MAKE IT TO MUM­BAI

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL & CRUSING - Dabba wal­lah, dab­bah wal­lah dhobi ghats

has been beau­ti­fully ren­o­vated, with the ex­cep­tion of the room where the at­tack took place, which has been left un­changed, as a mu­seum. We felt a real sense of home­com­ing when we con­nected with the Chabad rabbi and his fam­ily in the cen­tre and were in­vited to the Fri­day-night ser­vice (we had to show our pass­ports and an­swer se­cu­rity ques­tions to gain ad­mis­sion). It was a world away from home, with men in shorts and T-shirts and women in trousers or saris but the am­bi­ence was the same.

A half-day city tour is a good way to see the high­lights. In­spired by St Pan­cras Sta­tion, the Vic­to­ria ter­mi­nus, built in Queen Vic­to­ria’s Golden Ju­bilee year, is an as­tound­ing mix of domes, spires, Corinthian col­umns and minarets, de­scribed by jour­nal­ist James Cameron as “Vic­to­ri­anGothic-Saracenic-Ital­ianate-Ori­en­talSt-Pan­cras-Baroque.”

At the Sassoon Docks we saw hun­dreds of women and chil­dren sit­ting on the street shelling prawns by hand. In the richly fra­grant veg­etable and spice mar­kets, they were do­ing the same with gar­lic, sell­ing it at £3 a kilo.

Mani Bha­van, Gandhi’s Bom­bay base be­tween 1917 and 1934, stands in a pretty, tree-lined street. It is now a mu­seum telling his life story.

The walls are dec­o­rated with pho­tos and in­scrip­tions of Gandhi’s philo­soph­i­cal say­ings and, when you stand on the sec­ond-floor bal­cony where Gandhi stood to preach to crowds in the streets be­low, you can al­most hear his words.

Our guide told us about life in the sub­urbs. The mid­dle class are wed­ded to tra­di­tion — the hus­bands go to work, the chil­dren to school and the women cook the lunch. Lunch boxes are col­lected at 11am by a who de­liv­ers them to their des­ti­na­tion school or office in the city by 1pm. The sys­tem runs su­per-ef­fi­ciently, with­out the use of com­put­ers, spread­sheets or any grand tech­nol­ogy, though each

has a mo­bile, so you can text if you are run­ning late with your cook­ing.

An­other Mum­bai sys­tem is run by the — a vast open-air laun­dry. In such an over­crowded city, many peo­ple do not have space or fa­cil­i­ties to do their own wash­ing and hang it out and very few have wash­ing ma­chines.

For just a few ru­pees, your sheets and clothes are washed by hand in huge stone troughs, dried in the sun, ironed and re­turned. Again, no com­put­ers — they use an age-old mark­ing sys­tem and, ap­par­ently, noth­ing has ever been re­turned to the wrong per­son.

We ended our stay in Mum­bai with a tour of Dhar­avi, the largest slum in In­dia — two thirds of a square mile that is home to 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple. Shock­ing, yet at times up­lift­ing, it deeply moved us both.

We saw the cramped liv­ing con­di­tions, the poor san­i­ta­tion, the de­press­ing filth of the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment (the res­i­dents have jobs there, in “fac­to­ries”, earn­ing £1.80 for a 12-hour day). Yet de­spite the squalor, it is a suc­cess­ful en­ter­prise, with an econ­omy said to be worth £500 mil­lion per an­num.

Our en­gag­ing 28-year-old guide had grown up there. “It was my home,” he told us. “I never knew any­thing dif­fer­ent.” Af­ter the tour he was head­ing back to the 10ft x 10ft one-room win­dow­less home that he shares with his par­ents, brother and grand­mother. I asked whether his mum would be cook­ing dinner. His face broke into a broad grin. “Yes, of course,” he said. “And that’s the best food in the world.” Louisa flew with Bri­tish Air­ways and stayed at the Taj Ma­hal Palace. Built in 1903, it has played host to roy­alty and show­biz for more than 100 years — most re­cently the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge. A three-night stay, B&B, this March, at the Taj Ma­hal Palace and Tower, Mum­bai in a deluxe sea-view room, with a half-day tour of the city and a Dhar­avi slum tour, costs £1,043 for a cou­ple.

The dab­bah wal­lah de­liv­ers lunch to your office’

Kalei­do­scope of veg­eta­bles and­abeam­ing wel­come in the cov­ered mar­ket.

Gate­way of In­dia, a cer­e­mo­nial start or end point for your visit

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