Mommy, it’s an invasion! And we’re part of it! That’s Claire’s description of traffic in Mumbai…

We’ve come a long way since we thought Chinese traffic was crazy. We also thought Hanoi and Saigon were nuts because of the scooters. But nothing competes with Mumbai!

Setting out in a tuk tuk is truly an experience. Your driver will squeeze his vehicle between large buses on the left and delivery vans on the right, while dodging other tuk tuks, cars, cows (well any animal, really), people moving carts filled with vegetables, and others selling table cloths car to car. Apparently choosing a table cloth in mid-traffic leads to better matching decor.

There are many near collisions, and you find yourself holding your breath most of the time (because you don’t want to suck in too much exhaust). The people living under overpasses and on the medians have a clear look of the stunned look on your face.

Tuk tuks are all painted the same black and yellow. Claire saw them as little hornets, which is rather apt, as hundreds of them buzz in and around traffic. We did truly feel like marauding invaders!

Mumbai is such a dichotomy. There are places down by the ocean that are so beautiful it’s hard to imagine the chaos just a kilometre away. As the heart of India’s financial sector, there is much wealth, and our apartment was located in an area full of middle class families. Once inside the gates life almost seems serene.

But at the same time, there is extreme poverty. One of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi, houses upwards of 800,000 people in the city’s centre. Indoor plumbing does not exist and water comes from standpipes stationed throughout the slum.  The only toilets are public, and many people wash their clothes in the river.

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

We took a tour through the city and saw some of its famous sites, including the Victoria Terminus (train station), the Gateway of India (large basalt arch constructed by the British to herald ships entering the port), the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (reminiscent of CPR hotels), and the Haji Ali Mosque built in the 14th century. We also saw the Hanging Gardens, which gave us a beautiful view of Mumbai’s beaches (yes, some people actually swim there).

Since it was Christmas, Santa Claus brought the girls chocolates tucked in Dad’s socks. We found turkey dinner at TGI Fridays, of all places. And then we watched Star Wars, paying $18 for the four of us to see it in 3D.

And just to add to the traffic chaos, Santa chose to drive a horse-drawn cart through the streets. Not that horses on Indian streets are uncommon, of course!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

4 Comments on “Mumbai

  1. I also shouldn’t be too judgemental as I am looking at their situation through my First World, Western lens.

  2. Seems that both countries have some work to do when it comes to basic human rights. Thanks for the education.

    Maggie

  3. Between the crowds (I don’t like crowds) and the lack of rights for women, I think I will have to take a pass on India. I find it interesting how many people point to China for their record on human rights and polution…do we do this because of their politics? From your experiences Heather, India sounds far worse than China. But we don’t hear the same rhetoric from the media or our politicians. Would this be because India is considered an western ally?

    • You are talking about two different kinds of freedoms when you compare the two countries. Chinese citizens don’t have political freedom because they are in peril if they criticize leaders or government policy, and they don’t have a democratic system. However, women have less restrictions in terms of who they marry, getting an education, finding work. India is a democracy, but there are real cultural restraints placed on women. Women can express what they want in India and not have to fear being thrown in jail, but it is very difficult for them to resist restrictions inherent to their culture. Of course that’s my foreigner’s simplified view of the situation.

      – Heather

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