With all the children in tow, and plenty of snacks and water, we headed away from the port in Bombay Harbour and through the many slums that surround the city. Although it wasn’t really a surprise it is a shock when you see it first hand. These ramshackle structures are propped up against anything that will support them. We all assumed that these people simply squat here and set up home but they actually pay rent to the government to live there. They have no running water or sewage and rubbish is everywhere but despite this don’t seem to be displaced and just get on with life.
Our first stop was the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India (it now has an Indian name but it is very long and in Hindi). Of course all the kids were moaning with joy at the thought of traipsing through a museum in the stifling heat however they were all very good and gave it a chance. Along with all the regular old stuff you find in museums there was a huge natural history section filled with taxidermy – stuffed animals, which the children enjoyed. Amongst these Luke found a huge Perch caught in the harbour weighing 480 pounds.
We then made a quick stop at a hotel which was attacked from the sea by terrorists only 2 years ago. Reconstruction of the front of the building where a bomb went off is still underway.
Getting on and off a tourist bus in Mumbai attracts attention from everywhere. There are many beggars in the city, mostly small girls often carrying even smaller girls or babies. It is hard for us all to see this especially the children. Little girls the size of Danielle would ask for money for food for their family. As much as we wanted to give it to them the guides strongly advise against it.
On from the museum we visited Gandhi’s house which had his room set up as he had left it. Outside in the street cows were herded through the traffic and up the foot path. Cows are treated as a sacred animal and are worshiped at certain places around the city.
After negotiating more of the insane traffic we were deposited in a very busy shopping district. Amongst the tourist type shops there were still many locals buying and selling anything and everything. While four lanes of traffic beeped constantly on either side of the road you could get your shoes polished, have your peanuts shelled and get some photocopying done.
Louise and the girls headed straight for a clothing shop and all the girls came back with colourful saris (which they wore to dinner that night). David and Luke walked the streets trying to fend off offers ranging from kids DVDs to hash. Even watching the traffic is entertaining – it’s amazing what can be loaded onto a bicycle.
A common sight is the lunch delivery men. Many people commute by train to the city and rather than pack their lunch and bring it because it would be to inconvenient they have a man pick it up from their house, he takes it to the station where a guy takes it to the city and then passes it to another guy on a bike who delivers it to your office. It’s much easier than lugging it all that way yourself. It costs about US$6 per month for the service.
The weather was extremely humid and walking the streets of Mumbai with 4 small, white children was getting challenging so it was a welcome relief to get into the relative safety of the bus. We had so many near misses it was best not to look at the cars, bikes, wheelbarrows, people & dogs weaving across the roads.
We all returned back to the ship full of amazing sights and memories of this amazing place.