March 2, 2013

India: Mumbai Sightseeing

Our second day in Mumbai, we went sightseeing.  Due to the ethnic mix of our group (American, Brazilian, Lebanese, Syrian and our Indian hosts), we gathered quite a bit of attention from locals and local police.  Often during our time there, we had a tail.  Making for some interesting we often met near the gate of our hostel (Navi Mumbai Branch: South Mumbai's YMCA accommodations).  We went to India to work, but our positions in Mumbai fell through.  While contact was made with a base in state of Goa, we took advantage of the day to explore the city.

During our whirlwind tour of the Southern part of Mumbai, we took the train to the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (train terminal).  It looked like Europe with all of the Gothic Architecture in the area.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station

Wandering the streets, we came across this Mesopotamian looking sculpture acting as a pillar for the entrance of yet another massive building.

mesopotamia statue

It looked like cathedrals in Europe were towering around us, but the people, heat and smells reminded us that we were indeed still in India.

After leaving the markets in Coloba, we visited the Gateway Of India.  The harbor was filled with fisherman's boats as well as tour boats to see Mumbai from the water.  Everything was brightly painted, keeping it Indian style.

The streets were tiny amid the towering buildings, some in better states than other.  All brimming with people.  Men, women, children, lots of street children.  Lots of beggars, so many beggars.  It kills you to see them standing there because they need food, and we could only buy so many packages of crackers.  And how long will a package of crackers last?  One to two days?  Somehow the opulence of all the building seemed sick in light of all the hungry people we came into contact with.  The man shining shoes outside of the train terminal...the woman carrying a load of sticks the size of a 6ft 200lb man...our host taking time away from his family to show us his city.  He lived on $25 a month.  Of course things are cheaper there, but the amount of poverty was/is astounding.  It isn't something that can be seen and forgotten, pushed from your mind like a dumb movie.  It reaches inside and squeezes on your lifestyle, your priorities.  

I'm quite certain that some of my friends were shocked that I would pay $10 for a piece of local art, but I love getting to have a little piece after touring Jehangir Art Gallery.  And after seeing just a tiny piece of the poverty in India, I knew I couldn't help them all.  But perhaps I could help one.  One man, selling collages with old train tickets, one man who didn't know what to say when I handed him the money.  This is not a great-job-Susan-the-hero story, more like a wow-all-you-did-was-buy-a-few-crackers-and-pay-someone-a-measly-$10-for-a-painting story.  But sometimes all I can do is impact a few.  A drop of water won't satisfy parched desert, but it wets the spot where it falls.

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