8 minutes reading time India
Brimming in a rich influx of diverse cultures, religious ethnicities, socio-economic classes, and languages, Mumbai is one of the most populous cities in the world. A city that is always on the go, the constant hustle-bustle and fast pace of Mumbai is what adds to its unique flavor, fusing in age-old customs and traditions with modern values and outlook. As a local, who has lived here my entire life, I find this chaos contrastingly beautiful and serene.
Eminent author, Salman Rushdie once quoted, “You can take the boy out of Bombay; you can’t take Bombay, out of the boy, you know”. And probably just like me, this sentiment tugs strongly in the heartstrings of every local or Mumbaikar; for us, Mumbai is a way of life. After all, the home is where the heart is, isn’t it? One of the major metropolitan cities, which is the financial capital of India, Mumbai is adorned for the million dreams it hones.
Like two ends of a spectrum, it houses the elite such as the richest man of India, Mr. Mukesh Ambani, and on the other side, it even caters to those living below the poverty line dwelling in slums such as the Dharavi. A cultural hub of an astounding realm, sometimes being a newbie in this wonderland can be intimidating. But I promise it’s just a matter of time before this enchanting city envelops you in a warm embrace with open arms, making it the fabulous Bombay for you.
REVISITING MUMBAI OVER THE YEARS: A HISTORY LESSON
Immersed in an enthralling historical timeline, the island city of Mumbai was a part of the archipelago of the Arabian Sea. Initially inhabited by tribal fishermen, the Koli clan, this area was relinquished to Portugal in 1534, who named it ‘Bohm Bia’, which meant ‘the good bay’. Following this invasion, once the British rule took over in the early 17th century, several influences of the Victorian age architecture and infrastructure came into force, and they made it the commercial capital of India.
Slowly over the years, the British developed an efficient transportation and trade system throughout the country. Even today, if you go towards downtown, popularly known as ‘South Mumbai’, you’ll see heritage buildings and English architecture, which have become major tourist spots. After India received independence in 1947, the city was named Mumbai- a name derived from a deity to symbolize a pure beginning.
BACK TO THE FUTURE: MUMBAI AS WE KNOW TODAY
There’s something in the air of this bewitching city! As soon as you set foot out here, it welcomes you wholeheartedly. From the super-friendly locals to the congested, traffic-enduring peak hours, there is an aura attached to it, which instantly sweeps you in its pulsating cadence. Like the ebb and flow of the tide washing its encircling beaches, life in Mumbai can be like these tides- while, it can be daunting at times, I guess, we really learn how to overcome challenges.
With most private houses being replaced by tall, skylines, the definition of beauty has been redefined in modern times.
FUN FACT: Just how Los Angeles is to Hollywood, Mumbai is to the Bollywood film industry. While superstars like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan live luxuriously in their mansions and greet their diehard fans every Sunday, there are struggling actors who work perseveringly to carve a niche for themselves. A glittering extravaganza of the starry elite, there are more than 900 films released every year, which gets an abundance of love and adulation.
An open-minded cosmopolitan city, Mumbai is a city that brings an Islamic woman to celebrate her Hindu best friend’s wedding festivities or where workplace barriers are blurring in the 21st century. And, while we all can boast of knowing many languages, English, Marathi, and Hindi are widely spoken throughout.
While I can go on for hours about my love for this wonderful city, I can proudly vouch for the fact that Mumbai is an experience, not just another settlement. You have probably heard the saying that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”, and so it is with us. With a buzzing culinary and night scene, people here enjoy making merry and finding reasons to rejoice in life. So, when one is not working, you’ll mostly find them regaling and dancing their hearts out to the latest pop numbers at the various famous nightspots.
Somewhat unfathomable for tourists, the street food constitutes of the most eminent Mumbai delicacies. From the spicy, yet mouth-watering Pav bhaji and missal curry which melts in your mouth almost instantly, the Vada Paav, Dosas, Pani Puri, and the revered Bombay sandwich, will truly change your idea of lip-smacking food forever; a soul-satiating nirvana moment for all you food lovers!
If we’ve not tempted you enough to come to visit this gorgeous heartland, then the Mumbai monsoons will surely do it. A much-needed respite from the scorching summers, the rains change the entire landscape completely. Each raindrop brings immense hope and shared love for this weather. All you need is some hot cutting chai and a long drive to swivel into ethereal contentment.
THINGS TO DO IN MUMBAI: THE MAJOR TOURIST HUBS
Soaking in the enlightening integrity of the city, how can we forget the major touristic spots that give this city its varied shades. Even as a resident, I’m amazed at how I learn something new about my city every day. Whilst you may be visiting this city as a tourist, it is recommended that you experience some of the cherished festivals out here. The vibe then is incredibly surreal- people from all walks of life come together to enjoy, and there is an outpouring of mirth and laughter.
While the Holi festival day colors the city with renewed enthusiasm, vigor, and positivity, Diwali truly sparkles and lights up our lives. Lastly, the spirit of piety and empathy are conveyed beautifully by the holy festivals of Ganesh Chaturthi, Ramadan, and Christmas. With an enlivened spirit of gleeful celebrations in the air, this city completely lures you in.
Whilst on holiday, like any other explorer, do you wonder where to start your excursions from. Well, fret not, for I’ve prepared a list for you. While an economical and time-saving way to travel across the city is the famous Mumbai local trains, the kali-peeli cabs, and auto-rickshaws, you can also rent a car or uber with ease.
Some of the top tourist destinations are as follows:
- Gateway of India: A tall-standing, monumental structure in South Bombay, overlooking the sea, its arches and dome make for a majestic sight. After you seep in the magnanimity of it all in, you can enjoy a high-tea or a meal at the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel which embodies class and elegance. You can also rent a yacht and enjoy a day out sailing.
- Kala Godha: Deemed as the arts and culture hub, this entire area abounds with art galleries, dainty cafeterias, and high-ended as well as sustainable shopping. The Kala Godha Arts Festival which happens in February annually showcases the eclectic, creative talent in music and fine arts that the country possesses.
- Mount Merry Church: Perched in a quaint, winding street of the Bandra suburb, the Mount Merry Church mystically encapsulates the significance of Christianity amidst the thousand candles lit in the memory of the Virgin Mary. Around Christmas, this place brightens up wondrously.
- Rajabhai Clock Tower: Having stood the test of time, this architectural delight pays ode to the Venetian and Gothic styles of design. An iconic landmark doesn’t it remind you of Big Ben in London, UK.
- The Sea-Facing Promenades: Be it sitting on Marine Drive overlooking the iconic Queen’s necklace formed by streetlights or the expansive Nariman Point, simply sitting by the sea, and trying to feel the breeze sweeping against your skin can help you find some calm in this entangled chaos. Just enjoy a relaxing evening lounging there, and give yourself a moment to gather your thoughts or ponder over the horizon beyond in quiet rapture.
- The Beach: Stretching from the North to South, you can enjoy the length of Juhu Beach to Chowpatty, and relish some cooling coconut water or treats from the local vendors. Often entrenched in a throng of people, these are major outings for all classes of people, therefore binding them in synchronicity.
- Food, Drinks, and Shopping: With a buzzing social scene, there are thousands of restaurants, pubs, and rooftop bars, where people can treat themselves to various cuisines, happy hours, and parties. As for shopping, Mumbai also takes pride in being the fashion capital of the country. While you may have high-end malls and boutiques such as the Palladium selling exquisite items, you can also entice yourself with some street shopping in areas such as Colaba causeway. To give you a pro tip, I hope your negotiation skills are excellent because you will need that while bargaining, which is very popular in street fashion.
With an accelerated and limitless pace of activities occurring in this whirlwind epicenter, life goes by swiftly and doesn’t seem to stop. It never halts to a standstill or rests, but it’s this continuous motion, which unravels its charming magic. To sign off, all I want to croon to is a regaling Bollywood classic called “Yeh hai Mumbai Meri Jaan” (This is Mumbai for you folks, my first love).