so it’s heartwarming that they play such an important role in transporting thousands of working men across this sprawling city every day.

The longer I’m in Mumbai, the more I grow to love the riot of colour, chaos and camaraderie that explodes from every street corner. This is a city that inspires and reinvigorates, overwhelming and energizing the senses everywhere you look.