December 3, 2015 – Welcome to Mumbai, India. Its population of 22 million people has more than doubled in the last two decades and the city ranks sixth on the list of the world’s most populated urban areas. A stunning contrast of rich and poor, of gilded colonial past and realities of modern infrastructure struggling to keep up, and of hectic frenzy and oases of quiet calm. Weather: 37C with high humidity.
Out and about on a city tour
Traffic is always chaotic – or at least it seems that way to those of us from the West. Our tour guide said today that there are traffic rules in India but you’re more likely to get in a traffic accident if you were to follow them than if you just ignore them and do your own thing. The little black cars with yellow roofs are taxis – they’re everywhere and seem to be among the most creative of the drivers I’ve seen here.
These are books in Mani Bhavan, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. It is a house where Gandhi stayed when he was in Mumbai and was the centre of much of his political activism in the 1920s and 1930s. The museum’s library houses about 50,000 books written by or about Gandhi.
At first glance this might look like a slum, but it’s not. Here is where you can get your clothes washed for 100 Rupees ($2) per bundle. Laundry from all over Mumbai is brought to this enormous open air laundry, called Dhobi Ghat, where they are washed in the cement troughs.
The exterior of the Gandhi museum.
In the midst of all the hectic frenzy are the Hanging Gardens, filled with plants, flowers and benches where people can come to relax.
The Hanging Gardens also offer amazing views of Mumbai’s beach area and water front.
The Gateway of India – Mumbai’s most famous monument was built to commemorate the visit of King George V. The last British ships to set sail for England after India’s independence in 1947 left from the Gateway.
Mumbai was hit by a wave of terrorist attacks in November 2008 similar to what Paris experienced a few weeks ago. The hotel where we stayed for this conference, the Trident, was hit by a bomb. This monument on the pool deck is in memory of the victims of that day.
And ever since them, security is tight. Everyone entering the hotel has to put their bags through security, go through a metal detector and undergo secondary screening, similar to what you’d experience at an airport.