Manan meets us at 09:30 to join us for breakfast before we set out for the day at 11am. We discuss what our plans for the tour will be and ask Manan’s advice. There is a cave in Mumbai that we’ve always wanted to visit called Elephanta Caves, you have to get here by ferry. Yet again we have to cancel this tour because of the weather as the sea is incredibly rough. There is another cave that you can visit called Kaneri situated in a jungle which is just outside of Mumbai (approximately a 2-hour drive) which Tumbi had suggested to us if the sea prevented us doing Elephanta. Manan has advised that whilst it’s a lovely place to visit we won’t have the same experience. We should see Elephanta first and then if at a later stage we want to see Kaneri then do so, but they are completely different experiences.
During breakfast we find out that Manan is scheduled to fly back to Delhi at 2pm today, he needs to be back at the office for Monday. Dipali and I give each other lost puppy looks as we realise, we are on our own! We say our goodbyes to Manan who will meet us again when we reach Delhi. The other re-assuring thing is tomorrow we will be heading to Udaipur and will meet Ishveen, a colleague of Manan’s who I have also worked with for about a year.
The rain is not as bad today but still very on and off, we head outside towards our car where Tumbi is waiting for us. Tumbi asks us if we are ready to go to Kaneri Caves, we decline the offer of the tour which I think broke his heart a little as he sounded disappointed. He perks up again after a few seconds as he has another suggestion for our day. He suggests to drive around and see all the sights but as the rains stop we can get out and explore, he even suggests to drive to the Dharavi area and get us close enough to see the slum. We don’t have any hotels to see, so we have the whole day.
The first landmark we head towards is Victoria Train Station. You will notice how much of a British influence remains in India, it looks really similar to St Pancras Station in London. Looking at this beautiful building you would think you are in London, but then a Rickshaw will pass you and honk its horn crazily which jolts you back to India.
The next stop on our tour is Bollywood film related. We pass Arthur Jail at the request of Dipali. We only stop for a quick second because it is heavily guarded, we only want a quick peek. Photography is forbidden, which is a normal procedure in any country with regards to government buildings or jails. The reasoning behind this fly by jail visit, is because a famous actor that we both love called Sanjay Dutt was sent here. He’s had some recent trouble with the law and has had to spend some time here.
As we are driving, Tumbi points out various beautiful temples along the way, he then asks if we would like to see a historical church that was frequented by many soldiers during the British rule. We both agree that we would like to see it and it appears God approves of this visit too; the rain has finally stopped! Taking advantage of the dry spell we jump out of the car and head to the church. The structure and building is very pretty and lots of history surrounding it. The building is in need of some renovation but they have managed to preserve a lot of the original décor inside. Around the walls of the church are names of many British soldiers along with memorials in remembrance to some of the senior ranks. After one further walk around the church, Dipali, Tumbi and I say our little prayers and then leave. Before leaving I notice they have miniature Bibles for you to take, it has the stamp of the church inside which I now know is called The Gideon-Mumbai S. Camp. I make a donation and take a bible as a keepsake of the first holy sight I have visited in India.
Stepping outside of the church we notice that our friend “The Rain” has made a comeback! It is now very heavy and feels like someone is chucking filled buckets of water directly on our heads. The weird thing with the rain here is that not only is it falling from the sky, it hits the ground so hard it bounces the rain back up, the ground is raining on us as well. The other great part about this season is that it doesn’t cool down the air, there is still a dry humid heat, the humidity and the rain has made my hair so big that I could have been a 6th member of the Jackson 5. Our driver can see the three of us huddled under a church shelter, he jumps out of the car armed with two large umbrellas and runs towards us. He is an absolute LEGEND. In my mind he has now turned into He-Man, the two umbrellas have turned into swords for him to battle against the rains for our protection. We are safely back in the car with our new big hair do’s and “He-Man”, sorry I mean our driver who sets off towards Dharavi.
I question Tumbi about the popularity of the slum tour with tourists, he explains that the tour has been running for quite some time but this interest increased after the movie Slum Dog Millionaire. Some of the areas of Dharavi was featured in the movie and the two young boys are from this slum. For anyone that wishes to do this tour it is recommended to carry as little as possible, carry little money on you which you should keep very safely somewhere. Ideally leave your bags locked away in your car, you will have a lot of attention as a tourist so don’t carry too much and attract further attention. I also sadly find out that photography is not really permitted here so if you are taking pictures, try and be discreet and respectful. Street photography is one of my passions so not being able to take pictures is disappointing. I find out the reason why the locals have requested for no photography. A photographer who did the slum tour took a lot of pictures, what was unintentionally captured was a local business trading illegal blue films. After the image leaked, the people from Dharavi said that they felt uncomfortable with pictures being taken. I would assume, that the business trading the films felt the wrath of the law after the picture exposed them.
We stick to the main areas just outside the slum but this still allows us to see it. Each time the car stops near the various alleyways I look through and see how vast the area is, you can see people’s homes and stalls. Each road specialising in a different item with hand made products, if we were allowed to do the walking tour we could have seen the preparation of Papads (Poppadum’s) which is a big business. The first area we visit features handmade clay pots in all shapes and sizes, we stop outside one of the stalls. The lady who owns the stall and probably the artist who created them is staring at us. We have stopped right outside to have a look, she is staring at me all confused, probably wanting to know why we are parked outside her stall, staring at her pots. As I look, I can still feel her eyes burning into me and eventually she out stares me! (I thought I was a champion in stare out competitions). I roll my window down as I now feel obliged to purchase something (great sales tip – stare at someone until they feel pressured). There’s a small tea cup which is no bigger than the palm of my hand, how amazing is that? I don’t even need one but I have now become the proud owner of a small clay tea cup. The staring has now turned into a beaming smile so I use this happy moment to ask her for a picture of her stall, she steps aside and nods her approval.
As we continue on, I manage to get a few sneaky snaps on the way. We stop at a famous spot in Dharavi, used for a scene in Slum Dog Millionaire where the two boys are running along the water pipes. I snapped away and as I did this, two boys walked into the frame, which added a nice scene and story to my image.
Once we finished seeing as much of Dharavi as the car permitted, we started to make our way towards the posher and upmarket parts of Mumbai. Our guide remembered our love of Bollywood films, he asks us if we want to see the houses where all the top actors live. Apparently, if we were up at 5am we could’ve seen Hrithik Roshan jogging in the park. As amazing as that sounds I’m not sure how Hrithik would feel having two screaming British girls chasing him around a park during his work out.
The actors mainly live around the Bandra area which is a world away from Dharavi. The first house we see is the home of Shah Rukh Khan. He must of been home as there is a small crowd of people gathered outside his main door waiting for a glimpse of their hero. You would think the crowd would be made up of screaming girls…err that would be a no, it’s actually a crowd of boys! Unfortunately, we didn’t see Shah Rukh but took a picture anyway. As we drive on we pass a few more homes that our guide points out to us. We see the homes of Rekha, Salman Khan’s father, Salman Khan which is next door to Abhishek Bachan and Ashwariya Rai’s house. We even see the home of the famous cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.
The tour of celebrity homes isn’t as glamourous as Hollywood or a tour around Beverly Hills, these homes from the outside look average. I’m sure they are pretty special from the inside, but we wouldn’t be allowed in as that wouldn’t be a tour, that would be breaking and entering with a side of stalking. I was expecting to see homes that look like huge mansions from outside, but it wasn’t like that at all. If you watch Indian movies or soaps they portray the richer homes to look very extravagant, however if our guide hadn’t pointed them out and told us who lives there you wouldn’t think anything of it.
The best and final home we see is the home of a Bollywood legend, known around the world, as none other than Mr Amitabh Bachan. This home looks like a celebrity home, with armed guards situated outside. Its half past four in the afternoon and a small crowd (again all male) has gathered outside. As I see the crowd we get out of the car to join them. I’m excited as this means he must be home so I could see our hero. Tumbi has read my mind because he walks over to the guard to ask if the Big B is home. The guard advises that he is home and will make an appearance at around 6pm! How exciting! But, we have to leave due to an important “thing” we have booked for 5pm. The “thing” is our spa treatment, sorry Big B we either wait for two hours in the humid rain or leave now and have a massage in a dry place with a robe on. I opted for the dry place and the robe!
We start to head back towards our hotel, our trip to Mumbai is sadly coming to an end. There is one more thing on my list of things to do before I leave. I am a sucker for fried Indian snacks so I really want to sample some street food. Pakoras (deep fried potato or vegetables in flour/batter coating) in particular is what I’m searching for, as this is my favourite. We spot several stalls selling it as we have been driving around and I cannot resist anymore. We ask Tumbi to stop so we can buy some before we get back to the hotel. I made a rule before I left London to not eat from stalls in India and to only eat at hygienic looking venues, well shove me in a city surrounded by pakora stalls and my rule is thrown out the window. Our guide is worried about stopping at any stall as he doesn’t want us to fall ill, he advises that he can handle it as he is used to it, but we may be a bit sensitive.
We find a place that looks relatively clean and there is a young man waiting to serve us. I notice he has no gloves on and I know that he has no plans to wear them before handling my food, I decide to ignore this as much as I can and focus on the food. We place our order for a portion of mixed pakoras and low and behold his bare hand reaches into the pile of food as he scoops up a handful. We reach the car and I decide to ignore the handling of my food and reach in to eat, how brave am I? Or stupid, time will tell. I don’t regret my act of bravery, these pakoras are amazing. We all share the portion and there is a happy silence in the car for a few moments.
Continuing on towards the hotel we make one more stop, Starbucks. We wanted to try and access free Wi-Fi and a cappuccino however we have chosen a Starbucks whose Wi-Fi is down, great! We leave very quickly and drop Tumbi to a train station as he will make his way home from here. We say goodbye and thank him for everything, in spite of the floods and the cancellation of tours I have not felt disappointed. Our guide made this experience enjoyable and we feel quite sad to say goodbye after spending two days together.
As we approach the hotel the weather has remained wet and grey, along Marine drive there are crowds of people gathered along the coast line enjoying the rain. They are waiting for the waves to crash and splash them all and when the wave hits they all scream out in excitement. Both Dipali and I are observing this madness in disgust, why would anyone want to be out in the rain? In the UK as soon as a tiny drop hits our heads we are running for the nearest shelter, what on earth is going on here? We have arrived at the hotel really quickly and still have quite a bit of time to kill, so we decide to take a walk along Marine drive. It has started to rain as we are walking, don’t ask me what has happened to us, but we head to the coast line with the crowd. Everyone is in such high spirits. Something happens to myself and Dipali, because we are now joining the crowd and getting excited by the rain and waves! Can you believe we judged everyone for doing this, thinking they are rather odd and now we have gotten on board this wave splash vibe, clearly we are odd too! Perhaps without realising it we have become very serious in life and don’t ever stop and slow down to enjoy simple things around us. Who would have thought a bit of rain and some happy people is all it would take for us to start having fun? With the rain playing over we head back to the hotel to freshen up and have our spa treatment.
Once we are in the spa our serious faces have returned. We must look like two frightened mice as the spa staff have told us to strip down, leaving us with a robe and some very questionable disposable net knickers. I’ve never tried a spa treatment or massage before, I convinced myself that I am not a spa person, well, how wrong was I? I nervously stepped into a dim lit room that smelt of lavender oil, there is calming plinky plunky music playing softly in the background and a treatment bed in the centre. I’m very tastefully disrobed and covered on the treatment bed with towels, my face looking through the towelled hole. My massage begins and I can’t really tell you much more than that, as I immediately knock out, 60 minutes later the spa lady has woken me up and I feel like I have had the best sleep of my life, who knew it, I am a spa person after all. The only down side is that if we had plans this evening I may struggle to stay awake as I am feeling really lethargic. I am tempted to remain in my robe and order room service and stay in bed.
Somehow we make it down for dinner, we’ve made a dinner reservation at the Trident for 8pm. The main restaurant, Frangipani, is where we are having dinner today. We wanted to stay at the hotel for our goodbye Mumbai dinner. The original plan was to have dinner, a few drinks and make a night of it, however after that massage we have dinner and one drink then feel sleepy again! We head to bed for an early night as we are being collected in the morning for our flight to Udaipur. Goodbye Mumbai and hello Rajasthan!
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