After our jaunt in Aurangabad, I took a night bus to Mumbai while Mummy and Daddy headed back to Hyderabad-and then flew home to the U.S. The night bus was a sleeper-which meant that I had an entire bunk to myself! It was very spacious and when the road was smooth, so was my sleep.
I arrived in Thane-a suburb of Mumbai around 5:30 AM and took a rickshaw to Lalita’s house. Lalita is one of my favorite people-we lived on the same floor at Oxford for a term and had numerous adventures together-trips to London, late night dance parties, cooking Indian food, playing volleyball for our college team, etc. and I was more than excited to reconnect with her in Mumbai.
After freshening up at Lalita’s aunt’s place, we took the local train to Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus-previously Victoria Terminus. From the station, we walked down to the Gateway of India, eating street food and drinking sugarcane juice, browsing through the book market at Fort, visiting the Jehangir Art Gallery, and buying a couple tops at shops around Kala Ghoda along the way. While Mumbai was never a colonial capital like Kolkata or Delhi, it has a very English feel-sans the humidity.
From the Gateway, we boarded a ferry to Elephanta. I had high hopes for the Elephanta Caves (5th-8th century) but these hopes were dashed by the mob of tourists, all the kitschy souvenir shops, and most of all, the shabby maintenance of the place! The island is a fun escape from Mumbai for a couple of hours, but there are far more impressive caves elsewhere in India. Especially after seeing Ellora-the zenith of rock-cut cave architecture-in the same week, it was hard for me to appreciate Elephanta. The sculptures are also a bit disappointing because the Portuguese (who first colonized the area) used the sculptures for target practice and ended up irreversibly damaging most of the pieces. (Horrific conservation practices, right?)
After coming back from Elephanta, we ate some delicious Mumbai food, shopped along the Colaba Causeway, and met up with Kashish, another member of the Oxford gang! After catching up over ice cream at Marine Drive, we ate dinner, checked out their campus-St. Xavier’s College-and headed back to Thane.
The next couple of days were just as packed-visiting Sanjay Gandhi National Park, exploring the Buddhist pagoda at Gorai, walking around Worli, visiting Haji Ali, and eating as many Mumbai specialties as possible: Vada pav, Misli pav, Falooda, etc. It happened that Aneesh mama was in Mumbai for work so we also got to meet up with him for dinner one night! We ate at Cream Center, a classic Mumbai establishment, and got dessert across the street at Kulfi Center-which according to Aneesh mama has the best kulfi on the planet.
At the end of my couple days in Mumbai, I was exhausted but in the best way possible. Rachna (who was actually Lalita’s roommate at Oxford) loves Mumbai and talks about the city often-I assumed that she had overhyped it but came to realize that Mumbai is a special place, worth visiting not just once, but again and again. Special thanks to Lalita for hosting me and being my own personal tour guide! I hope that we’ll get to meet again over my last couple months here in India.