Some weeks ago I left Holland (again) for Singapore for some months. Fortunately I was able to meet up with most of my friends there AND catch some events as well, cause already soon we left for Mumbai, India, where we are now.
For me it is my first visit to India and I was dreading it, I have to admit. The poverty, chaos, dirt and the chance to get sick all scared me a bit. Frits has to work a lot, so I have to entertain myself. Fortunately I am quite good at that;-).
We are staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Worli. Our room is on the 15th floor and this is our view. Behind the building is the sea, but since it is hazy in the mornings, you cannot see it on this picture.
A couple of Indian eagles is often searing in the sky. At least, I think that's what they are. Anybody knows for sure?
Not bad, he?!
But now our eyes go down a bit. Oops, what have we there? Next to the chimneys of a crematorium we see a slum.
Not for nothing that Slum Dog Millionaire was shot in Mumbai, also named City of Slums.
The contrasts in Mumbai are huge; there is endless poverty as well as obscene wealth.
Although the slums look like one poor mess, in fact they are sort of cities within the city with their own dynamics and economy.
Their are families with specific trades, tiny factories, etc. and it is said that the annual business turnover from Dharavi, Mumbai's biggest slum, is US$ 650 million!
On the outside everything looks dirty, broken, ugly, but inside the little sheds it seems to be impeccable, so I have read. Families of 10 people may be living, working, sleeping and cooking in such a tiny shed and sometimes people will sleep in shifts. People sometimes rent a mattress and a place to sleep for e.g. each day from 2 till 9. After that somebody else sleeps there.
Often there is a TV, hence the satellite dishes here and there. And often there is a small stove or kitchen and electricity.
Mumbai itself is huge; about 17 million people live here.
OK, back to 'our' street. It is a very busy street; people, businesses, traffic, noise, smells....
|There is a lot of laundering on the street going on. Look at the lady on the right. Taxis are handy to dry ur laundry. Later on more about taxis. Notice the satellite dish on the roof.|
|To my western eyes, everything looks as if the garbage has not been collected since a year.....as it probably has not;-).|
When we arrived it turned out to be a big festive day for the Hindi. Partytime at 'our' slum!
The entrance to the main street was decorated and in the eve the party broke loose: drumming, singing, parading trucks with XXLspeakers and Indian house music, white cows with pink fabrics draped over them, fireworks and lots of people dancing in the street and quickly drawing figures on the street with colored powders (Gulal) while walking and dancing.
We felt like being in the middle of all the noise, even at 15 high; unbelievable.
Apart from that we are woken early in the mornings by the loud and -for our ears- horrible chanting for the Muslims.
|Look carefully and see the two white cows with the pink fabrics, pulling a car.|
|Quickly grabbing some hands full of color powder from a wagon in the parade and draw flowers etc on the street.|
|The ceremonial cows.|
Apart from the noise from the above happening, it is never quite in this city. One of the biggest sources of noise is the traffic. The traffic is incredible; always congested and busy. Everyone honks to everyone and often a simple trip can take ages.
|From within a taxi, stuck in traffic.|
|Trucks are called 'Goods carriers' and are nicely decorated. Looks a bit like the argentinian Fileteados style. Funny to see not very romantic objects such as trucks being so flowery and romantically decorated;-).|
|Even this construction machine gets a flowery touch;-).|
The city is filled with black and yellow cabs. They look cute, with their vintage FIAT model, the luggage racks on top and the free/for hire-box outside.
|Both the car itself as the rack on top can be used e.g. for drying laundry....|
|...for sleeping in or 'under'...|
|While the tiny tricycles are very handy in congested traffic or in small streets.|
|As are the small tricycle trucks.|
As you can imagine, scooters, motors and bikes are handy to manoeuvre through traffic too. Although I would be scared to death to cycle in this traffic!
There are businesses, shops and specialized jobs everywhere:
|The tailors often work in the tiniest ateliers/shops.|
|Cement and ornaments.|
Lots of merchandise is carried on the head.
|Hairdresser on the street.|
|The broom- and brush vendor.|
In so-called hip and alternative Bandra there are a bit more sophisticated shops:
Even H&M??? Or does this have nothing to do with the shop as we know it?
So far, people have been quite friendly. This family overcame their fear after the son took a picture of me. From then on the whole family wanted to be on a picture. And seeing me sweating and waiting for the guards to open the gates of the church that we were all waiting for just like them, won them over.
|While photographing murals, this girl insisted on being in the pic as well;-).|
|Lots of stray dogs and cats.|
The Mount Mary Church in Bandra. A sweet little church, known for it's praying for health. If you have a wounded leg, a sick heart, but also an ill dog, a plane to catch etc., you go there, buy the body part or object in wax and burn it as a candle. Hopefully your prayers then will be heard.
|The wax figurines.|
|I bought a heart (for my mother), teeth (for a friend) and a woman figurine (for myself).|
|Then you can lay it at this outdoor altar for the sun to melt. Notice also the wax money and wax houses?|
|Or put it on the fire here. The ground around was so covered with wax that my shoes got sticky.|
|Lots of religious paraphernalia were sold around the church. Ofcourse I bought some;-)|
Next, I wanted to go to Chapel Road, also in Bandra, Queen of the Suburbs. An area with a Portuguese history and (architectural) feel. Due to its Portugese history the area still has the largest catholic population of Mumbai. With several churches, like the Mount Mary Church. But also with lots of crucifixes in front of houses. Houses with a rustic feel. Wood, balconies..very special, I must say.
I definitely would advice travelers to go to Chapel Street in Bandra. A tiny area, off the beaten track, but very unusual and nice. Like I just wrote: rustic, wooden houses, next to boldly colored houses and -daringly and unexpectedly- adorned with.....contemporary murals!!! More about that later...
Sometimes, walking through town, you come across architecture that must once have been nice. But everything here seems to crumble away. Too bad!
For that reason, you really have to be able and willing to see the beauty in the most unlikely things, if you want to be able to enjoy your strolls through Mumbai. Fortunately I can do that;-).
Back to Chapel Road, Bandra, and it's historical architecture:
|Suddenly almost a Kampong feel!|
But what had initially brought me to Chapel Road?
Well, as always and everywhere, I went looking for murals and street art. By accident I ran into the most known stretch of murals not far from the hotel. Information about other locations was hard to find, but I read about Chapel Road. The taxi driver had no clue and was quite unwilling, but persistence and Eichers Mumbai City Map (the extensive version) brought me there finally...pffff...
For me, it was worth all the effort. Very extraordinary street.
Isn't it weird? As if you have a cultural heritage quarter with graffity and murals all over it! I'm not complaining or objecting, by the way. No, I LOVE it!
As mentioned I also found murals in Worli near the hotel (The Wall Project) and in other streets in Bandra. Several stretches of murals were made around a theme, like women's rights or world peace, while others were more pure decorative.
The wall with the cemented stones in it seemed like quite a challenge to me; a difficult 'canvas', so it seems.
I love the variety and the bold colors. Too bad that there is no maintenance....
Two and a halve more weeks to go in Mumbai, so...to be continued!