Home > travel > Bombay Diaries – 28 Sep

Bombay Diaries – 28 Sep

It is only a small thing but it highlights the differences between home (the UK), and India. I found the Indian times hooked to the outside of my door this morning and I took it down to breakfast to read. Vishnu and Steve

There had been a bomb attack in New Delhi and a small boy had been killed when he picked up the bomb which had been dropped by the pillion passenger on the attackers’ motorbike. Dreadful.

The first difference I noticed was how much more graphic the description of the bombing was than in Britain. The article literally described how the boy’s head had been blown off summed it up for me.

Furthermore, the language used by the journalist was just slightly different to British English. He used the word "normalcy" to describe that the scene of the bomb attack had returned to its regular beat. I don’t think I have ever used that word before. This morning’s papers described that police investigating the attack as "sleuths" which was particularly intriguing. This sounds so much better than ‘investigators’ and I understand that "sleuths" is probably more appropriate for the circumstances.

The reason for this is that here in Mumbai, for example, there is a population of about 16 million people. But there are only about 40,000 police officers. They have to rely on a network of paid informers to find out anything about what is going on and the word ‘sleuth’ is fitting.

Mumbai 015 Three of us (Liam, Steve, WH) hired one of the hotel’s cars with a driver, Vishnu, to take us around the city sites. After a stop in the Bandara district of the city, which is where many of the Bollywood stars live, so Liam could buy a camera, we set off.

The traffic here is chaotic but it works, somehow. Tuk-tuk’s cutting up cars, cars cutting up buses, and pedestrians mingling amongst speeding traffic, beggars at the traffic lights. An old beggar

Vishnu informed us that if he were to hit anyone and kill them on the road, he could be in and out of the police station within an hour and only 950 rupees lighter which is about £11.

As it turned out, the highlight of the day was not what I thought it would be. The Gateway to India is a major attraction, but that turned out to be an anti-climax.

The highlight of the day was the public laundry. Vishnu dropped us off on a bridge overlooking it which turned out to be a tourist viewing point with the incumbent beggars.

The public laundry is a large area of small businesses washing people’s clothes for The Public Laundryabout 35p an item. There were young men in large tubs scrubbing and cleaning with waves of clothes drying in the sunshine.

Nearby is a rail station where numerous trains, even for a Sunday, scooted through with open doors and  passengers peering out.

Everyone says the smells in India are memorable. I mentioned the smell to Liam and Steve, who said I should wait until tomorrow when we went through a large slum area on the way to the ‘Three Mobile’ offices where we are working.

We passed some of the ‘houses’ that many people live in. They are tiny. The roadside slumsinhabitants leave their mornings to pick up water each day at 5-30am to take back to their homes. Their were many children at the traffic lights begging who, apparently, have to pay the local mafia 10% to 20% of their takings. Even the beggars have contracts with the mafia to be able to have a spot from which to beg.

I admit my ignorance here. I had no idea that Gandhi lived in Bombay for some years. His house is a museum. He started several famous campaigns here. His house was packed with books, pictures and displays. But the most fascinating was his room. It was simple and modest, in such contrast to the admiration which he gained for his powerful and positive effects upon India and the world. Gandhi's house

Outside, I was accosted by two female hawkers who were very amusing. I bought some of their bags for Emily and I am sure I paid too much for them. It was at least £2.30.

Vishnu then took us through the ‘city’ area of Mumbai (I still say Bombay) stopping at the ‘VT’ or Victoria Terminus rail station. It is VT rail station Mumbaicalled something else now but everyone still calls it ‘VT’. Vishnu complained that the current government was not spending enough on the upkeep of such lovely buildings.

On the way to the Women traders ouside Gandhi's houseGateway of India, I was struck by the people and families bustling through the streets barefoot. There was a noticeable increase in the number of European faces as we neared the Gateway.

Gateway to IndiaThe Gateway of India was half covered in scaffolding and it was a bit disappointing as a result.


Vishnu then took us past some very good shops with some lovely items. But the sales pressure failed and we asked to be driven back!

The Indian forms of transport are a source of fascination. The motorbike or scooter is the best one.  The family was one of many we saw making best use of two wheels and a motor.

Indian FamilyLater, as we neared our hotel, Vishnu pointed out the groups of people lined up beside the road in front of what looked like kitchens. These were people waiting for someone to pay 200 rupees (£2.30) to the owner so he could feed the beggars waiting for food. There were about 20 beggars at each kitchen.

We returned to the Hyatt for a pizza and a beer. My pizza was 410 rupees.

Indian transportTomorrow, I start work.

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