After our foray into the slums, we went back to our hotel to freshen up for a trip into the downtown for a meeting with a group of very bright, young education consultants who are partners of both Taylor’s and the American schools. There we had a glimpse of the other side of Mumbai.
In stark contrast to the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai is also home to the world’s most expensive condonium, entirely owned by one man, which cost more than $1 billion to construct. Living with his family of four, this twenty-seven story, 400,000-square foot skyscraper residence, has six underground levels of parking, three helicopter pads, a ‘health’ level, and apparently requires about 600 staff to run it.
Following the meeting, we were treated to a lovely dinner at a restaurant in the heart of the old city, hosted by our friends from Parthenon. The conversation with Indians, Americans and Canadians all sharing their perspectives of how to best help urban communities was lively and interesting. The Old Fort area looked beautiful all lit up and we were looking forward to having the following day off to finally explore the sights and sounds of Mumbai. I have to admit it was not nearly as exotic looking in the light of day.
Much of Mumbai is built on reclaimed land created when seven islands on the shore of the Arabian Sea were joined to form a single city. The waterfront is beautiful but quite undeveloped and polluted by the run-off from the masses of people and industries that empty directly into the sea.
The Gateway of India which is designed to be the first thing that visitors see when approaching by boat, was constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city.
We took a break mid day to have tea, which is about all that we could afford, at the stunning old Taj Palace Hotel while we watched the multiple vendors of everything from lemonade to balloons sell their wares along the waterfront.
After a long walk we found a public beach, but then after getting down to the water’s edge and contemplating the consequences, decided not to go for a wade after all.
We both wanted to see the house where Gandhi lived while he was in Bombay. He never owned this house, but the owner allowed him to stay and study here. It was here that Gandhi relearned the traditional arts of weaving that became part of the drive for India’s economic independence. That simple spinning wheel can still be seen on India’s flag.
Gandhi was a learned man, and practised law in South Africa before returning to India. His library is still in use by those who study the issues to which Gandhi devoted his life. To walk among these remembrances is to be humbled by the man’s gentle greatness.