Mumbai – My First Taste of India
Mumbai: first view of the city
Mumbai definitely knows how to make a first impression.
I remember getting into our cab around 1:00 a.m. in the morning to head to our hotel. One of the first things that struck me as we began heading to the hotel was just the sheer number of people everywhere. Even at 1:00 in the morning the city was alive. It is a city that never sleeps.
In the morning I got my first glimpse of what I would later come to understand as the what is one of India’s main features: paradox. On the one hand, there were high-tech amazing skyscrapers and right next to those buildings you would have slums. Mumbai is the home to Bollywood and the financial hub of the country. It also houses one of the world’s largest slums. Paradox.
Our time in Mumbai provided one of the lowest lows of the trip as well as one of the brightest glimmers of hope. On our excursion to the Gateway of India we had to step over a mother, who most likely was passed out because of drugs. Sleeping right next to her was (I am assuming) her daughter whose shirt did not fit and who was not wearing any underwear or pants. The little child was asleep and totally exposed to the world. As a father with a daughter, my heart broke. It is a memory that is burned into my mind.
Lijjat: Women Power!
The bright glimmer of hope came on two different visits: one to Lijjat; the other to the slum, Dharavi. Lijjat was an amazing women’s cooperative where the women “own” the company and are creating a way for women to help each other lift themselves higher up the economic ladder. It is amazing what the do with so few “technology” benefits. It was an inspiring visit. I even tried my hand making one of the papads. I wasn’t very good.
The visit to the slums was also a visit of hope. Are there issues? No, doubt. But there was also a tremendous energy of enterprise and work in the slums. It gave me hope that the Indian people are going to figure it out. It will take some time, but the spirit of entrepreneurship will pave the way for the kind of progress that will help those people lift themselves out of the slums.
The India Paradox: Wealth & Slums Side-by-Side
A few final impressions of India were cemented in Mumbai. First, driving in Mumbai is NUTS. From one cab driver we learned that to be a “successful” driver in India you need three things:
- Good brakes
- Good horn
- Good luck
Mumbai was also my first exposure to the India Market. I was already somewhat familiar with the market style because of my time in Russia and Russian artist markets and “rehnok.” But the Indians take it to a whole new level. I actually kind of like that way of shopping. Even the “fixed” price stores make deals and I enjoyed the back and forth.
In general, Mumbai was just a full on constant assault of the senses: noises, sights, sounds, and people. It was an amazing way to start our trip.
Next Post: The Ethics of Population Control
P.S. Here’s a few video links from Mumbai.