Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mumbai – at it’s best.

Mumbai was originally settled by people who believed in the God Mumba – hence the name  Mumbai - was located in a swampy archipelago of islands. The Portuguese came here in the 16th Century and seeing the beauty of the bay they called it the beautiful bay – hence Bombay – a name that stuck until Indian Independence when the old name was reassigned. Its pretty interesting that the Portuguese assigned Bombay to Britain as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II. Today Mumbai is a city of 18 million and growing. It is on one hand incredibly wealthy and a center of business, finance and industry and on the other hand unbelievable poverty.

Today we went on a 6 hour tour of Mumbai with an itinerary that included a drive through areas of the city and visits to the Gateway to India, the Gandhi museum, the Prince of Wales Museum and then a few hours on our own. This was a very different view of the city than I had when I was here with Pfizer a few years ago. Last time I was driven to all my meetings through some of the poorest areas I have ever seen; this time the drive through was limited to a more cosmetically sound route. Even so there is much that is depressing to Western eyes.

The Gateway of India is an archway on the Bay of Bengal that was built in 1904 to welcome King George V and Queen Mary on their state visit to India. It is also the gate through which British troops marched when they departed India with Independence in 1948. 

The open area around the arch was filled with tourists – Indian and foreign and plagued by beggars of all ages and sizes – presenting a most sad and uncomfortable sight. They follow you around every step if they think you will give alms; they touch you and tug at you. Its all very uncomfortable. Maddie, this little girl – so pretty – is such a beggar. You have to say, there but for the grace of God goes I don’t you?

Was struck by this picture – the sublime and the ridiculous?

The Taj Mahal Hotel is close at hand – a beautiful location. 

The hotel consists of two parts – an older building that I stayed in when I was here last – and the newer wing. The hotel was built by the extremely wealthy Tata family when, according to the story, one of them was excluded from the British Hotel next door. It was built to be far more luxurious and desirable than any of the hotels that were excluded to Indians and become THE hotel in Mumbai. It was the target of a terrorist attack 3 years ago in which many were killed, and was terribly damaged. It has now been restored and we went there for lunch – the most expensive steak sandwich we have had!!

The Gandhi museum is in a part of Mumbai not far from the beautiful Marine Drive  - called the Queens Necklace because of the lights and how they form a curve along the Bay of Bengal.
Gandhi resonates with me for a number of reasons – the one is obviously his belief in non-violent revolution but the other is in the fact that this philosophy originated out of his experiences in South Africa where he went for his first Job after graduating as a lawyer. He was then a man who believed in the British and was shocked by racial discrimination in South Africa – particularly brought home when he was thrown off a train because he was in a First Class compartment when Indians ought to be traveling in Third Class by rule.

He actually demonstrated his British loyalty by serving in the Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War and the Zulu Uprising of the early 1900s and the violence and brutality steeled him to non-violence and a life of protest. 

He was remarkable for his simplicity – this was his room as it was. And he utilized symbolism that the masses related to incredibly effectively – such as his belief in the value of spinning.

The Prince of Wales Museum was notable for two exhibits to me – the first was an exhibit of Hindu and Muslim miniature paintings – originally created to be part of religious works. These were beautiful pieces of art in a very different way than I am used to. The other exhibit was the European painting collection of the Tata family which was really quite pedestrian and uninteresting but must have set them back plenty! Photos were only allowed if you paid $7 for still photography and more for video – you got a voucher. Everyone on the tour including ourselves refused. Weird.

Thought I would show some of the sights in Mumbai from the bus and from our tour. No commentary can really do it justice.

 How about a bit of a contrast? World Cup Cricket in Mumbai

And therin hangs a tale!! – next stop Muscat


  1. I was hoping to see a little sidewalk stand set up by Merle selling her wares!!!

    Will you be bring ing home a cow?

  2. Ghandi museum looks fascinating