Why is Mumbai Street Food so stupid
Mumbai - city of contrasts
Once again I spent a night on the train and came in relatively well rested early in the morning Mumbai at. During the taxi ride to my quarters, I already got a first impression of this city, which was just awakening from sleep, and its contrasts. Mumbai, formerly Bombay is a huge conglomerate of sprawling Slums, countless Skyscrapers, Temples and remnants of the old BritishColonial past. When I arrived at the hotel, I realized that I wasn't as well organized as I thought. I had only reserved the quarters for the next day. The hotel was also fully booked. The people from the Elphinstone Hotel were very helpful and immediately got me a place to stay for a day. This was in the immediate vicinity of the historic Victoria Station.
Crowds at the train station
I knew by now that India is not particularly quiet and rather crowded. But Mumbai overshadowed everything previously experienced in terms of noise and crowds. At the train station I looked for the special tourist counter to book a ticket for the onward journey to Jodhpur. At exactly this point a rather long train arrived at the station and a few seconds later the previously empty platform and lobby were flooded with crowds.
In front of the station I experienced a traffic chaos like I had never seen before. In the roundabout, thousands of people and vehicles pushed across the square at the same time. Traffic rules and the traffic light system seemed to be overridden. I even saw the cars push pedestrians aside at walking pace. In addition, one has to imagine the synphony of thousands of car and rickshaw horns sounding continuously at the same time. The smell of the heavy, unfiltered exhaust gases rounded off the scenario.
Mumbai is upgrading
Actually inconceivable that there is no subway in a city with almost 30 million inhabitants (including the surrounding area). Since 2014 there has been a line with a mere 11.4 km in length. We are working at full speed on the full expansion. By 2021, instead of the previous 12, there will be a total of 58 stations to defuse the infernal traffic chaos. The slogan “Mumbai is upgrading” is being advertised for the new subway everywhere. The construction work with its many construction sites is currently exacerbating the traffic problem in the city.
I had a nice experience exploring the area. Just as I was unpacking my camera, Marlies spoke to me. The Dutch woman runs a co-working space just around the corner. She asked me if I would like to look at it and have an espresso. The prospect of espresso alone would have been enough to lure me everywhere. During the conversation in the extremely beautiful premises, she told me her story. She had been coming to Mumbai for decades because she was so fascinated by the city. One day she had the brilliant idea of founding a startup here.
You have to know that Mumbai is now one of the most expensive cities in the world when it comes to land prices. Numerous well-trained specialists and the self-employed have come to the city, attracted by the good infrastructure and lucrative job offers. Many of them are looking for affordable office space, which is now hard to find. Marlies therefore rented a floor in a prime downtown location. She equipped the premises with modern office furniture, a good internet connection and wifi. They integrated office, conference and leisure rooms including a cafe and the co-working space was ready.
Today you can rent a flat rate there relatively cheaply and use the premises in a pleasant atmosphere. I myself then took out my notebook to work a little on my blog. Before I left, Marlies gave me a few sightseeing tips on the way.
I left the hustle and bustle of Victoria Station behind and headed south, into the Colaba district.
There you can find historical buildings worth seeing like that Prince of Wales Museum. Mainly artifacts from India's history, from the Stone Age to the present, are exhibited here. If you want to visit the entire building including the special exhibitions, you should plan about 2 ½ hours. Optionally, you can borrow an audio guide that even guides you through the museum in German.
Gate of India and Taj Mahal Palace
When you have worked your way past the food stalls and small shops in the city center, you come to the Gate of India. This great triumphal arch at the harbor was erected on the occasion of the first visit of an English king to India. Opposite is one of the most exclusive hotels in the world, the Taj Mahal Palace. It was commissioned by the major Indian industrialist Jamshedji Tata erected in 1903 out of defiance. Since the English elite of that time, as a non-whites, denied him access to the best house on the square, he built his own hotel. At the time, it eclipsed all other luxury hotels in terms of furnishings and pomp. A subtle way of taking revenge, given the change.
Just let yourself drift
I like to let myself drift on my city tours and just soak up the impressions in me. I crossed a slum, just 100 meters from the luxury hotel. As already mentioned, the contrasts in this city are enormous and a completely different scenario can be found around every corner. Then I came to a neighborhood with wide avenues and high walls. There were fewer and fewer civilians, but more and more military personnel and students in uniforms. Finally, I stood in front of a monument in the form of a huge gun tank. I was unexpectedly in the Mumbai Military District came. After another 200 m, a military post blocked my way. At first I wanted to play stupid: "Where is the beach here"? But no way, the soldier was not deterred. End of the walk. I had to hike back the same way at least 2 km. That's how it is when you let yourself drift.
In the evening I ate at the countless street stalls in the city. The variety of the dishes offered there struck me at first. The prices are incredibly cheap for our standards. There were almost only locals to be seen, but finally I took heart, overcame my shyness, joined the other guests and pointed out the specialty I wanted. I discovered a couple of excellent dishes that I should come across often on my further trip to India. The best food was served where most of the people were waiting.
I found the most delicious Pani Puri. A golf ball-sized, crispy ball of dough that is hollow on the inside and filled with chickpea curry and, if desired, with a sweet or hot sauce. You get the whole thing individually on a small cardboard or aluminum plate. As soon as I had eaten one, the next was already on the plate. Two minutes and what felt like 10 balls of dough later I was done. I tried two other specialties and drank a refreshing one Lassie, and was full. All the fun initially cost me a bit of effort and ultimately the equivalent of 2 euros.
Broadening your horizons
In the evening in my accommodation, I noticed how close together rich and poor are in this city of contrasts. The hotel was just being remodeled. The workers who were employed there during the day found their sleeping quarters for the night under the eaves on mats on the dusty floor. 2 meters further was my luxurious double room with a fluffy quilt, air conditioning, private bathroom, minibar and satellite TV. It is scenarios like these that I have seen countless times in India that make me a little humble and grateful again.
How lucky I was to be born in the heart of Europe. In a secure environment, with good training opportunities, a functioning social and health system, an excellent infrastructure and functioning political systems. Often small irregularities throw us off track and we complain about trivialities. In India, on the other hand, I have met happy people who have to live under circumstances that are simply unimaginable to us. For me, traveling is not just a vacation, but a kind of personality development and broadening of horizons. I can only recommend it to everyone.
The next day I followed up on a tip from Marlies and visited the Baganga tank in the Malabar Hills. A hilly cap at the foot of which the Mumbai Drive begins. This large water basin was originally built in the 12th century and expanded in the 18th century. Since then, the pool and the associated temple have been built again and again. Many artists were inspired by the picturesque scenery. Today you can find some skyscrapers in the area that frame this picturesque place. The Indians love stories and of course there is a tradition in this place too:
According to legend, the god Rama stopped there in search of his abducted wife Sita. He was tired and thirsty and asked his brother Lakshmana if he could bring him some water. Lakshmana then shot an arrow into the ground and a jet of water came out. According to legend, he created a tributary of the Ganges, hence the name. Baan stands for arrow and Ganga for the holy river.
On foot I followed the way back to the one located on a large bay, world-famous in India Mumbai Drive. This approx. 3.5 km long embankment is accompanied by a promenade and, with its impressive skyline in the background, is a popular filming location for Bollywood films. The fine sandy beach looks very inviting, but bathing is strongly discouraged. The sea is contaminated by sewage within a radius of 100 km from Mumbai. In the evening the promenade fills with what feels like 1 million people to watch the sunset, and then the skyscraper in your Splendor of lights to marvel at.
Also worth a visit is the sprawling Crawford Market, not far north of Victoria Station. There are halls with different focuses: spices, fish, meat, textiles.
The meat market in particular really shocked me, even if it was negative. In a dark, filthy hall, carcasses are cut up on worn tables and stakes. Rats cavort among the remains of meat in the building and lots of flies buzz around. There is no cooling and the stench is just unbearable. Incredible that people can work under such conditions. I just stuck my head into the hall and fled in disgust from this hellish scenario. These impressions made me decide to only eat meatless in India in the future. It's also much healthier. India's diverse, vegetarian food tradition is also the real culinary treasure of this country. Nowhere in the world is it made easier to go without meat.
Departure to the north
After a few days I left Mumbai and with it the south of the country for the first time. I went by train to the state of Rajasthan, 1000 km to the north. The landscape changed. Instead of forests and rice fields, a steppe-like, dusty landscape and even deserts awaited me. Embedded in it are picturesque cities with mighty forts and magnificent palaces that just seemed to be waiting to be discovered by me.
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