Mayanagari. The glamourous city. The economic capital of India. So many names. Mumbai is one of the most favorite destinations in India which is visited by millions of Indians and international visitors every year.
Mumbai in itself is an attraction. But according to me, as a traveler, Mumbai doesn’t have many places as a tourist attraction. But whatever it has, is undoubtedly glamorous. Like Gateway of India, Marine Drive and if you want to see colonial architecture then Bombay High Court and Mumbai University which are the legacy of British and colonial times are one of the best examples. The Elephanta caves are also worth visiting though I did not get a chance to go over there.
Mumbai also has a number of street side markets, some of which are really popular shopping destinations (especially for women) like the Colaba Causeway and the Linking Road in Bandra.
But unfortunately, Mumbai doesn’t only mean glamourous and luxurious life of Juhu, Bandra, Marine Lines or Colaba. It also represents the miserable life condition of the lower middle-class mass of Mumbai, which can be easily seen in Dharavi or Dhobi Ghat. It also includes the worst life condition of sex workers at Kamathipura, where I got a chance to visit with a local NGO during my last week in Mumbai.
Chor Bazaar is a famous market in Mumbai. I heard from few people that you can get everything there. I went there barefooted from Mumbai Central. And because of that, unknowingly, I walked through Asia’s one of the oldest prostitution hub.
The Chor Bazaar can be seen as an attraction on google map, but its location on the google map is wrong and you will have to ask people to reach there. I found there were just some shops of third class clothes, hardware materials, old or ancient type wall clocks, and some shops of beautiful sculptures. There is nothing which makes that place a tourist attraction.
On a free Sunday, I went to the iconic theater Maratha Mandir to watch Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. It is located at a 5-minute walking distance from Mumbai Central. There are three kinds of tickets which cost Rs. 15, Rs. 20 and Rs. 25.
In Rs. 25 category there were one old couple, three young couples, and few more guys. The seats were mostly empty. The viewers in the theater are mostly those who can’t afford to buy Rs. 200 tickets. So they come here for the sake of entertainment.
Then I watched Wajir at Regel Cinema, located as Colaba Causeway; which is as per the Limca Book of Records the first air-conditioned theater in India. Perhaps because it was built a long time ago, its infrastructure is not good. Last show is indeed my favorite show. While living in Patna, I watched the last shows on every second Sunday at Mona Cinema.
Airlift was the last movie which I saw in my first stay in Mumbai. I watched that at Cinepolis, Andheri West. Airlift is an ok-ok type movie. Wazir was much better than that.
Mumbai has a good mode of transportation. BEST buses are good, which covers almost all the areas of Mumbai. The Life Line of Mumbai, local trains are very cheap, or almost free because I never saw a ticket conductor in my one month’s travel in local trains, except once at Andheri Station, and because of that I think more than half of the travelers are traveling without a ticket (a presumption).
But it lacks infrastructure, Escalators are being installed at stations but the much greater problem than that is of security. There are no security checks, no x-ray machines at most of the local stations. Another major problem of local trains is over population of Mumbai.
According to a data, the suburban railway operates 2,342 train services and carries more than 7.6 million commuters daily. But I guess the actual figure might be much more than that.
Between 07:30 to 10:30 in the morning and 06:00 to 10:00 pm in the evening, hundreds of people are just hanging out of the train. At these times, even I have had to leave some trains to get into one at Andheri station. In the first class, the presence of some air remains between the people but in second class, there is no presence at all.
Mumbai Metro which is run by Reliance is quite expensive, even though it operates only between Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar. Local trains don’t operate directly on this route. If you travel by metro from Andheri to Ghatkopar it is just 7.7 km which costs Rs 30, but if you take a return token then they will charge you Rs. 50, a saving of Rs. 10.
If you travel to Ghatkopar from Andheri via local, you will have to go to Dadar and then from Dadar, you will get a train for Ghatkopar. This is almost 22 km and yet fare is Rs. 10 only.
You must have heard – Tujhe Aksha beach ghuma du, aa chalti kya? But even if you want to go there is nothing to visit at all. Mumbai is surrounded by water on three sides but there is not even a single beach whom I can call a proper beach.
The beaches are dirty and its water is almost black. The issue of garbage is present everywhere in Mumbai except some posh areas. The first time I visited a beach, was the Marina Beach, Chennai. It is the longest natural urban beach in our country and the world’s second longest with a distance of 13 km. I found it to be much better.
Queen’s Necklace (Marine Drive) which is made famous by Bollywood movies from Deewar to Dhoom2 and counting, looks pretty good at late night and early morning. But I don’t know why policemen do not allow people to sit there probably after 01:00 am. But when they tell people to go, people just leave that place, not marine Drive. You can find couples at Marine Drive at any hour of the day.
According to me, actual Mumbai is just south Mumbai, where one can feel ki haan bhaai Mumbai aayela hai. Mumbai with glamour. But even in south Mumbai, there is an interesting thing. Gateway, Taj which is perhaps the most glamorous place in Mumbai. But just walk five minutes to the west and you can see the life condition of the fishermen in that area. You don’t need a telescope or microscope for that. The fishermen who spend weeks and months in the sea/oceans have to buy water to take a bath.
When I first went to the Howrah station I found it to be just like any other station with more platforms. There was nothing glamorous. I thought this is because of the thirty-year-long rule of the communist government, CST will be much better, glamorous. But when I saw the CST, it felt like I was at Howrah station. Both are almost similar.
But undoubtedly, Mumbai has speed. Like any other mega city. Crowded. The city of professionals. The city of rich. The city of crowd. The city of powerful. The life which a poor and lower middle-class family is living in Mumbai is a life worth leaving not living. If you have money and you are a professional, if you like rush, speed, Mumbai is your city. But if you don’t have money, you are not a professional, you love peace, you don’t want to race, you love small hill stations, then, indeed, Mumbai is not your city. Mumbai is not my city.