The Gateway to India is along the waterfront.
Submarines, frigates and an aircraft carrier are all next to us.
The laundry is a sight to behold in the middle of Mumbai
How do they get the right laundry back to the right person?
Sellers of souvenirs hound you on every street corner.
As I said previously there is so much to see in Mumbai. Fortunately one of our two days was a Sunday and the streets were less crowded than normal. Mumbai has no subway system but the combination of a railway that brings everyone in and out of the city and a collection of taxis, with and without air conditioning make for traffic jams you would not believe.
A visit to Dhobi Ghat was a highlight of Mumbai. There for more than a hundred years, laundry is brought to this central city location to be soaped, soaked, boiled and beaten and then ironed. The scene is a rainbow of colour and there is no laundry ticket. How they keep individual orders for laundry separate is a mystery to this day as there is no paper record. Today the majority of the laundry processed here is commercial but not exclusively as the pictures demonstrate. Around the laundry are some of the worst slums you can ever imagine. An interesting anecdote is that only men work in the laundry.
In contrast to the laundry there is the arch known as the Gateway to India. Built in 1911 under British control, the monument sits on the waterfront to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary. Originally it was the entrance to India for steamers arriving from Great Britain and was also the location for the final departure of the British in 1948. A central square immediately in front of it overflows with visitors while the backside of the arch is the ferry terminal.
As we leave Mumbai, we enter pirate waters. The next blog will detail the ship’s precautions to prevent an attack by pirates as we cross the Arabian Sea. Many of the passengers are not sure of what to make of the threat.
Slum areas frequently surround key tourist areas.
Mahatma Gandhi’s house is preserved as is his personal library and is open to visitors.
After weeks of speculation about what we were about to see in Mumbai, the city did not disappoint. While it is hard to suggest we saw everything there was to see in two days, we certainly got to experience this port city at its best and at its worst.
Our ship the Amsterdam could not have been in a safer location as we were docked next door to the Indian Naval Headquarters. Alongside us at the various docks were frigates, destroyers, an aircraft carrier and six submarines. From our deck and cabin we could peer down and watch the activity. Flag raising and flag lowering on those ships is still a formal ceremony which we were able to witness both days.
Mumbai has a rich history. British rule ended in 1947 but the traditions continue. British architecture is seen everywhere. Victoria station, the main railroad stop in Mumbai sees 6 million passengers a day pass through those gates. Cattle still wander through the main streets seemingly oblivious to the traffic that knows nothing about lanes or right of way.
In a matter of a few minutes you can travel from the opulent Taj Palace Hotel on the waterfront to the slums of Mumbai. Begging is everywhere and families seem to camp out on street corners waiting for a handout.
We were fortunate to visit the home of Ghandi and see where lived and hear of the early beginnings of his life and leadership. He was a lawyer by profession and started his campaign for human rights when he like so many other countrymen was asked to leave a railway car that was deemed to be ”white only”. His teachings were basic human rights yet even today, seem too advanced for major sectors of the population. A surprise was the predominance of elections signs promoting the communist party and the use of the hammer and sickle emblem on those posters.
In spite of the poverty, our tour guide was quick to point out the significance of medical tourism where individuals come from around the world for medical procedures where they can pay for faster service or obtain services unavailable in their place of residence. We also learned, that the one number one export of India was not a fruit, vegetable or spice but registered nurses. Who would have thought!
Certainly two days isn’t enough to truly see the city but then again it was enough. More on Mumbai in the next post.