I make the following observations during the taxi ride from Mumbai Airport to my hotel: A group of men stood in the back of a small van trying to remain upright and in the vehicle, a girl on the back of a motorbike talking on her phone in the thick of the traffic with horns blaring non-stop – needless to say she isn’t wearing a helmet, a take-away advertising the softest kebabs in the world, a shop called Selfie Hairstyle, trees full of lights from the recent Diwali festival. I see a man stood by the central barrier taking a photo of his family standing on the other side of the road as traffic hurtles between them. As we near the hotel the driver stops twice in as many minutes to ask directions. Even I can tell where to go the second time but he insists on quizzing a couple of pedestrians before bringing me to my destination.
If the traffic is bad when you're in a car, it is even more terrifying if you're a pedestrian. After checking in to my hotel I go in search of dinner. I come to a busy junction and make a dash when a small gap appears. Other pedestrians stroll across as vehicles tear back and forth.
After a filling and reasonably priced vegetable thali I return to the hotel. This means crossing the road again. This time I find a set of traffic lights and cross on the green but that doesn't stop a moped from screeching round the corner towards me.
November 6, Mumbai
I continue to be alarmed and dismayed by what people get up to on the roads and taxi drivers’ poor geography. On the way to the Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum the driver repeatedly gets out to ask directions while brandishing my guidebook. On one such stop I see a man sat on the back of a motorbike carrying a car windscreen.
The museum is a fascinating collection of artefacts in an ornately decorated building. The park it’s located in is less attractive with a collection of zoo animals in woefully decrepit conditions. It is particularly sad to see the elephants rocking back and forth at the back of their bare concrete enclosure.
November 7, Mumbai
I visit Haji Ali – a mosque at the end of a long promenade stretching out to sea. It’s a colourful and busy place with a stream of visitors and worshippers going to and fro. It is a wonderful location to watch the sunset.
The taxi driver who takes me back ploughs through the traffic. At one junction there is a constant flow of traffic three vehicles thick. There are no gaps yet somehow the driver manages to bulldoze his way through, horns honking in all directions until we get over to the left lane.
November 8, Mumbai
In the morning I explore the caves and stunning views of Elephanta Island, about an hour’s ferry ride away from the Gateway of India, Mumbai’s port area. On the way back we have to board one ferry and then cross over onto another one moored alongside it. As a girl ahead of me steps between the two boats her cardigan slips from her waist and falls in the water. A crewman puts his hands on either side and lowers himself down, grabs the garment with his feet and returns it to its owner.
|Monkey on Elephanta Island|
|With Ashok on the train to Pune|