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Adventure in a megacity….Mumbai

COSMOPOLITAN MUMBAI

Mumbai is very different compare with Delhi. Some examples, the weather….Delhi was 7°C, Mumbai was 27°C. The hardest thing about Mumbai is the drastic clash of poverty and rich. Slums, shack, homeless, kids naked and dirty…it hurts to watch. The homeless look worse than homeless in other country and there were a lot of them.

My experience in Mumbai was a lot more pleasant compare to Delhi. The people here are more helpful and friendly. The weather in Mumbai was similar to that of Singapore, except not humid. It’s more cosmopolitan city and the colonial buildings are beautiful.

DHARAVI

I could have gone to the beautiful beaches of Kerela, Goa but I think if we don’t visit Taj Mahal and Mumbai, it is like we have never seen the real India.  It was a movie and a documentary show that inspired me to choose Mumbai as our travel destination. Slum Dog Millionaire and Kevin McCloud’s documentary “Slumming It”.   It took me 2 years to persuade my family to come to India. Terrorist attack at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel happened in 2008 was not that remote. The tours were booked with Reality Tours and Travel.

Contrary to the negative stereotype of slum dwellers, people in Dharavi are poor but they are not destitute.  Men work and most children go to school but the basic sanitary needs are lacking in this one million people community. The place was like a maze with very narrow lanes.  A web of low hanging-hanging wires slightly above my head, bringing light and the danger of electrocution to inhabitants of the slum. Small barefooted children ran around and scooted away when they saw us.

In the ramshackle huts, they run their businesses, shelter from rains, raise their families. The Hindus were clearly full of aspirations for their children. Dharavi developed into a thriving, living colony with the chaotic feel of many India’s smaller cities. Motorcycles, goat, dog, rubbish dumps all vie for space on the pavements and streets. Residents added extra floors and overhanging balconies that keep the alleyways dark and cool.

Families live in rooms only 2 table-tennis tables. There was no private toilet and no running water in the house. Ratio for each public toilet was 1:1,400. The residents in Dharavi were a great example of people helping themselves in a close-knitted self-contained community.  There were no inter-communal fights there. The people live in harmony.

The recycle industry was thriving relying the labour of migrant workers who earn INR100 a day. The workers spent their day working in appalling health-endangering, life-shortening conditions but they didn’t seem to be a hint of self-pity.  Prince Charles visited in 2003 and said the district’s use of local materials, its walkable neighbourhoods, and mix of employment and housing add up to “an underlying intuitive grammar of design that is totally absent from the faceless slab blocks that are still being built around the world to ‘warehouse’ the poor”.

My family and I gained so many new experiences. We are glad that the tour had contributed to the welfare of the slum community, helping the people developing skills and give them new chance of a better life and hope, dignity, creativity to help themselves. 80% of profit will be used to fund the NGO Reality Gives.

VILLAGE TOUR

This village is not far from concrete jungle of Mumbai, yet the people here lead simple life and are contented with all what they have got.  Like what the itinerary suggested, the travel to the village is much more than just a way getting from A to B. We had lunch at a resident’s house, visited school, had hands on experience of threshing rice grains with bare hands, witnessed the process in a rice mill and laborious process of brick-making. The tour coincided with a festival market at the village and we got to experience the atmosphere with the villagers.

Our guide Krishna is also the co-founder of Reality Tours and Travel. Krishna’s personal sharing of how he and his partner founded the tour company and NGO Reality Gives. We gained more than just a travel experience.

ON A LOCAL TRAIN RIDE

I didn’t plan to take train to Surendra’s home in India but the hotel staff at Travellers Inn recommended for an experience. It was a Sunday, train shouldn’t be crowded, he said. CST was just 5 minutes walk away. By the way, we passed by CST several times but didn’t walk in. I heard that a few scenes in Slum Dog Millionaire were taken at CST.

Eight million people commute through train network every day. Train is the most efficient, affordable, pollution free, fastest means of commute. It is not the most comfortable one but it gets you from point to point with minimal delay. Unlike trains in other parts of the world, the doors of Mumbai local trains do not close, so lots of people hang out of the train. Every regular commuter has to learn a set of skills to have a safe train journey.

Our train ride from CST to Thane was just Rs8 (or equivalent SGD0.18 or USD0.15) for adult and Rs6  (or equivalent SGD0.14 or USD0.10)for child.

IN A NUTSHELL……

There were so many things to write about Mumbai. It’s the most challenging trip we had. As I’m  downloading the thoughts and emotions. I distilled a few things I have learned:

Each place has its charm and failings. Travelling in a country that is so different from ours, there is a tendency to compare. I’m glad that my husband, sons and I accept the drawbacks. Living in India for one week teaches me how to slow down. People don’t stress out in India. Everything is go-with-flow. The journey gave me time to reflect, to connect with people, to smile and to relax.

Some experience was exotic and some unpleasant but that’s what makes them unforgettable.  It’s a different kind of joy. If something is wrong, I know that it’s not going to last forever. All is temporary.

 

Cost in SGD for 5 people

DATE

DESCRIPTION

AMOUNT

Cash

 

India Visa Application

204.00

800

 

Travel Insurance MSIG  Elite Plan

61.50

24/12/12

Transport from home to airport

18.00

24/12/12

Flight from Singapore to Delhi 6E12

1210.50

24/12/12

Hotel for 3 nights at Shiv Palace New Delhi 2 rooms (Agoda)

104.44

25/12/12

Transport: Sightseeing – Delhi INR1,500

26/12/12

One day tour Delhi – Taj Mahal by bus INR3,600 for 4 adults, child FOC

26/12/12

Admission tickets to Agra Fort INR250 per ticket

26/12/12

Admission tickets to Taj Mahal INR750 per ticket

27/12/12

Flight from Delhi to Mumbai  INR24,740

563.76

27/12/12

Hotel for 4 nights at Traveller’s Inn 2 rooms USD354.40 (Agoda)

433.96

28/12/12

Tour – Slum + Sightseeing Tour INR7,500 or USD161 including vegetarian lunch

439.49

29/12/12

Tour – Village Tour INR10,000 or USD186  including lunch

30/12/12

Tour – Mumbai & visiting Surendra’s place including meals

31/12/12                     Flight from Mumbai to Singapore 6E51 INR72,490.00                1615.96
31/12/12                                Transport from airport to home

22.00

 

Total

 

 

Average

5473.61

 Average per person = SGD1,094.72

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About Pamela's Online Journal

Working mother of 3 boys, loves travelling & writing.

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