The overall feeling of Mumbai can only be likened to a relentless child, it has an energy that is fierce and unstoppable. It’s impulsive, bursting with gusto and India’s financial powerhouse, fashion epicentre and home to the countries most prolific film industry. Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is big, like, really big. It’s crammed full of dreamers, hard-labourers, artists, millionaires, starlets, servants, stray dogs, exotic birds and a punishing amount of pollution.
Arriving at Mumbai station after a surprisingly sound 6-hour sleep on an overnight train, was not nearly enough to prepare for the chaos of Mumbai’s morning rush. As we crammed into taxi’s, we cruised past some of the grandest colonial-era architecture, tall sky-scrapers, dwellings and an extensive amount of buildings under construction. It’s as if each spot of free space has been seized and built upon. Pedestrians thrust along the pavements in waves as they start their morning commutes, stray dogs run in between their feet and our first sighting of Starbucks since arriving is a nod to the fact we were now in one of India’s most westernised and more cosmopolitan cities.
It seems to be the place that the country’s future is being forged, and the only place that shows the stark contrast between extensive wealth and poverty to the maximum. Home to 20 million people, the city attracts workers all over India and from all nations across the globe. Located in the centre of Mumbai, often referred to as the city’s heart, lies Dharavi, a unique slum which contributes between 600 to a billion dollars to Mumbai’s economy each year. Indians have been voluntarily moving there from their rural villages for decades, hoping to build a better life by working in one of its successful industries. Textiles, pottery, tanning and recycling- Just to name a few.
Walking through the slum is like working your way through a maze of never-ending alleys, twisted corners and a dizzying high volume of people. Shanties with corrugated roofs are packed tightly on top and beside one another and pathways are formed out of rubbish and mud. Wet clothes hang over electrical cords and the chatter and buzz of women working their sewing machines echo down narrow passageways. Around 1.5 million people live in this square mile; that’s 18,000 per acre.
Green spaces are a rare thing in Mumbai, but the Hanging Gardens are spread out over a vast area, which offers enough dosage of greenery for the residents of Mumbai. Trees are heavily congested here and tourists flock to enjoy the spectacular view of the Arabian Sea which is best enjoyed during the late evenings for the beautiful sunset scene that is cast over the city.
From here you can see Chowpatty beach which runs parallel to the sprawling skyline that sits neatly behind it. It’s strange that one moment you could be fearing for your life in the crazy bustling traffic, where the feeling of being claustrophobic is at an all time high to walking out on to the beach with nothing but sea in front of you (and maybe the odd cow that has also escaped the city).
After a dizzying 12 hours exploring Mumbai, our tour guide, ‘JD’ took us to a place that transported us to Brooklyn, USA. A sports bar lined with mirrors and dark lighting, offering us pizza, burgers and beers. It just confirms Mumbai as a city that defines stereotypes of what people think may about India upon visiting. Ending my 24 hours rearranging the tables to make a dance floor to perform the YMCA to the locals was really a fitting ending to a crazy 24 hours.
Hello, I’m Samantha. A twenty-two-year-old fashion communication and promotion graduate. An avid shopper, lover of interiors and good coffee addict.