West Mumbai, India
Day 187: Country #20.1
Mumbai, aka Bombay, is the capital of Maharashtra state, India’s largest mega city and economic center. Having seen the economic hub at and to the south of the city center, I headed west to get a feel for a less commercial area.
The three color metro lines are a little difficult to navigate at first because each uses a different track and only intersect at different stations even though they generally go north-south, but I was soon back at Girgaum Chowpatty Beach to resume where I left off. Despite Mumbai’s 20 million+ population, there were more birds than people around.
In the distance, adjacent the beach was a forest, Kamala Nehru Park, which caught my attention. I headed to the Babunath Temple located at the base of a long stairway up to the Hanging Gardens and a Jain temple on the other side.
As I hiked the peaceful trails, I observed a small slum built on the outside of the stairwell walls, and wondered why locations which are considered high value in developed countries tend to be the slums in developing ones.
Then I got a little trapped again by blocked off and false streets, but couldn’t find a bus to take me back (which I later learned was due to a bus driver strike), so I walked all the way back until I reached the Mani Bhavan museum, a small preserved house where Gandhi once lived. I asked one of the female staff about the rampant caste-like gender segregation and was happy to hear that some people care about the issue.
Next, I walked to the IT Colony neighborhood, thinking I would find Mumbai’s tech center, but aside from a couple of tall office buildings, it seemed like a regular neighborhood. So, I continued to Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque located at the end of a stone pier out to the ocean. I joined the masses in pilgrimage.
After backtracking to land, I headed to the Nehru Center, which featured a huge museum based on a book which Jawaharlal Nehru wrote while a political prisoner before becoming India’s first prime minister following Indian Independence. His breadth of historic and philosophical knowledge on display revealed the depth of his role in architecting modern India. Whereas Gandhi was the face and ideologue of Indian independence, Nehru did a lot of the work to make it a lasting reality.
The museum closed before I could finish reading everything, and I was only able to hide temporarily before they kicked me out. Having foregone food to maximize my museum time, I headed to the nearby Palladium mall to look for food. To my surprise I walked into an enclave of modernity, surrounded by developing world conditions. The contrast was quite stark as I walked about, choosing between ice cream, pizza and other luxuries.
Before ending the night, I took the metro to the Mumbai Central Ticket station to evaluate train options, but ultimately settled on a bus ticket to Ahmedabad.
When traveling long term, expect the unexpected to happen like a bus strike or getting sick. Even though the risk of each event is low, the risk is cumulative, meaning it adds up over time. For example, if you have a 1% chance of something happening and 2% of something else happening. You might have a 3% chance of something happening. Over 30 days, there’s a good chance (though not guaranteed) that something will happen.