2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids Posing

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part II

I took a lot of photos in Mumbai, this is the second group. You can view part 1 here.

I decided to head to the south part of the city to explore the area.  Leaving the hotel the security guard posed for a photo.  Hotels have strict security since the terrorist attacks of 2008.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Hotel Security

I have heard some crazy stories about the "Mumbai Local" train.   During rush hour, it's one of the most crowded trains in the world, people are hanging off the sides.  The staff at the hotel told me not to ride it, it's not for tourists.  A tour guide I hired said "you are taking the local?  I don't even ride the local".   With those sentiments, I knew I had to ride it :)

I decided to ease my way into it, my first trip was off-peak, and it was quite pleasant.  There are no doors on the train, and it stops for only a very short while at each stop.  For my second trip, I booked the cheap fare during rush hour.  That was definitely entertaining and highly recommended for anyone looking for some adventure.  The mass of humanity that steams off a train at each stop is crazy, and somehow you need to push your way though that to get on board.  Good times.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Mumbai Local Train

My destination for the day was the Chor Bazaar.  "According to popular legend, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the 'Chor Bazaar'."  You can literally get anything here, it is one of largest flea markets in India.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar 2

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Food

This aisle was full of garlic.  It smelled amazing, not overpowering at all.  The guy sitting on the ground was peeling cloves, that is what he does most of the day.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Garlic

At one point, I walked past a school.  The kids were just leaving and a few of them come over to say hello.  They spoke very good English (they all learn it in school) and they started asking me a lot of questions while showing me around.  They wanted to pose for a photo, but at the last second all ran away leaving just one.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Kids Running


These guys had a good laugh.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar People

Venturing outside of the market after a few hours of exploring, I decided to just stand on a street corner and look at the interesting people streaming by. [Click any image to view bigger.]


There are interesting people everywhere.  I'm not even sure what this gentleman is selling, but he looks sharp.   If you know what this stuff is, please post in the comments.  Update: Thanks to Sandhya for letting me know via the comments that this gentleman is selling Singhara (Water Chesnut/Water Caltrop) seeds.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Chor Bazaar Sales

Another friendly character, spoke no English but was happy to pose for a photo.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Selling Nuts


Some of the local animals.  Fresh mutton?  No problem.  Want to buy a rooster, they have that too.

Sidewalks in Mumbai are not quite up to Canadian standards.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Sidewalk


A few more interesting sights and people including a fruit and vegetable stand.

On more than one occasion kids ran up to me and wanted to pose for a photo.  Very curious and very cute.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids Posing


A shave on the street.2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Street Shave


I'm not sure this is up to WCB standards. It was amazing to watch these guys climb bamboo scaffolding with no harness or other safety equipment.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Scaffolding


One of the slums on the beach.  Despite the conditions, children will find a way to entertain themselves.  Here they made a kite and they seemed to be having a great time.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Kids & Kite


A well dressed gent at a street market.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Well Dressed at the Market

Finally, my dinner.  Curried goat, roti, and a local beer.

2012 Oct : Mumbai India Visit : Curry Goat

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : shelter

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part I

My trip to Mumbai, India was an eye opening experience.  In a way it was what I expected but at the same time I wasn't always prepared for what I saw.  India is clearly a developing nation but in many ways behind other third world countries I have visited.  I know that India is becoming a technology center for many global companies, it has a quickly developing economy and is on the verge of rapid industrialization.  However, when you walk the streets and talk to the people you don't see much evidence of that.  There are obviously many wealthy people in India, but there are far too many that live on the street below the poverty line.

While it's true that many people are poor and live on the street, all of the people I met were warm and accepting of my presence.  Some were guarded at first but if I asked for directions, to take a photo, or just how their day is going they would all flash a big smile and do their best to help me out.  Those that spoke English were eager and willing ask where I'm from and how I like the country.  Some engaged in conversation and other just said hello and posed for a photo.   I'm wouldn't get the same reception if I walked the streets of Vancouver (my home town).  People in Vancouver are often self-centered, indifferent, or paranoid you are running some scam and do not engage strangers to the same level.

The people in India are also very spiritual and tolerant.  They are a blend of many religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and others) often obvious by their clothing though there is no visible tension between them.  They celebrate festivals and openly practice their faith.  Many also believe in the concept of Karma which is present in all of the religions.  Because of this, there seems to be an environment of safety and I did not ever feel threatened during my visit.  I walked in many different areas of the city, alone, as an obvious outsider and didn't feel unsafe at any time.  It may have been luck but I can't say that I would do the same in other large cities around the world.

My experience of India is limited to one city, Mumbai (Bombay).  Other cities may be drastically different, I really don't know.  I hope to visit other parts of India some day to see for myself.

Exploring On Day 1

My first day in Mumbai was just spent exploring the area I was staying in, Juhu.  Juhu is an affluent suburb of Mumbai where many Bollywood stars live however if you plucked me from Vancouver and dropped me in Juhu I would think it far from affluent.  There are obviously many poor people living on the street and there is garbage littered everywhere.  The waterways I saw were extremely polluted, looked almost like blank ink and filled with trash.  Juhu Beach unfortunately isn't much better being covered in garbage, and both animal and human waste. For a country so blessed with natural beauty and resources it's a real shame to see it treated so poorly.

Part of the problem is the population explosion in Mumbai.  I have heard estimates that put the population between 20 and 24 million people and all those people need to live somewhere.  Combined with the fact that Mumbai is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, you essentially force people to live on the street or in slums.  These places often have no sanitation, garbage collection, or even running water.  The garbage and waste is simply dumped into the environment and it is clear that nature has paid a heavy price.

Juhu Beach, not every area is this littered though there is no area that is clean. One thing to note is the smog in the background, air quality is not very good either. At the end of the day, my eyes started to hurt and I attribute this to the air pollution.

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Juhu trash


People getting a ride across the water, if you saw the water you wouldn't want to get wet either.

Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : raft


One of the ways the people who live on the beach support themselves is by growing methi (fenugreek) crops. These are grown on the sand of the beach, watered with salt water collected from a nearby pool, and harvested as sprouts for sale in the local markets.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : methi crop


The pool where water is gathered, dug below the ocean water level so always full.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Water hole


The water is carried in large plastic jugs, sometimes a long way.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Carrying Water


One of the locals harvests his crop. He saw me walking around the area and taking photos, he waved me over and asked me to take his photo so he could see it. He also told me how he grows the crop and about his life. His English was basic but we managed a short conversation. He has spent most of his life on this beach.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Methi (Fenugreek) Harvest


Behind him, an extremely polluted body of water. I'm assuming it is a river, but it barely has any flow. I saw people defecate into this water, and in another area people were using it to wash off. It's no wonder that tropical disease thrives here. When you combine the poor sanitation, very high population density, heat and insects you have the perfect recipe.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Boat


I saw a lot of dogs, cats, and other animals roaming around as well. They get by on what scraps they can find, most do not appear to be in good condition.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Dog


The various beach shelters are rudimentary at best.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Shelter


Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : Shelter


When you see how little some people have, it makes you rethink your needs and wants.  This image in particular has stuck with me, it seems even a slight breeze would be capable of wiping out what little this person has.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : shelter


Behind the beach, you can see how bad the water is. While I sat in this spot, I saw people throwing garbage into the water and it was a soup of debris.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : slum water


Despite the pollution, life still does exist in and around the water. I saw birds walking around in the water trying to catch whatever may be present. Also, crabs live in the mud and carry on as usual. Nature is certainly resilient.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : crab


The people carry on as well, despite the trash a game of cricket is being played (I saw cricket being played everywhere, and by everyone. It is another religion in India).
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : juhu cricket


If you are not playing cricket, you are probably playing football (soccer).
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : football on the beach


On more than one occasion, young couples courted each other on the beach apparently oblivious to their surroundings. After a while, I think the trash just blends into the background, it becomes the norm.
Mumbai : Juhu Beach : October 2012 : lovers


Part II of the trip available here.