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Bombay, India

Discussion in 'Travelogues' started by Craig, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. Craig

    Craig New Member

    I read the Sunday Times this morning over tea, toast and eggs. When I looked out of my hotel window I saw scores of red double decker buses busily picking up and dropping off passengers. In the afternoon I went for a walk and happened upon a field filled with men playing a friendly cricket match.

    While reading my guidebook later I learned of a few museums to possibly visit - the Victoria & Albert, and the Prince of Wales. A quick guess would more than likely put my location as being London. But I was actually thousands of miles away, in the searing summer heat of India's largest city, Bombay.

    In the late 17th century the fourth governor of the East India Company, Gerald Aungier, commonly referred to as the 'Father of Bombay,' found it was difficult to find workers to come to the swamp and malaria ridden Bombay of the time. So he enticed people to come by promising religious freedom. This was something that most didn't have under the Portuguese or the Indian rulers of the time. This plan seemed to work; Bombay's population and religious diversity grew quickly, and hasn't stopped since.

    Today Bombay is bursting at its seams. People arrive in droves daily, adding to the official number of thirteen million residents. They still come in search of religious freedom; and to get away from the strict village codes. There is more freedom here to be yourself and marry who you wish. They come in search of work - of which most seem to find, and lodging - which is seemingly more difficult to find.

    It is said that roughly 1/3 of the population lives on the street. But despite the poverty, Bombay is the most prosperous city in India. All by itself, it produces more than a third of India's GNP.

    Its port bustles with activity; its stock exchange, the oldest in Asia, is now a modern skyscraper; it's movie industry is larger than Hollywood's and foreign companies, banks and investor's are continually pouring in.

    Architecturally, the British had an astounding influence. Some of the greatest buildings and monuments that loom over the city were built during the colonial period. The Gateway of India, in the heart of Colaba, is one such monument. It is a large, imposing arch built right on the water's edge.

    It's original purpose was to commemorate the landing in India of their Imperial Majesties, King George V and Queen Mary on December 2, 1911. But it also saw, ironically, the departure of the last British troops at independence in 1948. Now it is the departure point for tourist harbour cruises and various ferries.

    A lot of would be entrepreneurs hang around the Gateway offering bus tours of the city, post cards - while some offered private car tours - "I'll take you to see the red light district, the slums, the famous outdoor laundry, the real Bombay" they told me.

    One man was very persistent.
    I told him I preferred walking, but that didn't stop him following me for 10 minutes trying to talk me into a three hour private tour. I laughed when he told me the price - $35.00 for a three hour car tour! That's some living he was trying to make considering the average Indian makes only a few hundred U.S. Dollars equivalent per year.

    One afternoon I walked to the station via the clock tower I could see from my hotel room, and found that it was part of Bombay University. The architecture in this area is very impressive, but the look of the imposing tower, and the university buildings looked rather out of place.

    To me they looked not unlike buildings you'd find in a traditional English university town, minus the palm trees of course. I arrived at Victoria Terminus soon after. "VT," for short, was completed in 1888 in a style considered Victorian-Gothic, with Indian and Italian influences.

    It is most overwhelming as a train station. Statues of lions and tigers, domes and spires cover this largest of British built buildings that houses on one side - crammed commuter trains going to the northern suburbs - and the other side - trains to more further flung destinations. Inside it's like any busy train station in Europe.

    Queues of people waiting to buy tickets, tea vendors, magazine vendors, porters, and the hundreds of people scurrying about to be one of the million plus passengers a day travelling through here.

    A short walk north of VT brought me into the beginning of the so-called real Bombay; the central markets and beyond. There are blocks and blocks of street and indoor markets. The closest indoor market, Crawford, re-awakened my smelling senses. Fresh food, spices, and live animals on sale here all ready for the resourceful house wife or restaurant buyer.

    Just beyond Crawford market lies the chaotic maze of street markets, catering for domestic rather than tourist items. I walked around in the sizzling heat of the afternoon watching the people go about their business.

    Handmade brass, silver & leather items; shoes, clothing and more modern, electronic goods were all to be had, among a multitude of others. The streets were terribly crowded, mainly with people pulling hand carts, or balancing heavy loads on their heads.

    Occasionally the odd car or truck would slowly hoot its way through. At sundown I found my way out of the maze, back towards Colaba. Another morning I took a cab to see the Victoria & Albert Museum; it's in a fairly northern location, too far for a walk in this heat.

    My guidebook says that there are numerous maps, photographs and archaeological items of interest here. Mostly to do with the history of Bombay. On arrival I paid for a ticket, went up to the building and found it closed. No reason. There are hours posted on the door, and I'm well within them. A few others looked up and scratched their head.

    Truthfully, it looks like it hasn't been opened since the British left. I guess I'll never know what's inside. But there were plenty of people buying tickets.

    On my last evening in the city I went to the well known promenading area nestled between the busy Marine Drive and Back Bay. The glowing sun was going down behind the bay, bringing a needed cooling of the air. People of every sort - traditionally dressed families, young groups of Indian boys and girls dressed in Western attire - were strolling the promenade enjoying the nice sea breeze.

    After I walked for a while, I sat on the wall overlooking the bay to enjoy that nice breeze myself. A few minutes later this elderly street woman sticks her hand in my face begging for money; a common occurrence in Bombay. She wouldn't take my 'no' for an answer, but instead persisted in trying to tell me her story in her language.

    A young, well dressed Indian man came to my rescue and told her to leave, then he sat down himself. He leaned over and told me "the beggars don't just pester foreigners, but any Indians that look as if they can afford it too." Then he asked if he could 'talk' to me. "Sure," I said. He then proceeded to ask many questions such as "How did I like India," "Where had I been to," Where did I come from." He even asked how much it costs to get here from England. Even though he looked fairly middle class, he obviously had never been out of the country.

    I had to convert the cost to Rupees because he had no comprehension as to the value of a dollar or a pound. He wasn't the only one to show curiosity. Strangely, I thought that the Bombayites would see many non-Indians walking through their city in the course of a day and not get fazed by it.

    Many times while walking through the markets or down the street I would get stares as if they'd never seen a foreigner before, or I would get stopped and asked similar curiosity questions by shopkeepers or men sitting along the street.

    While the attention you sometimes get in other large cities of the world might feel unnerving, the attention from Bombayites is directed in a seemingly safe, curious, friendly way. This is certainly a pleasant feeling to have when visiting a large, strange city.

  2. tol3rd

    tol3rd New Member

    I traveled to Bombay India about 20 years ago. before even getting out of the airport I was approached from a man who said I had left some paperwork on the airplane. my first thought was that even though I was sure I hadn't left anything on the plane, I should definitely go back to the plane to double check. Being in a foreign land for the first time was scary enough.
    there was no one at the boarding gate so I began walking back onto the plane when I stopped by two officers? who began yelling at me in a language I did not know. I tried to explain to them about the paperwork I had forgotten and the man who was nice enough to have tracked me down. this was met with deaf ears. 20 minutes later I was in a holding pen somewhere in a makeshift airport hangar in Bombay. I was literally thinking the worst. An hour goes by when this big burly man comes into my area and stares at me. the officer with him unlocks the cage and leaves. the big man walks up to me, grabs my jacket at the shoulder and attempts to turn me around. he was so big and I was so scared, my legs turned to jelly. he twisted me around, flipped up my jacket tails and removed my visa from my back pocket. I thought I was going to die.
    he looked at it and left the cage, locking it behind. I literally began to red in my pants. I didn't even have a will. what would my parents think? what would my brother do? he was a NYC firefighter. would I get a last phone call? another hour went by when 2 more officers came into the area. they unlocked the cage grabbed me by the arms and literally picked me up, out of the caged area, down a long dark hall and into the garage of the hangar. I was thrown into a large sedan and driven thru the streets of some slum neighborhood. finally, we stopped and entered into a heavily guarded compound. I couldn't see where I was as the windows very tinted. The door opened, a hand appeared. It reached out as if to have me accept a handshake but I was too scared. a head emerged inside the car. "Lieutenant Robert X. XXXX, U.S. Marines." "Huh?" I thought. I was in the U.S. Embassy. Apparently, the man sitting next to me on the flight and a bomb in his bag and a manifesto (the paperwork) in his jacket. he had stuck the manifesto in with my papers and maps and had tried to detonate the bomb in the bathroom during the flight. it malfunctioned. for some reason I still don't know today, he discovered and arrested after departing the plane. Apparently the FDNY t-shirt I was wearing eared him enough to alter his plans and attempt to use the bathroom as his 'exit' strategy.
    that was the first time, and the last I traveled to Bombay, India.I hear the food has improved in the last 20 years.
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  3. sillyllucy

    sillyllucy Member

    Wow, that is a lot of information on Bombay. Was this copied and pasted from somewhere else or did you write it? Source? I have been fascinated by India for years and love reading about it.
  4. tol3rd

    tol3rd New Member

    It was neither copied nor pasted. I wrote it myself about a half hour ago, the source being myself and my experience I had while traveling to Bombay.
  5. pwarbi

    pwarbi Active Member

    I think a lot of people that visit a place, rarely take advantage of the opportunity they've got to write something like this. While a lot of people will take in the sights and sound of a city, many people won't document it, and when they return they will have forgotten just how much of an experience they had there.
  6. Tanmaya

    Tanmaya Member


    Food and the way authorities handle such incidents have changed a lot, at least at the international airports and metro cities. India is very different now as compared to what it was 20 years ago. Sorry to hear about your experience, I hope you would plan a trip to India despite your previous experience being ummm... unusual? Terrifying would be the word if I had that experience.