Back to India after 5 years. Arriving in Mumbai

Five years after my Volunteering experience in India, I finally packed to see everyone again! I have dreamt that moment every day since the day I had left them all!

Waking up with the incessant noise of the horns. We feel so alive here in the Indian chaos! I was waking up to discover all about the capital of Indian Film Industry.

Mumbai has been named after a Goddess called “Mumba” and “Ai” which in Marathi (the local language of the state of Maharastra, where Mumbai is located) means “Mother”.

So here we are, on the road again to see the Dhobi ghat, the biggest open air laundry, not of India, not of Asia, but of the entire of our wide world! The place is absolutely stunning, the hospitals, hotels, and family houses give their things to get cleaned here in that very place. It is an organized mess, one color on one side, jeans on the other, bed sheets further…

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Dhobi ghat

The next stop was a Jain Temple. Jain is a religion coming from Hinduism but with more specific beliefs, for example those people are also vegetarian but do not even eat fish or chicken, Hindus sometimes do, and also they do not eat vegetables growing in the earth. People were bringing food to the temple to offer to the various representations of their Gods. Coming down some stairs, I found a mirror where visitors were supposed to put some ochre on the forehead: it dispatches some good smell which releases all the tensions in the body and mind.

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Shipla, my guide

Before a wedding, whether it is Hindu or Muslim, people put some rose water on the guests before they enter in the house, the flavor is known for removing the tensions (eg: they could have had a fight just before coming…) so that they may come in the house with peace in their mind.

My lovely guide, Shilpa, explained to me that in India, we do not use words such as “Thank you” (“Dhanyavad”) or “Please” (“Kripyia”) because, how can a word transcript how grateful we really are? In India, we show our gratefulness through actions, taking care of the others, doing things for them.

We do not either say “good morning”, “good bye”…because everything is considered “GOOD” in India! What a nice thing to say!

Above the city, we could find some vegetation on Malabar Hill, in the Hanging Gardens. The park is actually called Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens but the nickname is Hanging Gardens and is just opposite Kamala Nehru Gardens which has a view on Chowpatti Beach and the buildings of the city.

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Chowpatti Beach

Now a mythic place. Gandhiji’s place in Mumbai. The Government has made a library where you can go and read the books, but no one is allowed to take books away (they’re too precious), except maybe Government members, on special request.

If you have a look at Gandhiji’s story, you might know he was issued from a very rich family and was part of the powerful people in India. He has become a lawyer and went to London for some time. One day, he was in the train and was thrown of that train. This incident changed his entire life. He realized that in England, he was no more than an immigrant like any other Indian, and was treated as such.

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That is the moment when he started his fight for Non-violence and Justice, wearing the simplest clothes, being humble. When he was writing to Hitler, we notice that he’s extremely worried about his ego, begging him to stop the massacre. A photo of Gandhi ji with Charlie Chaplin was also there.

A very well known place in Mumbai is the Gateway of India (not to mix up with the Gate of India in Delhi): the place has a special meaning to Indians, as, during the British colonization, Indians kicked them out BUT still with respect, they were sent through the monument (big door) and all with dignity. Then that “door” was closed and nobody could enter or go out. It still refers to the Independence of India (which the country celebrates every August 15th with great pride!).

Keeping going with the visits, we went through “Fashion street”, shops with blue plastic roofs, where all sorts of clothes are hanging. These clothes are those launched by the Bollywood industry as the “new fashion” for Bombayite people. Within 2 weeks maximum, they are available in those shops ready to be bought!

The main mean of transport in Mumbai is summed up by 3 train lines called “locals”. The ticket for one month is about 150 Rs (Rupees) (about 1.5 euro)  which is nothing. Those trains circulate with the doors opened, as the air in Mumbai is very hot and humid, and people would certainly not want air conditioning as it would increase the cost of their daily tickets.

Not only could I see all those things but also Krishna Temple, where I was told the story of those 108 women kidnapped by Krishna and who he had married (but did not touch any of them) – someone came one day asking him to free those women, and the answer of the God, always represented with a flute, was: “you are here to ask me to free them, but none of them actually asked me”, which meant to say that every single request we have, according to Hinduism, should be asked directly to the God so that it may come true.

The day was not over until we had seen the Taj Mahal hotel, facing the Gateway of India, Navy Nagar (Navy area), Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vatsu Sangrahaya museum where there were statues of various Gods, a photo exhibition about Nepal and Tibet, one about the Stone Age, and Thomas Church (where Mother Teresa had her seat), the University, where someone important was speaking that day, the Afghan Church, and Victoria Station (actually called Chhatrapati Shivaji station) where some of the scenes of “Slumdog Millionnaire” have been shot, for those who have seen the film. Not only for that, but it is a well known station in Mumbai for its architecture.

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Chhatrapati Chivaji station

Busy day, but I like it when I can look back and see that I have indeed seen so many things!

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