Saturday, 21 January 2012


Mum and kids
photo © Andreas Grosse-Halbuer

We started our three-week visit to India in Mumbai, flying there from Reunion via Mauritius

Although we'd lived for 3 years in Asia, this was our first trip to India. As we were going to be there for New Year's Eve we chose a nice hotel :-).

Mumbai taxi

Mumbai has a population of 16 million and was known as Bombay until 1995; Mumbai derives from the name of the goddess Mumbadevi.

typical Indian lorry

On our first day we chose to look around South Mumbai, which covers the area where most of the tourist sights are to be found, and our first stop was at Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat. A dhobi ghat is a place where clothes are washed, and this particular one is 140 years old. 1026 open air troughs are used to beat the dirt out of soiled laundry.

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat

Next stop was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, also known as Victoria Terminus which is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed railway station built 1878-1888. It was given the name Victoria Terminus as 1887 was Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. It was renamed in 1996 in memory of a Maratha warrior king (this name has also been given to Mumbai's international airport).

part of Victoria Terminus

building near Victoria Terminus

From here we walked to Horniman Circle which is an arcaded ring of buildings built in the 1860s, and which wouldn't look out of place in some British cities.

Horniman Circle

Not far away is Mumbai University which has a well-known clock tower over 80 metres high.

Rajabai Clock Tower

It stands next to the Oval Maidan where we saw many games of cricket in progress. A maidan is an open grassy area.

amateur cricket game

We saw these fruit on trees at the Maidan (and elsewhere) but never managed to find out their English name.

unknown tree

As it was after 5pm we were too late to visit the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum*, Mumbai's biggest.

*also known as the Prince of Wales Museum

As New Year's Eve evening was fast approaching the Gateway of India was very busy, as it's one of the places in Mumbai where crowds bring in the New Year.

Gateway of India

inscription on Gateway of India

Next to the Gateway of India is one of Mumbai's best known hotels,  the Taj Mahal Palace. It was one of two hotels targeted during the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Taj Mahal Palace hotel

The Gateway of India is also the place where launches leave for Elephanta Island and Mandwa.

The next day we visited Banganga Tank which is a pool of holy water surrounded by some temples and pilgrim's houses.

street near the tank 

Afterwards we went to Mani Bhavan which is a house where Gandhi stayed when he visited Mumbai between 1917-1934, and which has now been turned into a thought-provoking museum.

the room where Gandhi lived and worked

one of 28 tableaux presenting Gandhi's life in mini-figures

Our last stop of the day was to Marine Drive and Girguam Chowpatty (chowpatty means beach).

on Marine Drive

the beach 

sunset from the beach

Haji Ali Mosque, accessed by a causeway

On our final day we started with a tour of Dharavi slum. About 55% of Mumbaikers live in shanty towns and slums, and Dharavi is Asia's largest.

recycling with city in background
photo © Andreas Grosse-Halbuer

 Covering only 1.75km2, it is home to more than 1 million people.

plastic recycling
photo © Cory Goldberg

We visited it with an organisation called Reality Tours and Travel, established in 2006.

plastic recycling
photo © Cory Goldberg

As photography is strictly forbidden on the tours, these photos come from the website.

photo © Cory Goldberg

As you can see from the photos a lot of small-scale industry goes on.

cardboard recycling
photo © Tom Parker

goat with admirers
photo © Tom Parker

About 80% of profits go back into the Dharavi area through their sister NGO's community centre and kindergarten.

photo © Tom Parker

photo © Tom Parker

Many of the deaths in the slum are from preventable or treatable diseases such as diarrhoea or malaria.

Factory Man
photo © Tom Parker

recycling oil cans
photo © Andreas Grosse-Halbuer

It is estimated that Dharavi's industries have an annual turnover of approximately US$ 665 million.

narrow street
photo © Andreas Grosse-Halbuer

photo © Andreas Grosse-Halbuer

Afterwards we made a stop at Crawford Market, where there are bas-reliefs by Rudyard Kipling's father on the exterior.

Crawford Market
All too soon it was time for us to head to Rajasthan for the next leg of our trip.

Suggested reading:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. "The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future".

Midnight's Children: A Novel by Salman Rushie. "A 1981 book that deals with India's transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of India. It is considered an example of postcolonial literature and magical realism. The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, and is set in the context of actual historical events as with historical fiction. Midnight's Children won the Booker Prize in 1981". Partly set in Bombay.

If you read French you might be interested in Les corbeaux d'Alene by Erik Emptaz, which takes place mostly in Gujarat, but finishes in Mumbai during the 2008 bomb attacks. 

You might also be interested by my article about voluntourism.

1 comment:

  1. Superb images.

    You have captured a true slice of life in Mumbai. The Dharavi pictures are truly impressive.