Wednesday, November 09, 2005

India - Day 3 - Part 1

We started out the day having breakfast in the private lounge of the hotel, on the same floor as our room, overlooking the ocean. It was on the 6th floor, so we had a birds eye view of the Gateway of India. It was much more pleasant looking at it from here, where we could avoid all the hawkers. The service at the hotel was wonderful and the staff were very helpful. After breakfast, we decided to venture outside of our safe cocoon once more, only this time we hired a driver from the hotel to take us on a tour of the south part of Mumbai.

Our first stop was the Mumbai University Building. It is one of a group of buildings that were constructed during the building boom of the 1860s. It was designed by a man named Gilbert Scott, who also designed the St Pancras Station in London. It is pretty impressive. My tour book describes it as as a building that "looks like a 15th century Italian masterpiece dropped into the middle of an Indian metropolis." Apparently, the clock used to play "God Save the Queen" and "Home Sweet Home" every hour.

We also visited the neighbouring High Court building and the Victoria Terminus, which is the Bombay equivalent of Grand Central Station in New York. I snapped this picture because I was amazed to see these two men pushing their cart down the middle of a busy road, oblivious to the traffic. This is an example of why people say "India is a study in contrasts."

As we continued to drive around the city a number of things surprised me. First, was the sheer magnitude of the population. There are so many people everywhere, and the majority seem to be male. Where are all the women?

Second, was the poor state of the buildings, even in the "wealthy" areas. We were told that the insides of some of them are really nice, but with the exception of a few high rises in the financial district, you sure couldn't tell that from looking at the outside.

The third thing I noticed was the proximity of the poor to the wealthy. There are many poor people living on the streets everywhere, right at the feet of the more affluent.

Fourth, was the complete chaos in the traffic. But it was sort of an organized chaos. Horns are honking constantly, there are few traffic lights, no one observes lanes and the roads criss-cross all over the place. And in the midst of this you'll find people riding motorbikes with no helmuts, a child on the front and women holding a baby and sitting side-saddle on the back, or a couple of guys pushing a cart (as in the photo above). There seems to be no rules, but after observing it for while, we realized that the rules were just different from what we were used to. For instance, the honking was not done in anger, but to notify other drivers of your position on the road. We were later told that the only rule was you have to stay within an inch of the other vehicles. Crazy!

Because of the large numbers of people, there was almost a feeling of lawlessness, yet we felt quite safe. There were police around, but not very many considering the number of people, and I wondered how they could control them anyway. We never heard any sirens or saw anyone pulled over for traffic violations.

The next place on our tour was the Crawford Market. The market is organized into several sections, each devoted to selling a different commodity. The first section we came to was the fruits and vegetables area. This part of the market was my favourite because it was really colourful, and there were many fruits that I had never seen before.

Another section of the market we saw was the place where they sell live animals. There were little cages everywhere filled with cockatoos, pigeons, and even mice and other rodents. There were also some cute little puppies. Since we had seen a lot of pretty pathetic looking dogs on the streets, I wondered who would buy a dog and where they would keep one if they did.

This dirty little barefoot boy followed us all around the market. I wondered how he could stay healthy with so many germs around him. Perhaps he has developed an immunity to them from the constant exposure.

This interesting fountain in the central courtyard of the market was designed by Rudyard Kipling's father and is part of what is considered one of the last outposts of British Bombay. It is buried beneath boxes of fruit and seems to be a popular place for a Sunday afternoon nap!

The next section of the market that we visited was the place where you could buy fresh chicken. This place gives new meaning to the word "fresh!" There were a couple of men there who would take a live chicken and slit its throat, then put in a box to bleed to death. As soon as it was dead, they would pluck it and clean out the insides, right in front of you.

The worst part was the horrible smell, and the fact that they were sitting in middle of all the chicken parts. I guess you would get used to it after a while, and cooking does destroy a lot of germs!
Around the corner from the chickens we found the meat market. This place is only for the bravest of the brave! I have never smelled anything like it in my life! I had to breathe through my mouth so I wouldn't have to smell it. It made me gag. We didn't actually see anything get slaughtered, but the leftover bones were laying all over the place, and were being eaten by stray dogs, cats and birds. We saw one guy grinding some meat, and in the midst of all this, there were men laying down having a nap. I became a vegetarian that day!

1 comment:

Sara said...

That sounds and looks just like Korea. I'm sure the smell was similar, too. Only they also butchered dogs for meat!!