36 Hours In Mumbai India With The Twin Doctors – Part 2

In part 2, The Twin Doctors continue to make the most of their 36 hours in the expansive and magnificent metropolis that is Mumbai India.

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By Drs. Jamil and Idries Abdur-Rahman

Marine Drive (The Queen’s Necklace) and Chowpatty Beach

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Mumbai’s Marine Drive

After leaving the Saat Rasta Dhobi Ghat (outdoor laundry) our first 36 hours in Mumbai India continued with a brief stop along what many would call the best known and most recognizable stretch of road in Mumbai, the world famous Marine Drive. Marine Drive, the official name of which is “Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose” Road is a 2.5-mile C-shaped boulevard that links the hustle and bustle of Nariman Point (an area frequently called the “Manhattan of Mumbai”) with the serene greenery of the exclusive Malabar Hill. The focal point of this boulevard is a centrally placed 6 lane thoroughfare. On one side of this 6 lane thoroughfare sits a collection of sun bleached and time weathered Art Deco buildings. These Art Deco buildings are “vintage” in appearance to say the least, looking like something straight out of pre-Castro 1950’s Cuba. On the other side of Marine Drive’s 6 lane thoroughfare sits a waterfront promenade that snakes seductively along the shores of the Arabian Sea. Because of it’s famous “C-Shape”, Marine Drive is also referred to unofficially by the moniker “The Queen’s Necklace”. The moniker “The Queen’s Necklace” has been used to describe Marine Drive because at nighttime the drive, when lit and viewed from afar, resembles an expensive jewel encrusted necklace that has been placed around the neck of a women.

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The Queen’s Necklace

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Dr. I (left) and Dr. J (right) at the northern point of Marine Drive.

In addition to being the most famous stretch of road in Mumbai, Marine Drive is also home to some of Mumbai’s most expensive real estate. In fact, Marine Drive is home to India’s single most expensive piece of real estate ever sold. This record breaking piece of property, a 17,000 square foot penthouse that was actually still under construction at the time that it was sold; a fact that shows just how “hot” property along Marine Drive has become, sold for the staggering price of $2100 per square foot.

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Marine Drive promenade

Marine Drive’s promenade features expansive recreational areas where people can enjoy some of the city’s best views of the Arabian Sea. And as we walked along the promenade we encountered scores of people who were doing just that. Many of these visitors to the promenade were engaged in lively conversations. Some of them were walking and colorfully gesticulating while immersed in discussion while others simply conducted their conversations while perched beneath one of the many Mangrove trees that line the promenade’s walkway. Other visitors to the boulevard just seemed to be enjoying their own company as they gazed upon the tranquility of the Arabian Sea between bites of their lunch. And then of course stealthy situated among these Marine Drive walkers, talkers and diners were the seaside revealers who had come to the Promenade to do nothing more than to just playfully engage in the type of youthful romantic shenanigans that are commonplace the world over. The more “energetic” of these young Indian Romeos and Juliets could be seen there kissing, necking, cuddling  and hugging their way along the promenade, while the more conservative seaside lovers could simply be seen holding hands.

Our 2.5 mile walk from the south end of the promenade to the north end of the promenade passed quickly, and in no time we found that we were standing on Mumbai’s world famous Chowpatty Beach. Chowpatty Beach is a renowned urban oasis of sorts that features a local stretch of sand that is celebrated just as much for its fast food vendors as it is for its gentle surfs. Unfortunately though, because of ongoing struggles with water quality and water pollution, the waters of Chowpatty rarely see swimmers these days.

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Chowpatty Beach

 

Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Temple

After leaving Chowpatty Beach and “The Queen’s Necklace” we next made our way by car to Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple. Jainism, one of India’s oldest religions is built upon three primary doctrines; the doctrines of “non-violence”, “non-absolution” and “non-possessiveness”. The doctrine of non-violence is fairly self-explanatory as it requires that all Jains abstain from committing acts of violence against any and all living creatures big and small; in fact this extends even to insects and microbes. As a consequence, some Jains will go so far as to wear masks over their noses and mouths while in public so that they do not inadvertently inhale and kill small insects and microbes. Additionally, in keeping with the doctrine of non-violence, most Jains are lacto-vegetarians whose diets do include dairy, but only dairy products that can be obtained without harming animals. These dairy products include milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. Jains do however avoid eating eggs, believing that the consumption of eggs causes harm not only to the egg producing animal but also to any potential offspring of that animal that may have been produced by those eggs.

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Followers of Jainism

The doctrine of non-absolution requires Jains to maintain an open mind; to recognize and respect the feelings, beliefs and perspectives of all others. While the third and final doctrine of non-possessiveness requires all Jains to take only what they require to survive and to thrive, but no more. In short, the doctrine of non-possessiveness encourages Jains to minimize their possessions in an effort to avoid developing an unhealthy attachment to earthly material goods. However, while Jains tend to minimize their personal possessions, their collective houses of worship tend to be some of the most ornate and lavish temples that you will see in India. And so no trip to India would be complete without visiting at least one Jain temple. Therefore while in Mumbai, a visit to the century old Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple was most definitely on our itinerary.

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Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji temple

The outside of the Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji temple features two expertly carved stone elephants that flank an entrance that is framed by elaborately designed cylindrical stone columns. The stone columns are then topped by holy Jain deities in various poses. The second level of the temple’s façade features 5 ornately crafted ivory balconies while the inside of the temple sports an awe-inspiring raised central dome. The raised central dome itself features vivid reds, blues, oranges and browns that are skillfully rendered to colorfully depict the 12 signs of the zodiac calendar. This colorful central dome, along with the temple’s expertly carved sculptures and it’s rich stone flooring (flooring that features an elegant lattice pattern design) successfully meld to astound and delight the first time visitor.

When visiting the temple,  it is important to remember that Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji is an active house of worship. Therefore visitors to the temple should be mindful to dress modestly and to keep extraneous conversations low and to a minimum. After we enjoyed the peaceful and welcoming environment of Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji’s sanctuary, we then left the house of worship and reluctantly reentered the searing Mumbai afternoon heat. In doing so however we found that our clothes smelled of the pleasantly pungent incense that was being burned consistently throughout the temple’s sanctuary. And as we made our way back through the city, with the metropolis’ air thick and hazy, the temple’s residual musky scent clinging stubbornly to our clothes provided an intermittent and frequently welcome respite from the many varied smells of urban life. After a short ride we arrived at our next destination, Mumbai’s Hanging Gardens.

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Central dome of the Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji temple

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Sanctuary of the Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji temple

Pherozeshah Mehta Hanging Gardens and the Tower of Silence

The Hanging Gardens of Mumbai are also known locally as the “Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens”. They sit atop Malabar Hill, which standing at 160 feet tall, is the highest point along southern Mumbai. The neighboring Malabar District is also known for being home to some of Mumbai’s most exclusive residential enclaves; enclaves that are positioned to afford the district’s home owners with some of Mumbai’s most coveted views of the skyline, the Arabian Sea and The Queen’s Necklace.

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Pherozeshah Mehta

The Pherozeshah Mehta Hanging Gardens were named in honor of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, a 19th century Indian lawyer, political leader and activist of Persian decent. In 1873 Mehta served as Commissioner of the Municipality of Bombay. He also served as the municipality’s President during the years of 1884, 1885, 1905 and 1911. While Mehta was a loyal and valued ally of the British crown, he also supported the idea of Indians being given a greater degree of autonomy over their local affairs. And so in recognition of Mehta’s service to both Mumbai (Bombay) and to the British crown, he was knighted by the British Government in 1904.

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Ariel view of the Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens with the “PMG” initials created by the park’s pathways.

In the year 1881, some 23 years before Pherozeshah Mehta was knighted by the British Government, the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai were created. An aerial view of the gardens reveals that the pathways running through the gardens spell out the letters “PMG”. The “PMG” of course stands for the “Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens” in recognition of the man to whom the gardens are dedicated. Some historians theorize however that the Hanging Gardens were created not only to honor Mehta and not only to serve as a future urban green space but also to provide a barrier between the Tower of Silence, which is located adjacent to the gardens, and the nearby waters of the Arabian Sea. Creating a barrier between the Tower of Silence and the waters of the Arabian Sea at the time that the gardens were created would have been important because, it was at that time that the Arabian Sea served as the city of Mumbai’s (Bombay’s) main municipal water supply. And were this main municipal water supply not protected, the risk of it becoming contaminated by the decomposing waste of the dead bodies laid to rest in the nearby Tower of Silence would have been too great.

Like The Hanging Gardens, the Tower of Silence is located on Malabar Hill. The Tower of Silence was constructed by Mumbai’s Parsi Zoroastrian community. Coincidentally Sir Pherozeshah Mehta himself was a member of this Parsi Zoroastrian community. Parsi Zoroastrians are ethnic Persians (modern day Iranians) who fled Persia during the 8th , 9th and 10th centuries in an effort to avoid religious persecution at the hands of Persian Muslims. As a part of the Parsi Zoroastrian faith both “earth” and “fire” are viewed as sacred elements. For this reason, the Parsi Zoroastrians do not believe in burying their dead beneath ground in the “earth” nor do they believe in cremating their dead above ground using “fire”. In the view of the Parsi Zoroastrians either act would serve to defile these two sacred elements. Instead, they believe that the bodies of the dead should be allowed to decay naturally in the open air, unburied and unburned, while also serving as a food source for wild animals and birds of prey. The Parsi Zoroastrians view excarnation, or the practice of “defleshing” a dead body by leaving that body exposed in the open air to be an integral part of the body’s final journey and a key step in the environmental cycle of existence.

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Tower of Silence and surrounding canopy of trees

Mumbai’s Tower of Silence is an ovular structure surrounded by a canopy of trees. The Parsi Zoroastrians place the bodies of their dead within the perimeter of this ovular structure. The tower is designed in such a way that vultures and other carrion birds can then swoop in and easily feed upon the bodies of the dead contained within the tower. Not only is facilitating this in keeping with the Parsi Zoroastrian principle of excarnaton, but it is also viewed by the Parsi Zoroastrians as being one final act of generosity, as they offer up their dead to feed the living.

While walking the grounds of the neighboring Hanging Gardens we did see many large groups of vultures hovering over the Tower of Silence. These hovering vultures would then dive out of sight briefly only to return moments later to their previous positions aloft, hovering again over the Tower of Silence and the surrounding canopy of trees. Because there is a large stone wall erected between the Hanging Gardens and the trees that surround the Tower of Silence, visitors to the Hanging Gardens cannot actually see the Tower of Silence. However, as we watched the birds of prey swooping down behind the large wall separating the Hanging Gardens from the Tower of Silence, the eerie realization that they were feeding upon the dead contained within that structure was both sobering and stark in it’s finality.  We’ve been asked many times since our return from Mumbai whether or not we could smell the decaying bodies just a few hundred yards away from us in the tower. Surprisingly enough, especially given the hot midday Mumbai sun that we encountered during our time there, the answer to that question is no. We could smell absolutely no decay.

 

For reasons not entirely clear, Mumbai’s population of vultures and other carrion birds is rapidly declining. Predictably this has of late served to dramatically slowed the process of excarnation at the Tower of Silence. In an effort to address this phenomenon, the Parsi Zoroastrian community in Mumbai has been in pursuit of creative solutions that will allow them to continue the cultural practice of excarnation. These creative solutions have included the captive breeding of vultures and other carrion birds that are then periodically released in and around Malabar Hill and the Tower of Silence. In addition to the captive breeding of carrion birds the Parsi Zoroastrians have also begun to employ the use of optical solar accelerators in and around the tower. Optical solar accelerators are basically large mirrors that are positioned to reflect and magnify the sun’s rays. Use of these accelerators in and around the tower allows the Zoroastrians to harness the power of the sun to help accelerate decomposition. If you want to read more about Mumbai’s declining number of carrion birds and how these declining numbers threaten the city’s Tower of Silence, double back after completing this blog piece and take a peek at this article.

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Hanging Gardens entrance

The Hanging Gardens are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful green spaces in all of Mumbai. Locals and visitors alike can frequently be seen making the short trek up Malabar Hill to the gardens whenever they want a respite from the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most populous cities. Because the Hanging Gardens are situated high above much of Mumbai, a visit to the gardens really does feel like a mini-escape to a tranquil urban oasis. And because this oasis is situated high above much of the smog that typically blankets Mumbai, the garden’s air does just seem to be a little bit fresher and to smell a little bit sweeter.

Walking along the garden’s winding red dirt and gravel “PMG” shaped pathways, one thing that we almost immediately took note of was the exquisite topiary that greeted us at every turn. Much of the park’s artistic shrubbery had been trimmed into the shapes of animals, an exercise that added a fun and whimsical feel to the park’s atmosphere. And as we strolled up and down the park’s pathways, with the gravel crackling and rustling beneath our feet, we playfully took turns guessing the intended identities of each of the “animal” shrubs that we encountered.

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A Donkey????

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Kids playing in PMG park

 Before long our game of “identify that animal” came to an abrupt halt when we happened upon a section of the park that was teeming with uniformed school children. These children were visiting the park as part of a school field trip, and as they ran and played with one and other, a few of them stopped and glanced shyly in our direction. Eventually a few of the bolder children in the group then gathered up enough nerve to approach us. And each of those that approached us, after quickly telling us their names then proceeded to pepper us with questions. “Where are you guys from”? Chicago we replied. “What are your names”? Idries and Jamil. “Why are you guys in India”? Because we love to travel and India has always been a country that we’ve wanted to visit. “Do you like India”? “Yeah”, we said, “India is pretty awesome”! After answering that last question in the affirmative, their faces immediately lit up, and it instantly became clear that we had made some new friends. Our new friends then informed us that they “liked talking to Americans” because it gave them an opportunity to “practice” their English. Then, after a few more minutes of idle chit chat, our new friends invited us to play a game of soccer (or as they called it “football”). After these energetic little guys ran us around in circles for what felt like an eternity in the hot midday Mumbai sun, heading and kicking the ball while we watched like the helpless old farts that we are, we concluded our time together by posing for a few pictures. And please friends, don’t mind that little Devil on the lower right hand side of some of our photos. He assured us that he thought that extending that bony little middle finger up into the air like he did was just how Americans said “hello”. So when you look at him, just know that he is saying “hello my new American friends”.

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Hello My New American Friends

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Two Fingers Are Better Than One

All in all, the Hanging Gardens are certainly a beautiful and unique urban green space that provides a brief but welcomed escape from the noise and congestion of Mumbai. And the oddly macabre history behind the creation of the Hanging Gardens, along with the company that the gardens keep just a few hundred yards away, makes them a truly unique must see for all visitors to Mumbai.

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Hanging Gardens

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Hanging Gardens

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Hanging Gardens

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Mid-day Siesta Mumbai style

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Mid-day siesta doggy style.

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Hanging Gardens

 

Mani Bhavan

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Mani Bhavan

 After leaving the Hanging Gardens our next stop was Mani Bhavan, Mahatma Gandhi’s primary Mumbai headquarters and his part-time Mumbai residence from 1917 to 1934. It was from this two story mansion located at Number 19 Laburnum that Gandhi organized many of his now legendary acts of political dissent. And as we approached the historic mansion, we were surprised to find that the dwelling, with its brown and cream colored façade partially obscured by trees, was fairly nondescript looking. Nondescript that is, at least as far as mansions go.

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Entry way leading into Mani Bhavan

 After a brief walk along the mansion’s tree lined courtyard we entered the building and proceeded down a long hallway. At the end of this hallway stood a stone and bronze memorial featuring an image of Gandhi. Making our way towards this memorial we encountered a library to the right of the hallway and an auditorium to our left of the hallway. We were told that the library contained over 40,000 books and periodicals. Most of these books and periodicals were either written by Gandhi, about Gandhi and his teachings or about subsequent freedom movements that were inspired by Gandhi’s teachings. The auditorium to the left of the hallway just across from the library featured a viewing area where films about Gandhi and about his movement are frequently played and where audio recordings of both his most famous and his lesser known speeches can be heard upon request.

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Mani Bhavan library

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Mani Bhavan library

After touring the library and the auditorium we then made our way up to the mansion’s second floor. There we found a photo gallery that featured hundreds of photos depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s life from his early childhood through his rise to prominence as an activist to his death at the hands of an assassin. These photos serve not only to humanize a figure that can at times seem larger than life, but they also provide an authentic, unguarded and genuinely fascinating unscripted look into the life and times of one of the 20th centuries most celebrated figures.

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Gandhi Statue

While at the mansion we learned that it was from Mani Bhavan that Gandhi organized the movement that he is perhaps most famous for. This movement, coined the “Non-Cooperation Movement” was begun in 1921 as a means of encouraging a non-violent Indian resistance to British occupation and rule . The non-violent “Non-Cooperation Movement” was started, ironically enough, in response to the extremely violent  and unprovoked killings of a number of unarmed Indian protestors who were shot by British troops while peacefully marching against British occupation in the city of Amritsar. The Non-Cooperation Movement that followed, encouraged non-violent resistance through the boycotting of British companies that operated in India. Instead of purchasing British made goods, Indians were encouraged to only buy local goods and services produced by and for Indians. As the movement took shape and blossomed, hundreds of thousands of Indians nationwide began to participate. As Indian participation in the Non-Cooperation Movement grew, British business interests in India began to suffer tremendous financial losses. With these tremendous financial losses having been inflicted upon the vital business interests of Britain, without a gun being fired or a hand being raised in violence, Britain became acutely aware, likely for the first time, of just how effective Gandhi could be when it came to organizing and inspiring the Indian people.

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Gandhi’s Room

Perhaps the highlight of any visit to the Mani Bhavan is the opportunity to see “Gandhi’s Room”. Gandhi’s Room served both as the Indian Revolutionary’s living room as well as his dedicated work space. In an effort to keep the space as authentically genuine as possible, Gandhi’s Room has been maintained more or less as it was when he was last there so many years ago. Not surprisingly, given Gandhi’s penchant for simplicity, the room located on the mansion’s second floor is fairly austere in its trappings. Among the items found in Gandhi’s room include a simple spinning wheel, a futon-like cushion on the floor that Gandhi used to both sit on while working and to lie on while resting and a small floor level writing desk. Given the desire to maintain the authenticity of the space, while at the same time keeping its contents protected for generations to come, Gandhi’s Room is protected by glass partitions. Gandhi though is said once to have posed the question “what barrier is there that love cannot break”? And as we stood mere feet from where Gandhi’s love for humanity, love for peace, love for justice and love for truth ignited his determination and galvanized his spirit to inspire miraculous changes, the answer to his simple but poignant question became clear. There is no barrier, mechanical or otherwise that love cannot break. And as we cast our gaze through this separating glass we could still feel Gandhi’s love for each and every one of us, past, present and future. Forgive us if we seem prone to hyperbole here, but some places will just do that to you. And that is after all why we make the time to travel.

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Gandhi Lived and Worked Here

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Gandhi’s Room

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Gandhi’s Room

 

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

After leaving Mani Bhavan we next made our way by car to Mumbai’s world famous Victoria Terminus; or as it has been known since 1996 to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or the CST as many locals now call it) is a massive train station located in the heart of Mumbai. Because of both its architectural and historical significance the CST was designated a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site in 2004. UNESCO World Heritage Sites include buildings, cities, geological locations, monuments, etc. that are deemed by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization to be of particular cultural, historical or physical significance. Having been completed in the year 1888 after nearly 10 years of construction, the façade of the railway station sports a graceful if not somewhat medieval appearing fusion of Victorian, Gothic and traditional Indian architectural components that together give the CST a very regal appearance. And while certain parts of the building’s exterior have certainly seen better days, the architecture is still intricate, rich and visually quite stunning.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

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Two handsome devils loitering around outside of the CST

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus clock tower

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus terminal/platform

 The Victoria Terminus building will forever hold a place of supreme significance in Indian railway history as it was from the CST that India’s first steam engine train departed. Today, with both local and regional rail lines serving CST, commuters using the station can not only reach all corners of Mumbai from the city center, they can also reach most corners of India from the city center as well. And after being wowed by the exterior of the Terminus building for quite some time we next decided to head inside of the CST to get a better look at what one of Mumbai’s busiest train terminals was all about. Once inside we found that much like the building’s exterior, parts of the building’s interior too have seen better days. But again, also much like the exterior of CST, the interior of the building features many fine architectural elements that true fans of classic architecture will no doubt appreciate.

CST and the Dabbawallas

Much like Mumbai itself, the CST terminal is a study in controlled chaos. When entering the terminal building the first thing that you see are commuters jockeying back and forth as they try to secure their places in one of the many long ticketing lines that punctuate the ticketing hall. After your brain has managed to register and process the sight of the long ticketing lines and the sight of CST customers maneuvering in, out and around these long ticket lines, the next thing that your brain tries to process is the noise. It is a noise that seems to bounce back and forth off of the walls and up and down off of the high arched vaulted ceilings and the stone floors, while seeming at the same time to occupy a sound frequency that is uniquely all its own. This noise in fact seems to maintain a fevered pitch that is unrelenting. A pitch that is so pronounced in it’s intensity that you expect that at any minute it will crescendo, but much to your amazement it never does. From the luggage handlers of CST darting back and forth with their overloaded luggage carts to the ticketed passengers moving in mass like a virtual sea of humanity; from the industrious Dabbawallas balancing their food containers to the trains themselves coming and going, belching and screeching, CST is a world unto itself and a stop definitely worth making.

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus platform

Now CST was always a location that was a must on our list of Mumbai sites to visit. This was in large part because of the aforementioned legendary Dabbawallas of Mumbai. The Dabbawallas, or the so called “Lunch Box Men” are an absolute staple of Mumbai society. Throughout the day, visitors to CST will see the Dabbawallas in their crisp white uniforms, heads adorned with small white diamond shaped hats, as they make their way onto and off of trains, delivering packed lunches to people and places citywide. The job of the Dabbawallas is really quite simple. They collect homemade meals from the residences of Mumbai office workers every morning. They then ferry these fresh homemade meals by bicycle and by train throughout the city; delivering them to the designated workers at their places of work as lunch time approaches. Later in the day once the workers have completed their meals, the Dabbawallas return to collect their empty food containers. They then return these empty food containers to the office workers homes. And so this seemingly endless cycle of pick-ups and deliveries is repeated every day of the work week in Mumbai.  Many people reading this may wonder why do so many Mumbai office workers essentially have the Dabbawallas carry their lunches in to work for them rather than carrying their own lunches or eating out for lunch?  Well, the reason or the reasons for the existence of the Dabbawallas and for this rather complex system of meal pick-ups and deliveries centers around issues of cost, convenience, prestige and hygiene. Eating home cooked meals is cheaper than eating out and with the many hygiene concerns that surround some of the local Mumbai restaurants and food stands, it is also felt by many residents to be safer. Furthermore, having a Dabbawalla deliver your meal to you hot and fresh is convenient and it implies that the person having the meal delivered has achieved a certain degree of status in India society.

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Dabbawallas working at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Now, one would think that with the sheer number of lunches that the Dabbawallas move around the city each day; a number estimated to be 200,000 lunches a day or more, combined with the vast distances that the Dabbawallas must cover in a relatively short span of time, that there would be a fair number of delivery errors made. One would logically assume that there would be lots of missed lunch deliveries and lots of lunches that were delivered to the wrong locations. But while these assumptions would be reasonable, they would also be wrong. In fact, a recent Harvard Business School study of the Dabbawallas and their activities found that their error rates were remarkably low. An error rate of well under 0.1% has even been forwarded by some, though that number has been discounted by others who say that it is much too low. None-the-less, errors committed by the Dabbawallas are exceedingly rare; in large part, because of the cataloging system that they use. While many Dabbawallas are either illiterate or semiliterate at best, they use a universal system of abbreviations, colors, letters and numbers that are placed on the lunch containers. These abbreviations, colors, letters and numbers when properly interpreted then direct the Dabbawallas in their travels. And to further ensure that maximum effort is given each and every time a lunch is to be delivered, Dabbawallas as financially penalized when deliveries are late or missed.

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Dabbawallas on a delivery run

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Dabbawalla lunch container with delivery location number, color and symbol coding

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Dabbawalla making a delivery

 

Haji Ali Daragah

After leaving CST we made our way towards our last stop of the day, the Haji Ali Dargah. The Haji Ali Dargah is both a Muslim house of worship and the site of the tomb of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari. The Haji Ali Dargah was built in 1431 to commemorate the life of Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a Muslim saint who is widely revered in India by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is said that Bukhari, who hailed from Bukhara (present day Uzbekistan) left his home country in central Asia to make a pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Before setting out on his pilgrimage to Mecca, Bukhari, a very wealthy merchant reportedly gave up all of his worldly possessions. After completing his pilgrimage to Mecca, it is said that Bukhari then travelled the world for a number of years before eventually choosing to settle down in what is present day Mumbai.
Legend has it that one day while living in Mumbai, Bukhari came upon an elderly woman crying along the side of a road. He is said to have approached this woman, and with concern in his voice to have asked her why she was crying? Through her sobs the woman is reported to have told Bukhari that a number of hours earlier, while making her way home with some newly purchased cooking and heating oil, she stumbled and spilled her oil.  Recounting the story she then continued by telling Bukhari that she feared returning home without the oil because her husband, an impatient and abusive man, would surely be angered by her clumsiness and would almost certainly beat her. Bukhari being a very kind and God-fearing man was the absolute antithesis of this poor women’s husband, and he therefore wanted to offer the woman comfort and solace. So, while Bukhari continued to encourage the women to stop crying he also asked her to take him to the area where she had spilled the oil. Unsure of why Bukhari wanted her to take him to the area of the oil spill the woman, sensing the concern in his voice and his desire to help, nevertheless led him to the spot of her fall. Once there, she pointed out the oil spill. Legend has it that Bukhari then walked over to the area of the spill and struck the oil stained ground with his walking staff. After striking the oil stained ground it is said that oil began to spring forth from the ground and that the elderly woman, both overjoyed and thankful, was able to collect enough of the gushing oil to take home to her abusive husband. The legend of Bukhari and the elderly woman also states however that as time passed, Bukhari began to feel increasing guilty about having struck the earth with his staff. It is said that he feared that his staff strike against the earth may have in some way done harm to the earth. These feelings of guilt in fact are said to have become so strong and pervasive that Bukhari eventually fell ill; literally becoming physically and emotionally sick with guilt and worry.

 

As Bukhari’s health continued to deteriorate, he is said to have instructed his followers that they were not to bury his body in the traditional manner after his death. Instead, he wanted the coffin carrying his body to be cast out from the shores of Mumbai into the Arabian Sea. And it was reportedly not long after he gave these instructions that Bukhari did in fact die. After his death, in keeping with his final wishes, his followers did cast the coffin carrying his body out into the Arabian Sea. Reportedly, his coffin, after floating out at sea for a couple of days, did a 180 of sorts and then floated right back to the shores of Mumbai. After having returned back to the shores of Mumbai the coffin carrying his body then reportedly became lodged among a group of rocks that lined the shore. And there the coffin sat until it was finally discovered sometime later by a group of Bukahri’s followers. Still wanting to honor his wishes, but feeling uneasy about casting his remains out to sea for a second time, his followers decided instead to build a shrine to Bukhari on the spot where his coffin was found trapped among the rocks in the Arabian Sea. This newly erected shrine, literally built along the shore, included a tomb that extended out into the sea. His remains were then interred in that tomb, thereby allowing his body’s final resting place to be the Arabian Sea as per his final request.

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Haji Ali’s seaside tomb

Today the shrine that houses Haji Ali’s tomb is the Haji Ali Dargah, and it hosts pilgrims of all religions who regularly come in search of both Haji Ali’s blessings and his intercession on their behalf before God. To reach the shrine however, requires that you walk along a poorly maintained walkway snaking out from the shore into the Arabian Sea. This walkway, which lacks railing or barriers is instead lined on both sides by people selling food, drinks and inexpensive souvenirs. Additionally, sharing space with the vendors who line the walkway are large groups of disabled men who congregate together, seated on tattered mats, while engaging in prayerful rhythmic chants of devotion. Because the walkway leading to the shrine lacks any type of railing or barriers it at times can become completely submerged under water during times of high tide. When this happens of course, Haji Ali’s Dargah becomes completely inaccessible. So remember, like we said in part # 1 of this blog, beware when booking travel to India during the country’s “Green Season”. That is, unless you want to take a literal and a figurative bath during your Indian vacation.

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Haji Ali’s tomb

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Entrance to Haji Ali’s

At the time of our visit to Haji Ali we arrived to find an immaculately maintained shrine. This exquisite memorial to Haji Ali surprisingly stood in stark contrast to the poorly maintained pathway that led us to Haji Ali’s shrine. A pathway that proved to be a little bit nerve-racking for those of us who don’t like being in close proximity to deep bodies of water. Those of you who saw us on season 22 of CBS’s The Amazing Race know by now that we don’t like being anywhere close to deep bodies of water. But we digress. Anyway, after passing through the gates of Haji Ali’s sanctuary we found ourselves standing in a large white marble courtyard that was pleasantly cooled by gentle breezes that were sweeping in off of the Arabian Sea. Given the hot late afternoon Mumbai sun, these gentle sea breezes were not only pleasant, welcome and refreshing, they were also inviting and strangely beguiling. And as visitors to the shrine, we found that as these sea breezes swept in across our seaward facing bodies, it almost felt for a brief moment  as if our host, Haji Ali himself, was giving us a heartfelt and welcoming embrace. It felt for a moment as if Haji Ali was telling us that he was “honored that we came all of that way” just to see him. And as we stood at the water’s edge, in the sanctuary that houses Bukhari’s actual tomb, it immediately becomes apparent to us why Bukhari so loved the Arabian Sea that he wanted his body to be cast out into it upon his death.

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Haji Ali’s shrine

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Haji Ali’s sanctuary

 In addition to the white marble courtyard that houses the centrally located tomb, the Haji Ali Dargah complex also includes a house of worship that features intricately carved marble pillars, towering minarets and ceilings and walls that are adorned with kaleidoscopic patterns created by elegantly arranged mirror mosaics. All together, these architectural features blend beautifully to produce a rich and robust canvas that pleases the eyes and engages the mind; while at the same time moving the spirit and bolstering the soul.

Our time at the sanctuary completed, as we walked the congested pathway leading from Haji Ali’s final resting place back to the shores of Mumbai, we resolved that we would not be strangers to this place and that we would again visit the man who so loved the Arabian Sea that he chose to spend eternity surrounded by it. Our day in Mumbai now complete, we headed to our hotel to get some rest. Because we had an early morning flight to Delhi planned for the next day, we opted to check out of The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the city’s center and to instead check in to the Mumbai Airport Hilton. After checking in to the Hilton, a little bit sun burned for sure and a wee bit dehydrated as well, we reflected on our whirlwind day in Mumbai over dinner. And during this reflection we reached one not-so-profound but very accurate conclusion. And that conclusion simply was that “we heart Mumbai”!!!

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Bedroom at Mumbai Airport Hilton

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Living Room at Mumbai Airport Hilton

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Bathroom at Mumbai Airport Hilton

Honorable Mentions

Flora Fountain/Hutatma Chowk/Mumbai
Travel Bloggers who travel full time for a living are lucky. Time is their companion rather than their adversary. Yeah Travel Bloggers who travel full time for a living are lucky, and well, well we here at The Twin Doctors Travel Bag, WE HATE THOSE GUYS AND GALS!!!! There, you happy now?!?! We said!!! How did they get it so right when we got it so wrong? Why do they get to live for a living while we have to work for a living? Why do they get to travel at their leisure while we have to travel on a tight schedule? We wish that we could say that we will be Travel Bloggers when we grow up…..but damn it, we’re already almost 40 years old!!! Were grown!!!! Our ship has sailed!!!!!  Ok, ok, ok, deep cleansing breaths here. Let’s focus. Ah that’s better now.

So you know after a few deep cleansing breaths and after some self-enlighten reflection, we realized that, well that maybe we sort of do have it right too? What do you think? Maybe it takes time away from the road and time away from travelling to help you to truly appreciate the road and travelling. Maybe it takes time working for a living to make you truly appreciate living for a living every once in a while. And maybe, just maybe, travelling like a Swat Team, hitting our destinations hard and fast, getting in and getting out does have its advantages. For one, we can never ever see everything on one trip. And so this gives us an excuse to return to places that we’ve previously been. And this makes return trips still feel like new trips because we are always seeing and doing something new. Also, who can’t appreciate Travel Bloggers who really travel for nothing more than a love of travel? Travel Bloggers who make the time to travel much like everyone else makes the time to vacation? No one in their right minds couldn’t love those types of Travel Bloggers, right? You love us, don’t you? Well while you are ruminating on how much you love us, check out our the “Mumbai Honorable Mentions” below. These are the places that we had hoped to have time to see while in Mumbai, but simply couldn’t squeeze in. Oh well, next time….right?

Hutatma Chowk

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Hutatma Chowk’s Flora Fountain

Hutatma Chowk is a square located on the south side of Mumbai in the city’s busy financial district. The phrase “Hutatma Chowk” is Marathi (one of many Indian dialects spoken in India) and translated into English means “Martyrs’ Square”. At the center of Hutatma Chowk is the Flora Fountain, and up until 1960 the square itself was officially referred to as Flora Fountain Square. However, in 1960 the name of the square was changed to “Martyrs’ Square” in memory of 105 unarmed peaceful demonstrators who were killed after being fired upon by police. The demonstrators were members of an organization known locally as “Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti”. The organization was originally formed by men and women who sought to have a separate Marathi speaking state created in India with the city of Mumbai (then known as Bombay) serving as the new state’s capital. Ultimately the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti organization was somewhat successful in its endeavors and the Marathi speaking state of Maharashtra was created on the 1st of May in 1960, but not before the deaths of those now commemorated by Martyrs’ Square.
A central attraction in Hutatma Chowk Square is Flora Fountain. The fountain was built in 1864 and it represents an image of the Roman Goddess Flora. The Goddess Flora was the Roman Goddess of Abundance and the statue was built by famed Sculptor James Forsythe using limestone that was imported from the Isle of Portland located in the English Channel right off of England’s Southwest coast. The statue was commissioned in honor of Sir Bartle Frere, the British Governor of Bombay from 1862 to 1867.

Mumbai University and The Rajabai Clock Tower

The campus of Mumbai University provides something of an oasis for students living in the 24/7 hustle and bustle that is Mumbai. The classic British architecture of the university’s buildings is reminiscent of other classic English university campuses like Cambridge and Oxford. Mumbai University, originally known as the University of Bombay was established in 1857 following a petition by Sir Charles Wood, a British Whig politician and Member of Britain’s Parliament who would later serve as Secretary of State for the British Government of India. Today the school is one of India’s top universities. The grounds of the school, green, expansive and quiet provide the perfect place to pursue one’s higher education. And while the entire campus is said to be noteworthy in it’s appearance, perhaps its most noteworthy structure is the famous Rajabai Clock Tower. The Rajabai Clock Tower dominates the campus’ skyline, standing at almost 260 feet (80 meters) tall. In fact, the clock tower was for many years Mumbai/Bombay’s tallest structure. Amazingly, the famed Clock tower took a full nine years to complete, with the foundation for the clock tower having been laid in 1869 and the entire structure not having been completed until the year 1878. And when looking at photos of the clock tower if you think that it looks familiar, well that is for a good reason. The Rajabai Clock Tower was actually modeled after London’s iconic Big Ben, and when looking at the two clocks the resemblance is undeniable. In the days of British colonial rule, the university’s clock tower played such patriotic English favorites as “Rule Britannia” and “God Save the King”. Today however, all of those songs of a by-gone era have been abandoned in favor of simple chimes that can be heard ringing on the university’s campus and in nearby neighborhoods every 15 minutes.

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Mumbai University’s Rajabai Clock Tower