Being a extreme city, streets in Mumbai are either huge avenues with colosal colonial administrative buildings, or narrow alleys, sometimes unpaved with simple houses.
And getting to know Mumbai is getting to know both extremes. Dare to get lost in the labyrinths of narrow alleys where most of the daily life takes place, look up and gaze at the windows, into the gates... explore!
One of the main sensations that lasted in me after visiting Mumbai was the humidity you could feel everywhere.
Maybe it was due to Monsoon Season, but everything was tropical and humid. You could feel it in the air and see it in the buildings, most of which had those dark spots on the white facades.
-Mumbai singlehandedly handles about 25% of the domestic and 38% of the international air passenger traffic in the country.
-Mumbai's suburban rail systems carry a total of 2.2 billion passengers every year. Incidentally, the world's population is 6 billion.
-Mumbai's literacy rate is 85.6% (female: 82.7%, male: 90%) compared with India's overall literacy of 65.4%.
-Mumbai's per capita income is Rs 48,954. This is almost three times the national average!
-At the end of financial year 2002-03, Mumbai paid Rs 28,000 crore in taxes, 35% of India's collection of Rs 82,000 crore!
I'd be lying if I said that I had not found Mumbai overwhelming upon arrival. The drastic change in climate (coming from a cold Toronto winter), the jet lag, the pollution, the crowds. . .on my first full day in the city, very little made sense. . .and very little seemed to go the way I wanted it to.
Fondest memory: But, rest can be a beautiful thing. . .and after a good night's sleep, the city seemed a little less daunting. The craziness of New Year's festivities were behind us. . .and I was able to find renewed excitement about the adventures ahead.
After two weeks travelling in Gujarat, returning to Mumbai felt like a homecoming. . .suddenly, the streets and city felt manageable. The urban pace and cosmopolitan facade were appealing to me (I am, admittedly, a city person at heart). . .the city encompasses all the contrasts and contradictions that continue to fascinate me today.
The Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) has a telephone network with around 2 million lines installed all over the city. MTNL now has a competitor in Hughes Telecom, another telephone service provider. There are several public phone booths with local, national (STD) and international (ISD) facilities. Most local phones are coin operated. MTNL also offers prepaid cards. The city is now also dotted with Internet parlours, making communication easier.
The city has a GSM based mobile phone network, covering the suburban area. There are two major brands i.e., Orange and BPL Mobile. Mobile phones are also available for hire, with prepaid SiM Cards.
Call Orange on 432 1111 and BPL Mobile on 497 1800
Favorite thing: The Rajabai Tower is a gothic clock tower on the Bombay University campus which was built by Premchand Roychand who was a philanthropic stock broker of the 19th century, for Rs.2,00,000 in memory of his mother Rajabai who could not read the time because of her failing eyesight and thus depended on the clock chimes to tell the time. The 79-meter high clock tower commands a fine view of the city but was closed to the public soon after someone committed suicide by jumping down from the top of the tower about twenty years ago!!! The tower also houses the university library. The clock was recently restored to it's former glory and it now keeps accurate time and chimes as well throughout the day!!! The stained glass windows of the tower building were also recently restored by modern techniques.
The Jijamata Udyan or the erstwhile Victoria Gardens or Rani Baug as it was called is situated in the south of Mumbai in Byculla. The gardens and zoo were laid out in 1861 and are spread out over 48 acres housing some of the oldest trees in Mumbai. The zoo is not really well kept and the animals are not looked after well.
Also on the same premises is the Bhau Daji Lad Museum which has in it's collection one of the stone elephants from the Elephanta Island near Mumbai along with a lot of the old British statues which were removed from public display around the city and brought here after independence from the British Raj!!
Carpet bargaining. Even if you don't want a carpet, you might leave with one anyway, otherwise the salesman might cry. Take your time even if you see less things.
Little plug for Jamal Carpet (suggested by my driver, he assured me they were not related ;-) )
Linden House, behind the Taj
Apollo Bunder, Bombay - 400 001
tel: 22-2020399, 22-2844216
I manage not to buy a carpet, but left with Pracmina scarves and cachemire sweater.
Fondest memory: The food... it was great and varied. Do watch for what you eat, but you are often better off with indian food than occidental food cooked by an indian cook.
I have never seen anything like the Dhobi Ghat anywhere else, and best of all it is free. Any hotel driver will know where it is. You can hop out of your car and see the 5000 some people who do laundry for Mumbai.
Fondest memory: My fondest memory is of the Indian people that I met and got to know in Mumbai, from office associates to the staff at the Marriott Executive apartments. People are genuinely friendly and helpful - at least when they aren't driving.
Must must experience the monsoons, because here the idiom really vindicates itself, 'when it rains, it pours'. My fondest memory of Bombay as I still call it instead of the politically correct usage of Mumbai is Bombay itself. Everything about Bombays, its teeming millions, its putrid waste, the stench, the sea of humanity relieving itself out of crowded trains at Churchgate of VT, the absolutely mouth-watering food at Bade Miya, friends, growing up, well, really, it's so difficult to pinpoint any one thing abut Bombay especially when you've grown up there and love it for what it is -- a throbbing tornado of energy, waiting to burst at its seams, but still seamlessly carrying on with an energy and a joie de vivre which is difficult to replicate or imagine. You've got be here. So where would I take someone in Bombay? The pubs, restaurants, bowling alleys, Gateway of India, Marine Drive, Fashion Street, Bandra Elco Arcade, Linking Road, Nariman Point, Churchgate book vendors and oh lots more....
Fondest memory: Its pace, its professionalism, its no-nonsense attitude to getting things done, its smoothness of functioning despite odds, its 'I don't believe in snobbery' attitude, its sheer energy and home.
Favorite thing: Mumbai is the BIG APPLE of India and like it's US counterpart NYC Mumbai has its fair share of street urchins, pan handlers, squatter settlements, traffic jams and crowded streets.
Favorite thing: Adjoining pic: Haji Ali (A mosque located in central Bombay on a strip of land surrounded by water during monsoon)