We arrived at Victoria Terminus at 6am and took a rickshaw across town to Bandra Station from where our evening train would depart. After storing our bags we had a wander along the slum hutments lining the tracks and came to life over copious amounts of chai.
In the early morning we visited Colaba. We walked round the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal hotel before further exploration took us through Colaba market, past the slum shacks that surround it then on to the fishing village. It was amazing to see the difference that occurred in mere minutes of walking from the tourist orientated Colaba Causeway. Suddenly we were rare white faces in the middle of a bustling market. Where a few moments previously vendors had aggressively tried to sell us their goods, now they were simply waving hello and watching us with interest (as opposed to dollar signs) in their eyes. The buildings too, changed dramatically, becoming tinier and increasingly ramshackle the further we walked.
The fishing village, set at the very tip of Colaba where the land meets the sludgy black sea, pulled at the heart strings a bit. It looked like a particularly unsanitary place to reside yet the children all appeared healthy, clean and happy. The animal population also seemed to thrive with a plethora of goats, puppies, cats, rats and cows roaming the streets.
Next to the fishing village, we stumbled across a small meat market which proved to keep me wide eyed and entertained. The speed at which the workers could kill and skin various animals fascinated me, much to the bemusement of the locals (and probably Tom to a certain extent).
On walking back towards Colaba Causeway a young girl, named Jessica, and her two brothers challenged me to a water fight; a practice for Holi festival apparently! It turned out to be great fun and just what I needed to cool off a bit.
Before moving on, we took a final walk down the waterfront passing the Gateway of India and along to a quiet spot at the harbour. Tom did his master rolling bit and we chilled on the wall overlooking the sea for a while.
Next on the agenda was a visit to Chowpatty Beach, I’d intended to gorge on street food but instead we found a beautiful café, complete with sofas, deck chairs, parasols and fairy lights. It provided a much needed bit of comfort after the previous night’s filthy cramped conditions. We lounged there over iced coffees, until we felt suitably rejuvenated for facing the chaos of Dharavi.
From Chowpatty we took a taxi to 60foot Road where we found ourselves some lunch before setting off on another aimless wander. I’d been a bit dubious about suggesting we visit Dharavi but it turned out to be a good decision. The people treated us with warmth and kindness. It was beautiful to meet such happy folks amidst the squalor. The highlight was being treated to a display of breakdancing and gymnastics by a group of young boys keen to impress us with their tricks.
After our usual million cups of chai we flagged down a taxi and set off for Bandra station. Arriving ridiculously early we set off on yet another random wander through a small slum, stocking up on chai and street snacks as we went. Again, the friendliness we were met by stunned me.
Later, at the station, a pair of young Muslim girls seemed to be quite taken with me. They hovered around us, coming to sit next to me whenever Tom left. They took turns to plait my hair and try on all my jewellery but scarpered whenever Tom returned.
In our state of under slept, filthy haziness I had wondered whether this would’ve been a day to endure rather than enjoy. As it turned out Bombay enthralled me and it’s people treated us kindly. My day was filled with wonder and good times. I’m feeling very grateful to Bombay and will look forward to returning.