Magic Mumbai

April 22, 2015

PS

We were really sad to leave Mumbai after a really incredible week there.

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Sitting on the wave breakers on marine drive, overlooking the semi circular bay to the north, the whole city bathed in golden evening sunlight, the waves regularly crashing against the concrete slabs. Even from this position there’s a tinge of ugliness amongst the beauty. Mumbai is a juxtaposition that you can’t escape, the skyscrapers are concrete eyesores on the horizon, the beggars frequently harass you with guilt, and the ocean almost always smells like the filth that they pump directly into it from Chowpatty beach.

In this way though you get to see the world through realities, the hardships of the city are easily accessible, there’s even a tour company to take you around the biggest slum in Asia. In being aware of these hardships it makes you more grateful for the good moments; the moments of serene, interest, culture, religious sites, dinners, excitement.

I’ve actually never enjoyed a Starbucks coffee so much, although I wonder if they pay their tax in India. Mumbai reminded us of the life that we knew in London, Pete got to talk to some noise boys (sound engineers) working at a mini festival, Soph talked to loads of the cities’ designers. She was especially successful in meeting four companies working on different scales in the industry and we both really enjoyed looking through their work.

Mumbai is what you make it, and we were so satisfied to make it a creative design based journey. There was a fantastic photography exhibition in the National Gallery for Modern Art. It had four sections under social identity headings in which photographers explored the themes.

We decided to do more things that we might have done in London, go for Sunday breakfast in cafes, have an evening drink before dinner, take a walk through the local city architecture. The airbnb that we stayed in was the perfect relaxing base that we wanted with a great view over the local fishing village!

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We visited Banganga Tank on the south west side of the city, it’s a traditional temple water bath which is about 100m by 50m. There are 12 temples surrounding it. This is a good example how the old traditions are found in Mumbai, it was an incredibly serene place, a desirable place to live and you’d never know it was there. The taxi can only drop you off two roads away and point you down an ally. The ally opens up into the big tank with steps all around it, families laughing and chatting, kids splashing around and diving into the water.

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Notice the safety first life jacket there.

We both loved the stone carvings of deities, which are obviously very popular and as a result are hardly there anymore!

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Haji Ali mosque is a crazy addition to the ocean. Beggars and merchants line the causeway to it and we were the only tourists that we saw there.

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The story goes that a saint of Islam, Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, was on the way to visit Mecca when he died. His casket is said to have floated back to the spot where they built the original structure in the 15th century. The causeway to the mosque stretches out into the Arabian Sea and is completely covered during high tides, making the Durgah – the concrete slab with the mosque on, an island.

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Crawford market was another crazy experience of small stalls selling mostly the same things in an old decrepit building which had obviously not been looked after since it was built in the 19th century. Still, it’s one of 3 of the biggest bazaars in the city, we picked up some really nice oranges for the long train ride to come and generally sauntered through the crowds saying: “no thank you” to every stall owner.

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During one of our walks through

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we noticed an amazing old, sky blue building. When we came to find the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the guide book, we realised it was the same thing! We noticed a continuing theme that all the religious structures in Mumbai are heavily guarded by armed police. The inside was absolutely beautiful, we had to give a 100 Rs donation to take photos. It was well worth it.

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