Sunday, January 16, 2011

Goodbye Mumbai

Our stay in Mumbai is sadly coming to an end. We had a wonderful time visiting this vibrant city. There's so much to see, art, theater, film, museums, and intriguing districts within the city. It's such a city of contrast, from abject poverty to outrageous wealth. While here we visited the ancient caves on Elephanta Island, where the lord Shiva has been venerated with the creation of a series of caves/temples dug out of the mountain side, and containing wonderful sculptures. Unfortunately, the island is plagued with trash, bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, left behind by unthinking visitors, a crying shame.
We also managed to see a Bollywood movie, and though in Hindi, were able to follow the story line and get quite a few laughs out of it, as well as some "really cool" dance moves. If I ever leave nursing it will be as a dance extra in Bollywood movies :o)
We had a wonderful guide, Zach. A friend of a friend, who took a lot of time out of his day to guide us around the city and make sure we didn't get into too much trouble. Thanks Zach, we appreciate it.
I, like many people I imagine, am deeply troubled by the dire state of peoples lives in the city, living on the street in shacks put together with found objects, sheets of metal and plastic (and we didn't even get close to any of the vast slums of Delhi). We tried to share what we could, food, water, money, but the need is truly too great for the scant generosity of tourists to meet. I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm truly in awe of the resilience of these people, what they have to do to get through the day, and the struggle they have to provide even the most basic needs for themselves and their families.
I'm also totally impressed by how hard people work here. With very few of the conveniences we in the west enjoy, like trucks, forklifts, and earth movers, most of the labor done here is through brute strength. I wouldn't last very long at all. I've seen men on bicycle rickshaws transporting huge loads of goods, women carrying mixed cement on their heads at construction sites, and children tending fires, mixing cement, and caring for their younger siblings.
Most of all, what I take away from this stay in Mumbai is the ready smile people share. As a northern European looking male, I got my fair share of inquisitive looks and stares, but as soon as I smiled and nodded my head, everyone responded with a kind smile and the typical India head waggle.
I need to come back here. There's so much more I have to learn about this culture.
Gateway of India
Famous Leopold's Cafe
Sculpture in the caves of Elephanta Island
Wonderful decaying buildings.
A naughty little monkey.....
A seaside vendor.
Sunset at Chowpatty Beach.

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