Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

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Location: Home, United Kingdom

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Mumbai

The city formerly known as Bombay was first seen by me through the window of a sleeper bus at about quarter to seven in the morning, as I blearily awoke from the half-doze in which I had reposed for most of the night.

Yes, we've finally left the beaches of Goa, and suitably brown, we hit the town. Mumbai (re-named in the late nineties after Mumba, disappointingly a Goddess of the early fishermen tribes who lived here a long long long time ago (when there was no city), and not Samantha Mumba (what's happened to Samantha Mumba?)) is (shock! horror!) actually discernible as being a city, having architecture, infrastructure and roads, and thus shunning Delhi's building/bomb site aesthetic for one approaching that of a late nineteenth-century British metropolis. Which is pretty much what Mumbai was, absured regionalist politics be damned. For better or worse the British legacy in Mumbai is extremely visible and obvious, from the lovely whimsicality of Bombay University (designed by the bloke wot done St Pancras in London), to the Maidans (expanses of grass on which several games of cricket are played all at the same time by various teams - like a Hackney Marshes only for Cricket), from Victoria Station (now renamed after Shivaji, the main historical Maratha chieftain and thus major historical 'good guy' of the area, who, er, never had a city here) to the Gateway to India (a big Arc de Triomphe type affair by the sea through which the last British battalion symbolically departed before Independence), it's all inherently stamped with good old Blighty. Consequently, for the first time, I actually feel I could perhaps live in Mumbai and not go stark staring bonkers within about a month.

Which is not to say that it isn't also very Indian. There are hawkers and street sellers galore, and a great Market - like Leicester market (if anyone's ever been there) but with less Indians (well, alright, probably slightly more) and with a bizarre mix of goods - electrical equipment sold on stalls next to fruit, chickens next to shampoo. I'm sure it all makes sense to the locals...

Thusly, Mumbai is pretty much odds on favourite to scoop my coveted 'favourite city in India' prize, unless it does something to righteously piss me off in the next few days.

Oh, and it has a McDonalds, so I'm eating meat again. God bless globalisation!

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