Mumbai 2008

My impressions of Mumbai – April 08


Why Mumbai, please see CNBC video:


The SIA plane touched down the tarmac at Mumbai airport: Chhatrapati Shivaji , after about 5 ½ hours of flying time from Singapore. The weather was 33 degrees C. After collecting my luggage, we were supposed to have our luggage screened or X-rayed for fear of terrorism. To my pleasant surprise, they waved me on without subjecting my luggage to the X-ray. I must have looked innocent and the fact I am a Chinese.

The Nextview organiser sent their representative guy to meet us upon arrival. However, the traffic was very slow and it took us 2 ½ hours to drive from the airport to Taj President hotel, near to The Arcade where ATIC was to be held the next day.

During the drive to the city, I was fascinated by the kinds of taxis that they have: air-conditioned , normal and also mini cabs which are really scooters with a hood over two seats! I would hate to be in one as the way they drive is mad to my mind. The only consolation is they seem to navigate quite expertly, weaving in and out of lanes (unmarked)!

Suddenly, my eye caught a signboard that read: A.N.A Development; I thought to myself, my fame must have preceded my arrival! Pity I forgot to bring along my camera and I never seem to be able to handle a handphone camera well.

When traffic came to a halt, one little boy with a stump in his right arm poked at the car window to show he was an invalid of sorts. Although I was warned not to take notice of such misery, I had to give him something. I asked the driver to wind down the glass and gave the boy a Singapore note which is nothing to me but will buy him enough food for the day, at least.

Soon, more urchins came rushing to sell magazines of high fashion: again, I felt sorry that such little boys should be working so hard and gave them the same notes but not taking the magazines. I was told these little boys were under the control of some kind of ‘mafia’ to earn money for them. Irrespective of such stories, I hope they could keep what little given them since the magazine stock remain intact, to my mind.

There were goats here and there on the sidewalks, resting or sleeping from the humid heat. Also dogs sleeping under stationary vehicles. I was also fascinated by one lorry with a sign : It is ok to Horn! With that kind of traffic, one has to horn a lot to avoid accidents. How tolerant they are to take kindly to horns, I thought, as in Singapore, it is hardly the done thing as people get very annoyed if you horn at them.

As we approached the city, traffic picked up and the driver who also acted as tourist guide told us that there are the super rich and the super poor in the city with the vast majority as middle class. I pictured to myself how the chart would look: a bellcurve of the middle class with the 2nd and 3rd standard deviations of the super rich and super poor at the fringes of the bellcurve.

At the ATIC traders convention, I also met a pretty young girl with one eye opaque possibly blind in one eye. Whenever I was in the Ladies, she would smile and greet me during the weekend convention at The Arcade. I was shocked one afternoon to catch her practically bathing herself by washing her face all over with hand soap over the sink! She must find the running water heavenly waterfall at the Ladies to clean herself before going home at night. On the last day, I decided to give her a parcel of whatever toiletries and whatnots I did not need with some Singapore notes which I hope will help her.

She was so appreciative that she blessed me and hugged and kissed me three times on the cheek. I was touched and asked her whether she lived in the city. She answered instead in poor English that she was ‘not in service at the toilet.’ She was pretty, although with one good eye, and to me, in her condition, she would never be able to find a husband without a good dowry! She just hung around waiting to be picked up, it dawned on me.

How sad it is to see young boys and girls in such pathetic situations, being abused or forced to live off the streets, so to speak.

How could such be happening in this time and modern age?

I then realize I need to tell this brief encounter so that the young in Singapore should realize how lucky they are.

It would be instructive if schools would bring their pupils on study trips to Mumbai to see for themselves how lucky they are .

To me seeing luxury and poverty side by side in the same city is an humbling experience for I have not been in such environment, ever before!

The only souvenirs I took home are a couple of silver tumblers and a silver jewelry box to remind me of the super Maharajah lifestyle that is still the stamp in Mumbai, nevertheless.

Perhaps, one day the social conditions will be reconciled to a mean to bring Mumbai up to world class.

Ana aka IDkit


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