Return to India

Trip Start Jul 26, 2006
Trip End Apr 01, 2008

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Thursday, March 8, 2007

Arriving in Mumbai I was brimming with both apprehension and glee.  Glee at the thought of being back "home" in India where I could finally empty out the ol' backpack and get enmeshed in a community again; apprehension because I had some real sense this time of what all is included with the India package-a turbulent sea of flesh, forever jarring the senses and disorienting even the most sure-footed.  India, a land where magic still exists and anything is possible, even as the most facile often seems maddeningly out of reach.
And Mumbai, exemplifying so much of what India was, is, and is becoming, makes for a fascinating point of embarkation.  Formerly known as Bombay and rented to the East India Company for 10 pounds back in the 1660s, today it is the economic epicenter of the country, and something like 40% of India's GDP is reputedly related to its goings-on.  It is also home to "Bollywood," which I hear is birthing an average of a dozen new movies per week these days.  To the uninitiated however, the city can feel like little more than slum piled upon slum piled upon a posh, much-touristed Colaba down on the southern tip of the peninsula. 
I meandered my way through Mumbai's bustling port (Nhava Sheva), survived customs mostly unscathed, then past the napping guard and *almost* slipping by the over-priced taxi driver who tried to convince me that each and every officer we encountered along the way needed a little "baksheesh" (a "tip").  Then on to a ferry for an hour-long trip to the Gateway of India, the archway that the last British regiment exited through back in 1948.  As I would learn later during a visit to Mani Bhavan, Gandhi's residence from 1917-1934, Bombay was also an important center of the Indian independence movement.  It was the site of the first Indian National Congress meeting in 1885 and a launching pad for pro-independence campaigns such as the "Quit India" campaign of 1942.
Aside from a day-long visit to pore through the library of the Bhaktivedanta Institute, I didn't have a reason for sticking around Mumbai, nor even much information about the city.  Still, it felt rude to just fall through without at least giving the place a look-see, so I spent a few extra days wandering aimlessly about.
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