A Different View of Mumbai

A different view of Mumbai: A Mind Blowing Dichotomy

I was able to go to India with my MBA class to learn about India's growing economy. We spent some time touring Bangalore and visiting companies, but the best part of the trip was the free time in Mumbai.

We were staying at the Taj Hotel which was just just wonderful in every little way. The furniture, the comfort, the dining, the people -- just fantastic. The Taj arranged a tour bus for us and we all went through the city and saw on the tour. The tour guide was really direct and answered questions in a completely straight forward way. We learned about the religious groups in the area and how they meet and interact with people culturally. Because of her frankness, we were able to ask things about the caste system which was hugely interesting.

Mumbai Skyline

This view of Mumbai was really eye opening but some of us wanted to do more. The slum in Mumbai is huge and you can even see it from Google earth so, we asked for someone to take us on a tour there, which was absolutely fascinating. It was cramped and dirty but there were many surprises

In every little nook and cranny Everyone there was working, finding some way to make just a little money. Some people were sorting materials for recycling, others were making pots. People built up there entire lives there in the slum.

We even met an IT worker there. He was returning to a cinder block building where he had a tiny speck of an apartment after a day at a call centre. He would not have looked out of place in any city street - just another IT guy. But no, this guy was different, he lives in the slums of Mumbai! What a crazy world!

Mumbai Slums

So, if you think of yourself as a traveller and not a tourist, this is the place to go. Get a guide to take you though, don't try to do it on your own even though it's not dangerous but rather, really overwhelming and confusing plus you just learn more if someone takes you: Even if it is just a local kid.

For me, this different view of Mumbai was a life changing connection with my family and their rise out of poverty after the Great Depression. My family lost everything in the crash and became agricultural workers. They fought their way back to a small farm in one generation with work picking other farmer's produce. And, I remember how my grand parents never lost that sense of being always in motion-- doing something useful at all times. The people of Mumbai share that drive and you will see it in the slums. It is not a depressing trip-- it is inspiring.

Written by a friend of mine: 24/02/2010

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