I spent my last week in India in Bombay. This was not a Leave UR Mark trip, but a personal trip to see this much-talked about city that pulls in so many people from all parts of the country. Curious to see this “Indian take on Manhattan”, I took an 18hr bus from Bangalore and spent 5 days taking in as much of the city as possible.
I spent the first 3 days exploring South Bombay, or “townside” as it is locally known. Wandering around the areas of Colaba, Fort and Kala Ghoda, I saw an energetic city full of contrasts. Old ambassador taxis whizzed around quaint little neighborhoods while pedestrians purposefully marched towards their destinations, umbrellas in hand, ready for the inevitable monsoon showers. The parallels to Manhattan were striking. Yes, this was definitely a fast-paced, no nonsense big city. Unlike Manhattan though, a whopping 50% of Bombay’s population live in slums and poverty. But even the beggars and slum children had an aggressive air about them. They weren’t hopelessly wandering the streets praying for a kind donation…they were actively working the streets, confident, bold and arrogant. There was a harshness to it all, a fight for survival attitude present in everyone, rich and poor.
But there was also something romantic and beautiful about South Bombay. Its wide plazas and narrow cobbled streets reminded me of Paris. Its crumbling colonial architecture reminded me of Buenos Aires. Little pockets of peace existed in areas like Malabar Hill and Marine Drive. And amidst all the noise and activity, I discovered a city torn between old and new, grand and dilapidated; chaotic yet functioning.
I spent the rest of my stay exploring the posh suburbs of Bandra and Juhu. With organic cafes, upscale shopping and glitzy bars, it was easy to see why these areas attracted all the expats and gave the city its cosmopolitan vibe.
North and south regardless, one thing is certain about Bombay – the city is very photogenic. Whether colorful street markets or men hanging precariously off the trains, couples huddled around Marine Drive or children playing cricket on the roads, there is always a lot of activity to capture.