“The locals still call it ‘Bombay’. Mumbai may be politically correct but it is the politicians’ name,” says our guide Pankaja.
As new kids in town with only a couple of days to explore a city of possibly 20 million people (nobody knows for sure), it helped to have a car, driver and guide organised, to smoothly transfer us through the traffic jams to a few of the main attractions. Thanks, Abercrombie and Kent!
Of course to really see Mumbai we needed to leave the air conditioned car and proceed on foot.
And we expect the unexpected in India…
The Kotachi Wadi area is officially UNESCO World Heritage protected. (PS.So we were told, but note Teresa Maria’s comment below.) Unofficially its nineteenth century houses are threatened with demolition to make way for apartment developments.
As we were led around the maze of little streets, Pankaja needed to ask directions of a gentleman emerging from a temple. ‘I live in a house like that,’ he told us. ‘Would you like to see inside it?’ Yes, we certainly would.
He led us up a narrow flight of stairs to a small room with linoleum floor covering, a bed, a flyswatter and a huge flat screen tv with a Bollywood movie blaring out. His wife sat on the floor scraping out a coconut. His son and brother emerged from a back room to greet the exotic visitors.
‘I work in catering, bringing food to a bank,’ he told us.
Pots were simmering on the little stove on the balcony behind the living room.
‘Will you eat with us? Something to drink?’
So we were served potatoes and dahl, with a sweet cool drink made from beans. And we posed for photos on the mobile phone.
Thank you, very much, sir, for the extraordinary hospitality to strangers.
We found plenty to interest us just walking in the streets.
The writer was the guest of Abercrombie & Kent, who specialise in tailor made journeys throughout India. A&K’s four day ‘Mumbai Extension’ includes three nights at the Taj Mahal Palace with private transport, guiding and breakfast daily. Prices from $1,495 per person twin share.
For more information visit abercrombiekent.com.au or call 1300 590 317.