A Travellerspoint blog

Hot, Hot, Hot = One and Done

Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India

View Around the World! - Part 2 on Where2FromHere's travel map.

Known as Bombay in colonial times, Mumbai today is India's most cosmopolitan city. It's a financial center as well as India's largest city with 22 million people living here. We were to spend two days in this Indian west coast city and had been forewarned that the temperature would be in the upper 90's with 90% humidity - in other words, excessive heat.


We were still recovering from our exhausting travels to the northern sector of India with very little opportunity to sleep, so we opted not to go on a tour the first day in Mumbai. This was a good decision for two reasons:

  • So, picture this: I'm all set to work on my blog post about the Taj Mahal, brimming with excitement, and then BAM! My laptop greets me with the infamous "black screen of doom" - totally frozen, not a pixel in sight! But wait, lucky me! I contacted Dell support. And guess what? More often than not, their support team is typically right here in India - HEY .. just like me! Within minutes they had me up and running again.
  • And it gets even better ... I spent the later half of the day as the pseudo RCCL in-house photographer. It was such a special occasion today because many of the hardworking crew members on board, who are from India, had their families visiting for family day. So when their families arrived in the Vortex lounge on the ship's top deck to take a look around, I asked if they'd like a family photo. They were all very appreciative. Can you imagine what it must be like for these dedicated individuals, being away from home for months on end, and finally getting the opportunity to show their family members where they work? It was an absolute joy to witness the thrill and excitement and be a part of their day together.

However, we had vowed to get off the ship in every port while on this journey so even though it was beastly hot, we left the ship early on the second day in this port. The immigration process was grueling - having to show our documentation on multiple occasions. I mentioned to Jeff - "you have to wonder why they're so worried about us slipping into their country permanently - what's two more when you have 1.4 billion to start with?" Even applying for the visit visa for India was horrendous. They even wanted to know our parents names, nationalities and religion on the form! All I can say is they're a lot more concerned about their border than we are about ours (but you've heard me harp on that too many times).


First stop on today's tour was the Gateway of India, an arch monument at Apollo Bunder on the Arabian Sea in Mumbai. It was built to commemorate the December 2, 1911, landing of King George V and Queen Mary. Opposite the arch was the statue of Shivaji Maharaj, a highly revered figure in Maharashtra and is considered a symbol of Maratha pride and valor. Of course, Jeff was happy to see the stone statue has Shivaji sitting on a horse in a conquering pose. Also, overlooking the Arabian Sea is the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel. The building features a striking blend of Islamic and Renaissance architectural styles, with its iconic red domes and grand facade.


On this Sunday in Mumbai, locals were engaged in sailing, cricket (although field hockey is more popular), and shopping. Cricket players rehydrate with sugarcane post-match, with canes piled high near the field. Traveling through a Muslim area, women wore traditional clothing despite the oppresive heat. [I thought our granddaughter Beka might enjoy seeing the man trying on shoes at a local shoe store pictured here]. And workers diligently complete projects, using bamboo as scaffolding, before their work halts due to the approaching monsoon season.


The buildings, once likely stunning in their prime, now stood in various states of deterioration. While some underwent much-needed renovations, others were not, thereby allowing their decay to advance unabated. The housing in the area was diverse, showcasing a wide array of architectural styles and sizes. Apparently, Sunday was laundry day, as evidenced by the ubiquitous sight of clothes hanging outside to dry, their presence a colorful and lively contrast to the weathered facades of the buildings.


The Lalbagh Spice market is a must visit when you are in Mumbai. What's unique about this market is people don't just come here to buy pre-packaged spices. They buy spices depending on their own recipe handed down from generation to generation. First they dry the ingredients in sacks or spread on cloth on the ground.


Each order (recipe) is in an container waiting for the next step.


Then they heat the special combination of ingredients to bring out the flavors.


Then it is pounded into a fine powder. This was previously done by hand but now by noisy machinery.


A multitude of smells fill the air as well as the sound of spices being cooked and pounded. Families visit the market to buy and prepare spices, sometimes to purchase as much to last up to 6 months, and each blend is unique for every family recipe.


Although it was a fascinating day in Mumbai, we didn't have observe two things I had hoped to see: the laundry service and food delivery. Mumbai, India, is known for both of these systems which are integral parts of the city's culture and daily life.

Laundry Service:
Mumbai's famous "dhobi ghats" are large open-air laundromats. The most well-known of these is the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat, which has been in operation for over 140 years. Here, washermen known as "dhobis" collect dirty laundry from households and businesses across the city, wash the clothes by hand in large concrete wash pens, and then dry them on long lines in the open air. The clothes are then pressed, folded, and delivered back to their owners. This traditional laundry service is an essential part of life in Mumbai, with thousands of people relying on the dhobi ghats for their laundry needs.

Food Delivery System:
Mumbai's unique food delivery system is known as the "dabbawalas" or "tiffin wallahs." This system involves a complex network of people who collect home-cooked meals in lunch boxes (called "dabbas" or "tiffins") from customers' homes and deliver them to offices and workplaces across the city. The dabbawalas, who are mostly illiterate, use a color-coded system to ensure that each lunch box reaches its intended recipient. After lunch, the empty boxes are collected and returned to the customers' homes. This system is incredibly efficient, with very few errors, and have been operating in Mumbai for over 130 years.


Both the dhobi ghats and the dabbawala system are examples of how Mumbai's residents have developed unique solutions to the challenges of daily life in a densely populated and fast-paced city. I'd like to say - maybe next time, but it's doubtful we'll return to India. It;s what Jeff calls "one and done." Just far to many people and way too hot for these Wyomingites.

Posted by Where2FromHere 02:24 Archived in India

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