I spent almost all last week in the office. When I was not in the office I was in my hotel. On Tuesday night I went to a local restaurant for supper but all in all I have not been having a very adventurous time. With the weekend I decided it was time to explore again.
I headed into town this morning, to the heart of Mumbai proper. South Bombay is over an hour’s drive from the hotel but it is always interesting to watch the traffic go past. There are endless taxis and auto-rickshaws; scores of motorbikes whose riders may or may not wear a helmet but certainly don’t wear any Kevlar; rusting lorries, packed buses and a few private cars. The roads are all dusty and unfinished looking (and many of them really are unfinished) and pavements do not really exist, but the main roads are well maintained and very wide. But the Indian style of driving pays no regard for lanes, so the traffic actually moves quite slowly as cars constantly weave about one another.
I decided to walk around and see as many of the old colonial buildings as I could. There are loads. Spires, neo-classical columns, plinths, gargoyles and arches abound. There are high ceilings and whirring fans and marble statues. There are constant contrasts: cool interiors against a baking street; street stalls selling pirated films and software outside mega-expensive (by anyone’s standards) designer shops; imposing facades next to crumbling hovels. The Victoria Terminus railway station is a great example. It is an amazing building. The architecture is just stunning, sort of St. Pancras writ large. Across the road there are other amazing buildings: palaces to the past and cathedrals to their industry. But all around there are ramshackle stalls, and with the terminus itself, what goes on inside doesn’t really fit with the exterior anymore.