I came to realize while staying here in India, my perception of India is very different than other natives of India. It falls more in line with more conservative parts of India, like Madurai and parts of Tamil Nadu. This probably comes from the fact that every time I come to visit India, it is always to visit my family, which lives predominately in rural areas of Tamil Nadu. I was talking to another fellow here at Madurai, and his view of India is the exact opposite. His family all lives in Bangalore and Mumbai, so his perception of India was extremely liberal. I think after traveling to various parts of India, we both have reached some sort of middle ground and have realized how vast and diverse India really is. Parts of India have really progressed and can’t be differentiated from any other major city in a drastic way while some parts have stuck to their roots. It is really amazing. The vastness of people and having such a successful democracy is something to admire, and I am really proud of that. This blog post, along with the next one, are really about how drastic of a difference those lives are.
In December, I had the chance to explore Mumbai with my family during the winter holidays. The first couple of days I spent very little time in the city, heading to a local retreat in the mountains called Matheran. Matheran was a nice break from the city
life, no sounds of auto’s blasting their horns; in fact, no automobiles at all. That’s right, Matheran forbids automobiles, so in order to get to the top of the mountain you have to either walk to the top, take the train (2 hours), or ride some nice horses. On the way up we decided to go by horseback.
The resort had many scenic views of the local area and the mountain had a cool temperature which was welcomed by me personally. This mountain is also known for the monkeys, which outnumber the people that live on this mountain (relatively less, very rural). Overall the trip was relaxing and slow, which is exactly what the doctor ordered for me.
The following couple of days I stayed at my uncle’s flat in Chembur, Mumbai, India. Chembur is a heavy residential area in Mumbai.
On the first day exploring the city, my cousins took to the local mall, and wow! I thought the Christmas/New Year’s shopping spree was isolated to the Western Hemisphere, but boy was I wrong. The mall was Black Friday madness (without the sales) and ridiculously huge. Growing outside the Greater Philadelphia Area, I would compare it to King of Prussia. Very similar style of stores with all the bells and whistles. I really didn’t buy much because the prices were also highly inflated, but I did get the opportunity to drink some coffee at my first Starbucks in India. They even had the special Christmas flavors in stock. You could walk into this Starbucks and think you were on 34th & Walnut store (interesting Fact: Starbucks is franchised by TATA throughout India).
The mall also had a TGI Friday’s, I ended up eating all the American Food I could possibly eat. Who knows how many opportunities like this would come up, am I right. We also went bowling within the mall, I felt like I was in the suburbs of Philadelphia once again.
The following day, I had the chance to explore South Bombay. A lot of Mumbai’s attractions are here, including the Taj and the Gate of India. Those attraction, though grand, really didn’t catch my eye as much as the trip there. Most of South Mumbai looks architecturally similar to parts of London, which makes complete sense. The Indian Government is trying to preserve that architecture throughout Southern Mumbai. You can really see and feel the wealth of Mumbai in this district. The Taj uses Jaguar cars to pick up their guests; the local shopping is all high end; you have access to stores like Swaraski Crystal and Tiffany’s Co. It is truly amazing. The discrepancy of wealth in India became obvious in Mumbai. When flying out of Mumbai you can see the slums surrounding the airport, but then Southern Mumbai makes you forget all about that. It feels like a gated community.
I had a really enjoyable time in Mumbai. I got to experience another side of India totally different from Madurai. It seemed very Western in many ways, but Indian at heart (that the slogan of the Mumbai International Airport).