Mumbai

It’s 3:45am on Saturday 29 April, and yet again I’m killing time by messing around online — this time at Mumbai International Airport.

Getting out of Goa was only slightly more complicated than I expected — after assuring me that they took credit cards yesterday, Camilson’s told me today that the machine had been “broken” (i.e. they probably stopped paying the fees) for a month, so I had to go and borrow money off my credit card to pay the bill. Grrr!

My brief sojourn in Mumbai has been very interesting, however. After landing at the domestic airport, I took a taxi (who tried to rip me off) to the international airport and dropped my rucksack off at the left luggae facility. Then I took a pre-paid taxi to the Gateway of India in Colaba, a triumphal arch built in 1924. It wasn’t illuminated, though, so it wasn’t especially interesting.

What was interesting, although also disturbing, was the extreme poverty that I saw from the taxi on the way into town. Every time we stopped in traffic near the airport, young women with infants would appear at my open window almost instantly, begging for money. I couldn’t understand exactly what they were saying, but it was very distressing nonetheless, involving food for the babies. I didn’t have any change so I gave the first woman half a packet of butter biscuits, although she didn’t seem very happy with that. I didn’t give anything to the others.

A little later we drove past mile upon mile of roadside shanty towns, with people living in tiny shacks made of tin and wood and concrete (sometimes with less than four walls, so that their lives were exposed to the passing World).

When we finally arrived at the Gateway to India, I had a quick look around and then immediately went in search of Leopold’s (a tourist hang-out recommended by Johnny, the restaurant manager at Camilson’s. I had paneer tikka masala with garlic nan and rice, and it was good.

Then I went upstairs to the bar, and had another beer before decamping to Indigo (chi-chi wine bar around the corner) for a dirty vodka martini. After Indigo I jumped into a cab to the airport, checked in, and here I am!

By the way, if, like me, you’ve long been puzzled as to why Bombay became Mumbai, here’s the Rough Guide’s explanation:

“In 1996 Bombay was renamed Mumbai, as part of a wider policy instigated by the ultra-right-wing Shiv Sena Municipality to replace names of any places, roads and features in the city that had connotations of the Raj. Mumbai is the Marathi title of the local deity, the mouthless “Maha-amba-aiee” (Mumba for short), who is believed to have started her life as an obscure aboriginal earth goddess.”

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