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.