India. As soon as you get off the flight, the heat slaps you in the face like you owe it something and just as you are starting to adjust to that, a miasma of smoke,dust,refuse and pollution hits you. You think, it surely must only go up from here. It doesn’t. It gets worse but then as you open your mind to the experience, it does get better. So gloriously good you start to consider a move here. India, so rich in culture, so diverse and with an intricate group of people.
My port of arrival was Mumbai, a large metropolitan city. The fifth most populous city in the world, home to over 20 million people who have migrated to the city mainly for commercial purposes. Mumbai is the financial capital of India, home to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Reserve Bank of India and several other financial institutions. It is also home to the richest man in India with his majestic 27 story home. The city also houses India’s Hindi (Bollywood) and Marathi film and television industry.
Mumbai is an eclectic mix of the glorified old and brilliant new, the stinking poverty coexisting happily with opulent wealth. Every corner has a building that should be declared a UNESCO Heritage site with some being reconstructed and restored and others left just as they are since the colonial masters built them in the Mid18th century.
PLACES TO SEE IN MUMBAI:
The Taj Mahal hotel. This majestic plaza was built in 1903 and has been home to notable guests such as The Beatles, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, The King & Queen of Norway, The Duke, Duchess of Kent, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, Roger Moore, Joan Collins, Mick Jagger, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Deep Purple, Michael Palin, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Oprah Winfrey.It suffered a terrorist attack in 2008 where at least 31 people were killed but has been restored to its former glory with its resplendent beauty.á It has beautiful Indo saracenic style architecture and the finesse of the curves and molds will take your breath away. During World War I, the hotel was converted into a 600-bed hospital. The dome of the hotel is made from steel as used in the Eiffel Tower. Jamsedji Tata imported the same steel during that time. The hotel was the first in India to install and operate a steam elevator. The hotel imported American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers, for the first time in India .While there don’t forget to check out the massive Gucci store on the ground floor.
The Gateway to India.á This famous port built in 1911 to serve as a landing place for British governors for the then conquered territory of India. The Gateway of India is a major tourist destination and a popular gathering spot for locals, street vendors and photographers.á It is a stately structure reeking of ancient history and tales of arrivals and departures untold. Perfect for a photo op with the beautiful Indian ocean in the background. The only downside to this excursion is the smell. It envelops and overwhelms one’s sense of smell. On a scale of one to Nakivubo, Nakivubo fairs well!
The High Court of Bombay. In the same state as it was when it was constructed in the early 19th century, this imposing building reminds one of a castle; stately and regal. Though starting to show a little wear and tear due to age and pollution but the intricate designs still remain and are a beauty to behold. It is one of the oldest High Courts of India with jurisdiction over the states of Maharashtra and Goa, and, the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The High Court has regional branches at Nagpur and Aurangabad in Maharashtra and Panaji, Goa.
The court is one of the most distinguished high courts in the country. The first Chief Justice, the Attorney General and Solicitor General of Independent India were from this court.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus (VT:
Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an historic railway station in Mumbai which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. Designed with influences from Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and traditional Mughal buildings, the station was built in 1887 in the Bori Bundera area of Bombay to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The gothic architecture is reminiscent of the KingÆs Cross station featured in the Harry Potter movies. This is the busiest railway station in India and the hordes of commuters trekking from all over Mumbai to make it to the station is a sight.
The Bandra-Worli sea-link
This is cable-stayed bridge with pre-stressed concrete-steel viaducts on either side that links Bandra and the Western Suburbs of Mumbaiá with Worlia South Mumbai. This 6km concrete steel marvel was opened in 2009. Please see this at night, the lights at the bottom of the pillars light it up in a way that is amazing to behold. The sea-link reduces travel time between Bandra and Worli during peak hours from 60û90 minutes to 20û30 minutes.
THINGS TO DO;
Take a walká on Colaba street áand take in the Indian Ocean.
Indulge in a horse carriage ride.
Ride in a rickshaw.
Eat authentic Indian food; Biryani, Tandoori chicken, Naan, Aloo ghoobi. A visit to India is not complete without partaking of the succulent kebabs sold on the street. The best thing about India is the cheap food. Indulge!
Go to the malls and marvel at the large number of foreign brands. Inorbit Mall is a lovely place to start. Indian have an interesting mall culture. They love their malls with their ubiquitous gaming zones, food courts and multiplexes also in residence. Going to the mall is not simply a shopping activity but is done for leisure. Do not be surprised by the families taking pictures in many of the corners.
If you do not speak any of the local dialects,áit is not in your best interests to travel without the company of a native. English may be the official languageáof this great nation but most people barely understand let alone speak it.
IndianÆs are mainly vegetarian but thereÆs a lot of places that serve chicken and mutton. Forget beef, you will have to search high and low to find it. In the Hindu tradition, the cow is revered and forbidden in the Hinduádiet. It is honored, garlanded and given special feedings at festivals all over India.
India is not just a country you visit, it’s an experience you are bound to carry with you for a life time. My biggest lesson from this great country; be steeped in culture but do not be confined by it.