Mumbai is manic. There is never a dull moment. From walking the hectic streets to tucking into street food at a vendor’s stall there is always something to do or see at all hours of the day. One evening we wanted a chai tea. It did not matter that it was late at night. We simply strolled out of the hostel and found a man on a bike who cycles around serving chai. We stood next to the road sipping the sweet beverage. It was not only us who had the idea. Cars pulled up, tuck tucks stopped following their passengers’ requests and passerby bought chai and cigarettes from the bike man.
With the chaos and atmosphere that comes with Mumbai there is also the chance to take a step back, walk into a quiet temple or watch a peaceful sunset.
On my last evening in Mumbai I was shown a Hindi temple. We removed our shoes before entering and chimed a bell in front of the altar. Approaching the priest, we were given holy water to drink and sweets to eat. I was marked with a bindi on my forehead. One can stand quietly inside while the honking of cars and tuck tucks outside continue as normal.
Following this, we walked for a while along the constantly busy streets. Crossing roads still feels extremely hazardous. You have to walk in front of approaching vehicles, which don’t stop. They might swerve if you are lucky but in the final analysis it’s down to you to get across in the nick of time.
We arrived at the bandstand in Bandra to enjoy the sunset. The area itself is high-end with fancy hotels and Bollywood celebrities’ giant homes. People crowded outside stars’ mansions hoping to get a glimpse of their heroes.
We found a spot amongst the crowd on the rocks looking out over the sea and the Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge.
The bright red sun clouded by pollution is very distinct. As it sunk in the sky, a security guard came around blowing a piercing whistle and gesticulating wildly in order to get everyone to move. The sea was now coming in.
A middle aged lady wearing a pink and green sahri was making a fire and selling corn on the cob. She roasted the corn on hot coals before squeezing lemon on it and sprinkling spices.
Biting into the corn, my taste buds were greeted with the flavours of zesty lemon, mild chilli and salt. As the sun set, darkness was approaching. I could not stop staring at the orange sparks flying off the hot stove as the lady cooked the corn. She prodded the coal making the black chunks become orange.
I had to drag myself away and return to the hostel to collect my belongings. I did not anticipate staying a week in Mumbai. To be honest, I had no plan as such. I thought I would stay a few days. Turns out I fell in love with Mumbai – the kind culture, friendly people and exciting atmosphere. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to India.
From talking to random locals on the trains, in coffee shops and out and about; to hanging out with the fabulous people in Basti hostel, I had a wonderful stay in Mumbai. I hope that one day I will be able to return.