Letters from Bharat: Mumbia

  In Mumbia one is immediately struck by the contrasts.

Either that or the chaotic traffic, with the constant  honking of horns and a sense that lanes don’t exist as rickshaws, buses, cabs and private cars push into any available space. Or the strange, powerful smells—incense burning at shrines on the sidewalk, smog always on high alert, human waste on the sidewalk, pungent spices from food cooking in restaurants and food stands.

I took a few students along a nearby road where shops often spilled out into the streets. We saw a butcher in an open stall, cutting chicken to order on a wooden stump; florist selling garlands to offer at the shrines, vegetable stands (guava is in season), stores that have a niche in selling grains, specialty hardware, herbal remedies or repairing tires.  

And I saw a cow, decorated for the New Year, with flowers on his horns and and an embroidered cover on his back. Lots of red and yellow. People gave his handler money as he led him down the street, an auspicious omen for a properous 2016. A woman was moving down the street, washing the entrances of some shops by hand while other shops swept the trash on to sidewalk. Or piled it up outside the door.

But this is all tucked in between gated residences and multi-story office complexes, including one with a marble driveway, blocking the view of the crowded intersecting alley-ways where people live in poverty and deperation and we have been told not to walk.

Later we took a chartered bus along a modern freeway past acres of slums to a busy,very Western, mall where we watched a 3 hour movie in Hindi with no subtitles and munched on hot buttered popcorn. I went to the Apple Store and had a SIM card installed in my IPhone. It was just like we weren’t on the other side of the world, in the world’s fourth largest city where 60% of the 22 million people live in slums or hovels built on sidewalks and under over-passes along the freeways.

The Times of India reports today that 20 people died in the last 9 months when they were run over by a bus and the sale of luxury vehicle has doubled in the last five years.  

Good to know.

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