A Closer Look at Mumbai

Mumbai can bring on a lot of strong feelings in travelers—some of them good, some of them bad, some of them bewildering at best.

But one thing is for sure, there’s no other city on this earth like it. It’s home to fifteen million people, with industrialists, film stars, artists, workers and clerks all living and working cheek-to-jowl in soaring skyscrapers or sprawling slums.

They come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and speak over a dozen tongues, adding color and flavor to this great melting pot.

Mumbai’s Skyline

Also called India’s Maximum City, Mumbai is known for its extreme standards of living, fast-paced lifestyle, and the making of dreams. It’s a cosmopolitan and very westernized city that’s an important base for industry and foreign trade.

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no doubt about it, you can’t resist its pull due to its charms and oddities. Let’s take a closer look at what makes Mumbai one of a kind.

The Monsoons

The ever unpredictable weather of Mumbai is marked by torrential bursts for several minutes or downpours for days on end. It’s just like that proverbial box of chocolates—you never know what you’re gonna get. As a result, the city, especially around its poorly planned suburbs, often finds itself swimming. It’s quite common to see kids swimming around in the filthy waters, gleeful as if they were swimming in a posh hotel pool. But this is also a time when the city is cleansed and the much-needed water is stored during the rest of the year. And during the worst floods, you’ll see the camaraderie of the people as they help each other to survive, just like what they do every time this happens.

The Ever-present Delivery Service

Whether it’s a pack of cigarettes, a box of cheap pizza, a strip of painkillers or some cable wire for your computer, you name it, there’s sure to be someone who is willing to deliver the goods to your home or hotel room. Mumbai’s grocers, chemists, general stores and even book stores will service you, no matter how small the need. In this city, there is a remarkable service industry that plies the people who live here with all manner of services. People have an inbred work ethic to work very hard. Truly, there are very few services that you can think of that don’t exist here.

The Entertainment Capital

bollywood star
Katrina Kaif – Bollywood star

Home to Bollywood and an established yet burgeoning theater community, Mumbai is the undisputed entertainment capital of the country. India is mad about three things—cinema, television and cricket. At least two of these three have found a home and base in this city.  It has become part of the culture and you can see signs of Bollywood everywhere you look in the city. Compared to Hollywood, the Hindi language film industry produces nearly 200 more films a year, each almost 50 percent longer, on a fraction of a budget, with more melodies, the famous song-and-dance numbers, and more melodrama.

Other than films, what’s special here is the theater culture. There are English plays, Hindi plays, imports and experimental theater. So in a way, there’s something for everybody here.

The Party Destination

More than a trend, partying is a way of life in Mumbai. There’s never a moment when you’ll feel bored here, especially on the holidays. It seems like every day, there’s a reason to celebrate, whether it’s a wedding, a baptism, or any other church-related event. The population is so closely-knit that you’ll end up celebrating anybody’s birthday and everyone else’s festivals. You’re guaranteed to have a great time, whether you’re partying at a friend’s home or going to the most happening clubs in Mumbai.

It’s a guarantee that you’ll never be bored here. There’s always something to do, some new place to visit, some new restaurant or lounge to check out, and new people to meet.

The People

This is the largest metro in India and one of the largest in the world. Yet, unlike other cities, there is a warmth and hospitality that is an innate quality of the people here. It’s also quite admirable how people living here will rush to your aid if you need any help.

The people of Mumbai are very hardworking and truth be told, no job is too small, no business venture is too humble when it comes to earning money in this city. Even students are given opportunities to work here. In fact, you don’t even have to know how to read or write to have an honest day’s work.

Dabbawalla – lunch deliverymen

Take for instance, Mumbai’s famous dabbawalla lunch deliverymen. In this city, there are almost 5,000 mostly illiterate deliverymen who deliver 200,000 identical steel lunch canisters (dabbas) from the homes where the humble lunches are made to offices and workers around town on a daily basis.

They manage to do this punctually and without a single error in every six million deliveries. Some of these dabbawalas now give management lectures at top Indian business schools, explaining how the 125-year-old dabbawala industry continues to grow at a rate of 5 to 10 percent every year.

Or how about the roadside barbershops set up by Mumbai’s topnotch street barbers on street corners and beaches? For less than 150 rupees, men can get their ears cleaned, their feet massaged, their hair trimmed and their faces shaved in full view of the public. The most popular ones are at the Chowpatty beach, where men can get a head massage.

If ever you’ll need a lawyer in Mumbai, you don’t need to go to a fancy shmancy office to book an appointment. Only in Mumbai you’ll see throngs of lawyers hanging outside courts, fishing for clients. For as little as 200 rupees, they’ll notarize papers for you.

Truly, Mumbai is a land of opportunity for those who are willing to work hard and get creative with their business.

The Food

Home to a multitude of spices and fiery cuisine, Mumbai is the place to be for serious foodies. With at least five stalls located in every street corner, there are endless food choices here that will leave you craving for more. Though street food can be found all over India, the ones that you can get in Mumbai has a different taste, and dare I say it, better than anything else you can find in the country.

mumbai food
Delicious Pav bhaji

Definite must-tries here are Pav bhaji, the popular noodle dish Bhel Puri (the best ones can be found at beachside stalls, such as those in Chowpatty Beach, Aksa Beach or Juhu Beach), the famous Vada Pav, Pani Puri, Chicken Tikka Rolls, kebabs, samosas, and desserts such as lassi, and the best mango milkshake you’ll ever have in your entire life. Most of the spicy fare is further spiced up with green or red chutney, but this stuff can be really hot, so proceed with caution. I recommend the green chutney for your first time.

Indeed, Mumbai can be heart wrenching and exhilarating at the same time. Though it is a city of extremes, the sharp contrast of places, flavors, way of life and culture can be very inspiring. More than just a noisy metropolis, it is a city of optimistic, hardworking people, and a place where the best of times can be had.

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