Finally! Three and a half years after our family left India – we spent a year living in Bangalore back in 2008-09 – we returned to India and our first stop is Mumbai. Although I have visited India four times since then, this is the first time that Pam and the kids have been able to make the trip. I think it’s really important to cement those old memories of life in Bangalore, and travels in India, with another visit now that they are older. We’ll be in Bangalore next week, but for now, we finally get to see the sprawling city of Mumbai.
We visited Mumbai ever so briefly back in January 2009, but I only saw IIT and the others saw nothing but the airport. This time, we are fortunate to be able to visit two local friends – Varsha, who is a CS professor at IIT Bombay, and Kirti, who recently graduated from the Dartmouth MEM program and who was our FFP student last year.
We arrived at the Trident hotel around 2am yesterday, after a 25-hour journey from home. We slept a few hours and awoke to find out just how spectacular a location we have selected. We are located right on the edge of the bay, along the famous Marine Drive promenade, with a spectacular view across the bay. Unfortunately, the view is hampered by persistent smog, this time of year.
We spent our first day wandering the streets in the area. For a weekday, I was surprised at how few people and how little traffic there is in South Bombay! I’m used to the chaos of Bangalore streets but here they are wider, less congested, and better organized. We found a movie theater two blocks from our hotel, and decided to watch Life of Pi (in 3D) later in the afternoon. (See it! great movie.)
Today we hired a driver and went up to the northern suburbs for breakfast with the family of Varsha and Jitendre, two colleagues from my days as a grad student at Duke. They took us over to IIT Bombay, which is in the midst of a four-day arts festival and competition. We enjoyed the display of sculptures, watched contestants in the classical dance competition, and watched some of the Bollywood dance competition. fun!
We then went to visit Kirti and her family for a home-cooked lunch. Wow, what a treat! chicken curry and fried fish, out of this world.
On the way back we shopped at FabIndia, stopped to see the Haji Ali Durgah and to eat some wonderful fruit creams – that is, chopped fruits covered with a cold sweet cream sauce, a bit like half-melted ice cream.
Today was a long day – we were out for 11 hours, and we’re too stuffed to go out for dinner. We flipped on the TV to watch the England vs. India cricket match, happening live at the stadium just a few blocks down the street.
So much for the tedious chronological summary. Impressions so far? It seems a wonderful city with great people and a deep history. South Bombay is full of grand buildings from the Victorian era. The infrastructure, though clearly not keeping up with the booming population, has done so far better than Bangalore and thus the traffic moves along and things seem to work smoothly. I look forward to exploring more tomorrow.