Mumbai Revisited

I’m back from another trip to India As usual, it was eye-opening and quite amazing really. India is such a crazy country – there are countless words to describe it, many of which would contradict the others. For example, it’s probably one of the most beautiful countries, yet one of the dirtiest and polluted. People are extremely friendly, yet they can appear to have no consideration or respect for others. It’s a calm country, yet stressful – and the contradictions go on and on.

One thing is for sure though – the country is so vast and varied, and steeped in history and culture, that you could never get bored there.

First stop was Mumbai – the world’s most populous city.  I’ve been here twice before, and it feels like a second home really I only spent a few days in this bustling city – I spent the rest of the time in Delhi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Simla, Chandigarh, Amritsar, and Jaipur, but more on those later.

On the high street near where we were staying, this little girl was doing some kind of trick.

She then got on a tightrope. First she simply walked along it with something on her head.

Then she walked with one of these

Quite impressive really.

At the end she went around with a tray for money, and of course I gave her some. I gave 100 rupees which is around £1.20 (over $2) – not much to us in the West, but I heard someone say ‘she gave 100 rupees!’ and the girl looked amazed. It still astounds me how cheap things are in India, and how even 5 rupees can buy these people something. In London £1.20 wouldn’t even buy you a measley sandwich, yet over in India, 2 people could eat a large, delicious meal for the same amount.

Some kids saw me taking pictures and as I was leaving they tapped me on the back. I assumed they’d ask for some money but instead gestured that they wanted a picture. It hasn’t come out too well but here it is:

I showed the preview to them and they were so delighted. It made me wonder if they’d ever had their picture taken before. Probably not.

This boy wasn’t too happy though – I shot this through the car window.

I’ve previously mentioned the McDonald’s in Mumbai, well now there’s a KFC! It made me laugh for some reason.

I can’t imagine why anyone would go to KFC when India has amazing food of its own. Honestly, Indian food over there is amazingly delicious. I didn’t take as many pictures of food as I normally would, but I have to mention two things.

*Major drooling* (no, it wasn’t all for me!).

The Pani Puri Centre in Elco is another place that anyone going to Mumbai has to experience. The food is heavenly.. if anyone knows any places in London that serve good papdi chaat and dahi puri, please let me know!

Not so good food:

Chat Masala popcorn :/

I spent Diwali (the Hindu New Year and festival of light) in Mumbai. Candles were left outside doorsteps..

.. as well as people decorating their doorsteps with coloured powder.

There’s a distinct atmosphere of celebration during this time with fireworks going off and streets lit up. What amazed me was how people (mostly children) set off fireworks on the street.

and even their balconies

These people have no fear at all! A few times I was actually scared of walking in the street near people who were lighting fireworks. They barely put any distance between themselves and the explosives.

The sign here amused me. The thought of celebrating a pollution free Diwali is laughable – the amount of smoke filling the air was incredible! Even inside the car it could be felt.

36 drivers going to jail.. this also amused me. Only 36? In a country where people drive like maniacs (really, it’s a rollercoaster-type affair but more on that later), this number seems quite low!

We went to Nariman Point which is one of the main areas where people congregate

Again, the air was thick with smoke, and quite suffocating. I read the next day in the paper about the pollution and casualties caused by all this.

A fire had started on the banks of the river as well.

Despite pollution and safety issues, there’s an atmosphere during this time which is quite remarkable. Everyone seems happy and both the rich and poor here really know how to celebrate. I was told that the Indian authorities are doing more to combat the problems caused by fireworks, for example they’ve imposed fines for people setting of fireworks after 10pm. It was around midnight when we were there, but I read that hundreds of people were indeed fined.

One thing that surprised me was how the news headlines on Diwali were dominated with one story – which Bollywood film would make the most at the box office? Om Shanti Om, or Saawariya? It really highlighted just how prevalent Bollywood is in the lives of Indians! Incidentally, we watched Om Shanti Om at the cinema – which was luxurious – the cinema that is. It had reclining seats, pillows and blankets. I didn’t know until then that before the movie starts, the national anthem of India is played, and everyone must stand for this. Failure to do so results in a fine

A ‘hijra‘.

I came across a few of these and all of them were really friendly and sociable – and quite happy to have their picture taken.

Some night pictures, also taken near where I was staying.

We drove down Grant Road which is a famous red light area in Mumbai. The following are all shot through the car window as it’s virtually impossible to walk down this street without being hassled, and more so with a camera!

These girls are really savvy – they seem to be able to spot a camera from a mile away. Not a single one was happy to be photographed, as you can see, and who can blame them? Who knows how many have been forced into the ‘profession’?

I barely got a chance to sneak a good picture in either. You don’t want to piss one of these girls off.. some, I’m convinced, aren’t actually women!

The last time I was in this area I remember being heckled even when I didn’t have a camera out. That was also during the day, and I was in a car. I also remember seeing children outside too. I’m not sure whether the situation has changed since then, or whether it was just because it was late in the night, but I didn’t see a single child out. There were many clearly young girls though.

I probably could have benefited from using a faster lens with all the night shots. I don’t like changing lenses often though, so I stuck to my 18-55mm for most of the time.

I walked through a shanty town as well, and took some sweets and a bit of money for all the children. Generally I tried to carry some money on me simply to give to beggars and needy children.

They seemed really happy and excited to see me with a camera, and within a few minutes there was a whole crowd of them.

They were really sweet, and some started inviting me into their homes and offering me food!

Some wanted me to take pictures of their children

They didn’t want me to go >__< The people here seemed so happy and content. People in developed countries are quick to assume these people are deprived and sad – in reality, yes, they’re deprived in the sense that they don’t have many clothes and not as much food as we might have, but they’re probably happier than those of us with all the money in the world. They have nothing to lose and I believe happiness is relative in any case. It was uplifting taking pictures of these people, not depressing.

I like these street barber shops, which are littered all over India it seems. As I took this pic, the barber and his customer both posed, which I thought was cute!

Next door was a butchers.

There were some kids playing cricket nearby, and when they saw my camera they started asking me to take pictures of them. I told them I’d take a picture of all of them instead.

It’s crazy how people here generally love having their picture taken. There’s two kinds of street photography – the kind where you’re subtle and the subject doesn’t know they’re having their picture taken, and the kind where it’s obvious they’re being photographed. Try doing the latter in London close-up and you’ll probably end up stabbed sooner or later.

These guys weren’t happy when I took a picture of them playing a card game.

I’m not quite sure why but I was told it was because it could be construed as gambling.

Even people living and working on the street have a place for religion.

They’re often highly skilled. Villagers for example can spend most of their time making intricate garments. They’ll sell these for peanuts to people who then sell them in shops for 100 times more. More on this in the next blog though when I get to Janpath Market in Delhi.

Mumbai is also home to Bollywood and all the glitz and glamour that India has to offer. Although I didn’t take many pictures this time that depict this, we went along one night to watch a rehearsal of a show by Shiamak Davar , and his dance school, called ‘I Believe’ which was due to start after we left.

This is him

I love Mumbai. It’s the most diverse place in India that I’ve visited, with the poor often living on the same streets as the rich, and despite the poverty, there’s a real feel for glitz as well as culture.

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