Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bollywood Days

Please note Blogger garbles text after crossing so many borders. I'm sorry but to continually correct the errors becomes too big a job after a while.

Welcome to readers from Jamaica

Mumbai! Mumbai!

This entry on GuerillaZ is taken from from two trips to Mumbai with some months in between. I don't think I could have smoothly negotiated the city so easily in one trip.

,         Watch the Cricket in the Maidan Park Whilst Drinking Lime Soda
,         Visit the Dhobi Ghats and the Ghetto Side to India for Another
,         Watch a Movie and Stroll Along Marine Drive
,         Visit the Jain Temple and the Lotus Tank Hill on Bollywood.
,         Take a Boat trip to Elephanta Island

After months in the cold, damp streets of London, the pleasant heat of Maharasta state was very welcome. That the cows occasionally conduct the traffic says everything about Mumbai the megacity. 

The smells here; jasmine, cow dung, camphor, incense, sweat blast the senses.

The Maidan in central Mumbai
Teenagers play cricket on this thirsty patch of green in the centre of downtown Mumbai. The intensity around a cricket game is palpable here. 

Cricket is one way to become the next Sachin Tendulkar and get out of the poverty endemic to India.

If you like tea with your travel visit GuerillaZ's sister site Singing Bird Tea at:

A Tropical version of London.
Bombay is disconcerting because it looks and feels like London just with heat, dust and palm trees. Multi-coloured double-decker buses in turquoise, tangerine and emerald trundle around the streets in the heat. Much of the architecture in the centre of town was designed and built by the British and is in fact more opulent than designs found in London.

Everyone in India seems to want to be here and it is quite an overwhelming location. I have spent over a month here in the last few years and the resources of human ingenuity are breath-taking (and too long to detail here). Come and see.

THESE Buildings, all in British Design and build, Lend a Victorian Grandiosity to the place, if only it Could Lend a little more to Calcutta. The Creakings the City of Bombay Thrust into the memory Files 'Dickensian with Heatwave'.  This IS Section Only maybe a Square Mile, with the rest of the Megalopolis is rundown to Shanty Town Occasional swollen Pockets of affluence.

Mumbai Strikes you with the little Things. Rolling Men Coriander Tumbleweeds to Market. Stall Holders doing Yoga at 6 am. Cows Strolling Along the Centre of main Roads. Affluent The Rolling into the MALLS to Watch Ralph Fiennes in the film Coriolanus. 

The Dhobi Ghats (a setting in the film Slumdog Millionnaire )

This municipal laundry is something to behold. Many Mumbalites bring their dirty clothes here for them to be washed by hand, washed, beaten, slapped and rinsed. Places like this were settings for the Slumdog film. Thinking about that film brings up the ghetto area .
The ghetto area (5 miles north of centre) is something else again. I had a tour around the place. It is easy to find the slum. Your nose literally guides you there. When you stop by it in a taxi it is easy to become afraid because it is so poor the perceived threat to wellbeing pushes on the outside of the taxicab like a forcefield.

Five thousand families use one public lavatory. Its economy however is worth $ 1 million a year and the government aren't keen to break up the settlement. I didn't visit Manchester in 1847 but the conditions here can't be dissimilar. I think I'll leave it there.

If you like tea with your travel visit GuerillaZ's sister site Singing Bird Tea at:

At the other end of the social spectrum Bollywood attracts Indians from all over India. As a consequence of this and other commercial factors Mumbai is far more expensive than anywhere else in India including Delhi. A taxi from the airport, a massive 35 km, is 1000 rupees. The return journey less at 700-800. Almost the same as the train fare to Delhi (700km).

When I spoke to a couple of people in the city, a computer engineer and a lawyer, both wouldn't be anywhere else. The railway engineer I met the next day wasn't so complimentary about the great swoon of a city with its astonishing ghetto, frightening at night, with its endless horizons. Seventeen million people are packed in here. Marine Drive below is a pretty nice place though and is on a massive scale, like most things here.

Marine Drive at night

Mumbalites with money live close to Marine Drive. At the far end of the Chowpatty beach is a slight rise in the land. This is where many of Bollywood actors reside. There is a beautiful Jain temple and a Parsi burial ground. Parsis don't bury their dead but let vultures consume the body. This all takes place behind walls and is not for the public gaze.

The Jain Temple, Malabar Hill

Please don't try to swim on Chowpatty Beach. If you can stand the smell of the beach the polluted waters will surely lead to illness. Don't get me wrong. Mumbai is a mindblowing destination but in India one always needs to be careful what one does with oneself.

The city has its highlights. Just check out the lotus tank on Malabar Hill (found at the left in the photo above). When I went there women immersed themselves in the water, spread rose petals, emptied caskets in there. Measure For a good while I WAS Being watched film and burnt MADE My Lips on a Bel Puri a Kind of Indian Taco. And its lowlights TRY the 35 km Taxi Ride from the Airport at Night, TRY the tough Taxi drivers or the Plights of Some of the Inhabitants disabled. The 600-800 rupee fare could buy a sleeper berth to Goa.

Lotus Tank, Malabar Hill

On the other hand a taxi tour around all of Mumbai is only 500 rupees for a half-day

Whatever your view the city is alive.

Punjabi Bhangra music is raging in certain upscale parts of Mumbai as it is in London. Find a sample below.

Hit Punjabi MC and his Gabru Tere WAS around though just in video form Not the Song you CAN find here. My personal favorite. Recently I found the staff of my Mumbai Hotel crowded around the video for this Song.

They, all men, were waxing lyrical about Aishwarya Rai too.

Mumbai sure has its beautiful people and Bollywood actors are its royalty. Hit any hotel bar around the Gateway to India and find Bollywood types ordering cocktails and beers. Many of the films are eminently watchable.

TRY the Chennai Express with Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone or

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai .

See the NCPA and INOX cinemas at Nariman Point.


The main area catering for traveller accommodation is found in the Colaba area though there are a couple of nice hotels on Marine drive, with a view of the sea and Chowpatty beach. Try the Sea Green Hotel or Sea Green South Hotel. Expect to pay around $ 45-55 per night.

Colaba is traveller friendly with Italian restaurants, Indian vegetarian food and burger joints alongside shops selling textiles, t shirts, jewellery and branded goods.

There is enough in Mumbai to keep you busy for a month without any trouble. There are trips out of the city that are pretty tempting. One is a boat ride to the ancient caves at Elephanta Island. If you like cave temples with monkeys, glittering waves, views of the Mumbai skyline and a baking hot island with rhesus macaque monkeys in the trees then this is for you.

The carving inside the caves are worth a look and ...

they somehow give perspective to the sprawling city of 17 million people you have just left.

Costs in Colaba, Mumbai
Double room at the Salvation Army 1200 rupees ($ 18)
Double room at Bentley's, Oliver Rd 2500 rupees ($ 35)
Taxi from the airport 800 rupees ($ 18)         
Taxi for a days sightseeing 500 rupees ($ 7.50)
Movie ticket 500 rupees ($ 7.50)
Meal at the Food Inn                                                      300 Rupees ($ 4.50)
Cup of tea at the Oxford Bookstore 100 rupees ($ 1.60)