Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Myriad Mumbai

Cuffe Parade, downtown of Mumbai

Call it Mumbai, call it Bombay, or Bombaim (for the Portuguese), whatever you call it, the name does not matter.

Mumbai which was basically named after the Hindu goddess ‘Mumba devi’ and ‘Aai’ meaning mother in Marathi was earlier famous as Bombay- meaning ‘good bay’, a name which a lot of people outside India still know it by. A group of seven islands was merged into one to have what today is Mumbai. Appropriated by the Portuguese, ceded to Charles II of England, and in turn leased to the East India Company, Mumbai has imbibed from a lot of influences and as it stands today it’s an amalgamation- a cocktail, a concoction. You can clearly find the mark of the Portuguese and English mainly on some of the monuments and structures still present.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria terminus), H.Q of Central Railway and UNESCO World Heritage site
I have been here for 16 months and it has been an enriching experience to say the least. It is the ‘Mumbai’ I had always heard of in television, read in the papers and heard in conversations. Even now, suddenly once in a while I seem to remind myself that I am in THE Mumbai because once you are at any place for a certain amount of time, you do get used to it and start taking it for granted. This is the place where you are very likely to spot a celebrity- an actor or a cricketer; or anybody famous for that matter because they all seem to reside here. This is the place where by the time you realize it’s raining and you take out your brolly (umbrella) or your raincoat, you would have been already drenched by the downpour and by the time you put it on, it would have already stopped raining.

Called as the’ Maximum City’ or ‘The city that never sleeps’, one of the world's top ten centers of commerce, home to important financial institutions as the Reserve Bank of India, the Stock Exchanges and the corporate headquarters of many Indian companies and numerous multinational corporations, the city that houses India's Hindi film and television industry, known as Bollywood, featuring in the Top ten in the world in Financial hubs, expensive streets, office rents, world’s largest billionaire cities and even in filthiest cities. Mumbai is a city of dreams, despair, drama and dazzle; heartbreaking poverty amongst staggering grandness. It is the bubblegum glamour of Bollywood cinema, shopping malls full of designer labels, cricket on the Oval Maidan, promenading families eating bhelpuri on the beach at Chowpatty, red double-decker buses queuing in grinding traffic. This pungent drama is played out against a Victorian townscape more reminiscent of a prosperous 19th-century English industrial city than anything you'd expect to find on the edge of the Arabian Sea. It's a city with vibrant street life, India's best nightlife, and a wealth of bazaars. Millions travel everyday by trains and buses. Nearly eighteen million people live here - wealthy industrialists, flashy film stars, internationally acclaimed artists, workers, teachers and clerks - all existing cheek by jowl in soaring skyscrapers and sprawling slums. They come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and speak over a dozen tongues adding colour, flavour and texture to the Great Mumbai Melting Pot...........


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