Mumbai without reservation

Posted by admin on December 19, 2015
CitiSights, OtherCities, OtherWorlds

Mumbai morning was quite a throwback from the glitz and bustle of Bollywood

The stately silence of the tall Victorian buildings, crumbling even as it harked back to its colonial-era elegance.

Red double-decker buses ending their morning round in front of Prince of Wales

…a museum styled in mock-Mughal, its domed structure rising among Palm brood


Bom Bom Bom Bom Bombay I had seen in matinee shows had turned to amchi Mumbai

The island seemed to be busy shedding its portly past

In names, at least, of the city’s important landmarks, spread wide and apart

….While I roam around sweating profusely in the rising heat and humidity that drive people into public areas and streets


A flabbergasted traveler in a Masala Mega-polis, with striking, contrasting images every step of the way

Skyscrapers, elegant sea-side hotels towering over hapless have-nots, hawkers selling gee-gaws, mutilated beggar,

Young drifters in thin shirts and ankle-length pants sprawled on pavements, sea-walls below raging stars and stellar

High-rollers (in Mercedes, Porsches) and middle-class strollers promenade past plush malls, restaurants along the curvy bay

Carefree and unconcerned…


The Gateway of India on the waterfront overlooks the oily waters of the Arabian Sea slapping against the stone steps

Built to welcome a foreign monarch, it now summons terror into the city from distant shores

The pretend Taj Mahal hosts royalties, rockstars, notable guests… and fanatic gunfighters out for blood and gore

Who take vengeance on the city for an unknown debt


At the Leopold Cafe, big fans bring some respite from the sultry evening and we chill (with a beer)

The clanking of the dishes seems to animate the place

While clumps of European and American tourists silently munch away and glaze

Amid well heeled/distilled Mumbaikars, while the big fat Parsi owner keeps sweating over the bill(s)


Outside the streets slowly get unclogged, but the pavements is teeming with sleepers in undergarments

A road-side peddler by day, his wares neatly locked away somewhere, takes a heroin shot and falls flat for the night

Perhaps to dream of Bollywood heroines, eye candy for his tired sight

In this overcrowded city tightly packed with skyscrapers and squatters’ settlements alike


Colaba, Marine Drive, Churchgate, Chowpatty, I drift about the strange city

Maybe to have a peek at its suffering — in small, low huts along grimy ramshackled lanes

of the world’s largest slums and red-light districts with people and prostitutes hanging around in the streets and drains


But I make do with photos of my guide books, or whizzing past in cabs shaking my head in pity

After a day-long steamer ride—back and forth from Elephanta caves and being transported into different time, space

To watch the setting sun sizzle into the raging sea from the islet of Haji Ali Shrine


After spreading an orange glow, then the violet sky reflecting the color of the waves as revelers take a dip in the brine

That break, break, break into the slippery stony steps of the Dargah of star-crossed lovers whose legends lay waste

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