Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon

A Visit to Mumbai, India - Part III

This is the third group of photos (part 1 and part 2).

One day I decided to book a tour with Bravo Bombay (reviews), run by Hemali Talsania.  Hemail is great, and put together a great tour for me and a couple that joined us.  Hemali's knowledge of the city is great, and her English is excellent.  We went to several spots that I wanted to visit, here are a few photos from the day.

First, I was picked up in a van by a driver.  I didn't take the Mumbai Local this time, and after two journeys on the crowded train it was nice to get driven around in an air conditioned van.  The accident with the motorcycle was just part of the adventure.  On our way down the driver asked if I wanted to take the sea link, having read a bit about it I agreed that we should.  The Bandra–Worli Sea Link, or officially the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, is a new bridge and freeway that links western and southern Mumbai.  It's a great route saving a lot of time but it's tolled so it is virtually empty.  In the city (where there is no toll) the traffic is snarled but the freeway is wide open.  Maybe it will get more use over time.  I know, not a great photo but I took it through the window of a speeding van ;)

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Bandra–Worli Sea Link / Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link

One of the first stops was Dhobi Ghat, a huge (world's biggest?) open air laundry.  This facility washes an absolute mountain of laundry every day from all over Mumbai.  A few photos from the laundry.

This is my favourite photo from the set, just a little kid going about his day.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dhobi Ghat Open Air Laundry 5 (Child)

Next on the agenda was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, or Victoria Terminus.  An amazing building with incredible detail.  Worth a visit if you are into architecture.  Unfortunately, the interior was not nearly as amazing as the exterior.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Train Station

At the university, there is a replica of London't Big Ben.  It's actually a very good replica, though sadly I could not get any closer than this as it's behind locked gates.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Big Ben Clone at the Mumbai University

When you take a close look at the faux Big Ben, you can see the Indian touches compared to the original.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Big Ben Clone at the Mumbai University (detail)

A popular tourist spot, the Gateway Of India.  One of the few places we visited where there were a lot of tourists and people pushing their wares.  I was somewhat of a celebrity being one of the only tall white guys around.  Several people asked to take their photo with me, first time that has happened.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Gate of India

Everyone in the group received a blessing (for a small donation).  It was nice.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Gate of India 2

We visited a Hare Krishna temple, and listened to the chants.  A nice spot and interesting religion.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Hare Krishna Temple


Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Hare Krishna Temple 2

The Mahatma Gandhi Museum, full of interesting artefacts.  The most powerful and memorable were the letters to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Ghandi Museum

Outside the museum, I met a charismatic and friendly tour guide who I chatted with while waiting for my group to finish up.  Smartly dressed, he was happy to pose for a photo.  For some reason he reminds me of Eddie Murphy.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Well dressed tour guide

Close to the harbour, we saw a fishing boat coming in.   A little helter skelter but definitely interesting.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Fishing boat coming back into the harbour

The harbour itself.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Harbour

Hemali, our tour guide (far right) and the couple who joined the tour.  Maybe they will see this one day (if so leave a comment ;)

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Tour

After the tour, I did some of my own exploring.  Here a vendor is selling strings of flowers.  These were being used to decorate cars for a festival.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : flower market

A family I ran into, they were great and the boy holding the dog asked me a million questions.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : family



My favourite photo form the trip.  This old guy was sitting in a flashy metal carriage when I approached him.  He didn't speak English, but nodded and smiled when I asked him if I could take a photo.  His weathered skin and the detail in the carriage make the perfect subject for a  black and white photo.Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon

In the evening, and very close to my hotel, I ventured down to the beach to view the Vijayadashami Hindu festival.  There were thousands of people on the beach, and every group had a sculpture which they end up throwing into the ocean.  Note the sun in this photo.  Due to the air pollution most sunsets in Mumbai looked like this during my visit.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial

Some well dressed chaps walking their well groomed dogs.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival dogs

A vendor selling grilled corn, smelled great.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial 7


As happened several times, kids approached me when they same me taking photos and asked to have their photo taken.  This boy was curious, asked some questions, and posed for a shot.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial Kids

Soon his friends all ran over and started to clown around, it was great fun.

As the sun set, even more people started to show up.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival twilight

Literally by the truck load.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival twilight mob


And the festivities continued.Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festial Sunset

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival splash

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival friends

A sacred cow all dressed up for the party.  Though tired after a long day, I'm glad I made it down for the party.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival sacred cow

The next day, I decided to visit Dharavi, a massive slum in the heart of Mumbai.  This slum is well known as it appeared in the popular movie Slumdog Millionaire.   Despite the term "slum", this is a huge industrial center for Mumbai.  Recycling is common, as is creating goods for export.  I was very surprised at how many small factories are in operation in this area.  My guide in the slum Shailesh Jethva who operates Mystical Mumbai, if you are in the city and want to tour Dharavi I highly recommend Shailesh.  He knew almost everyone there and took me to many interesting spots in the area.  Photography is not appropriate in most parts of the slum, so I respected the custom.

This shot is from the bride over the rail tracks as you enter the slum, the district us huge and without a guide you are certain to get lost.  Depending on who you ask, there are about one million people that live in this slum, and the population density is just staggering.  A worthwhile tour if you are not just into the popular tourist destinations.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi

One of the factories we visited with several embroidery machines at work.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi textiles

My guide, Shailesh.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Dharavi tour guide

That is all the photos I'm posting from Dharavi.  If you want to see more you just need to visit for yourself.  On my way back to the hotel, I decided to take a walk on the beach which, just one day earlier, held thousands of people for the Hindu festival.  The beach was littered with remnants from the celebration, including all of the religious idols which now lay discarded.  I understand the need to celebrate but it's tough to see the impact on the environment following such celebration.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Vijayadashami Festival aftermath 4


Sunset over Juhu beach.  I'll return to Mumbai soon.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Sunset on Juhu beach

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.

Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon

The Old Man In Mumbai



One of my favourite images from Mumbai.  I came across this gentleman while wandering the streets, sitting in a flashy metal carriage.  I asked to take his photo, he just smiled and nodded.  I think it looks best as a black and white. Oct 2012 : Mumbai Visit : Old man and the wagon