Mumbai, India

April 14-15, 2018

I took a quick weekend trip up to Mumbai amidst my volunteering in Kochi.

Here’s what I did:

The Gateway of India

Elephanta Caves – ancient stone carvings in caves on an island an hour boat ride from the Gateway of India

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – formerly known as Victoria Terminus, the main railway station in Mumbai, an architecturally beautiful colonial building

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Marine drive and Chowpatty Beach

Haji Ali – an Islamic temple on the water, at high tide it is only accessible via the walk way

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Dharavi Slum – this was the only picture permitted during the tour to protect the privacy of those living in the slum. 

I did a walking tour of Dharavi Slum – the largest in India, second largest in Asia, and the third largest in the world. In India the definition of a slum is “buildings built on government owned land” and there are 2000 of these in Mumbai alone. In Dharavi slum the population is estimated anywhere from 700,000 to 1 million people at any given time. keep in mind Dharavi is 2.1 square kilometers. It is estimated that 55% of Mumbai’s population live in slums – dense population in small space, poor living conditions due to inadequate sanitation, over crowding, pollution, etc.

The unique part of Dharavi slum is that it is productive! Over $650 million USD moves in and out of the slum. There are numerous businesses run out of the slum, markets, entire factories, and those are just the things I saw! The main business of the slum is to collect the plastic bottles and other plastic materials in Mumbai, sort, wash, shred, melt, and make into new plastic materials. Most of the plastic in Mumbai moves through Dharavi slum several times entering and leaving as new products. The tour was lead by a girl who lives in a nearby slum and is working towards a Masters of Psychology at a local university. This tour was amazing and very eye opening.

After the tour of Dharavi I attempted to find Chor Bazaar, the black market of Mumbai. This ended up being very interesting, and kind of stupid. The area was pretty sketchy and once I arrived at the market I was the ooooonly woman, let alone the only white woman.

The market had all kinds of things – car parts, used phones (sniped off tourists, I suspect), food, strange goods, an antique camera stand, and, of course, those high demand black market goats

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I also came across several brothels in this area, the women sitting on the ground and standing around were working…

I definitely arrived in India with a few misconceptions some of which include:

  1. That everything was gonna be hella spicy; it’s not always spicy, but rather flavourful!
  2. That there are wall to wall people er’where; I mean, the population is dense, but there is room to breath! I haven’t been to Delhi yet though, so maybe that’ll change..
  3. That there would be poverty everywhere AKA children crying on the street corner in rags; there is definitely poverty and huge economic disparity, but the more impoverish areas seem to be full of people who are happy with what they have – children play in the streets, women do the washing with their girlfriends, people ride around on old rusty bicycles.
  4. That I wouldn’t be famous… Seriously people ask to take photos of me constantly in Northern India, did they think I was a famous person or something..? I’m not sure.

Mumbai was cool, but I’m looking forward to get back to Kochi for my last week of volunteering!

-XO Kris

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