Our last stop in India was in Mumbai, the city formerly known as Bombay. In some ways it was a big change: it’s a massive, global city after our schlep through Rajasthan and to me, at least, it has more in common with southern India than the north where we’ve been up until now. In most ways, though, it was similar to what we’ve been experiencing; crazy, chaotic, dirty, smoggy, and fascinating.We spent only three days there and, to put it mildly, you can’t remotely see Mumbai in three days. I mean, it’s more than twice the size of New York City and no one would spend three days there and say they’d figured out the Big Apple. So we didn’t even try to cover it significantly. In fact one day we spent just lazy around the hotel and shopping at a nearby mall, distinctly atypical behavior for us. (And alas, we’re terrible shoppers; neither of us bought a damned thing.)
Sadly, the most memorable part of the visit may have been the air quality. After Delhi I didn’t think anything could surprise me but this was all but unbelievable. Just a heavy haze hanging over the city much of the day, bad enough that the weather app we use showed the current condition as “Smoke.” Seriously. Bizarre and I assume pretty unhealthy.
Although we had limited time there we weren’t total Philistines, we spent much of one day at few of Mumbai’s good museums. The most important is the improbably named Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Once upon a time it was the Prince of Wales Museum, named after the future Edward VIII in honor of his visit to Bombay. (Edward, you will recall, spent a lot more time as Prince of Wales than he did as king, given that he abdicated so he could marry Wallis Simpson, but that is a very separate story.) When India was busy changing Bombay to Mumbai (and Madras to Chennai and Calcutta to Kolkata; you get the idea) they also renamed the museum for a King Shivaji. As that name is too difficult even for Indians it’s nicknamed “CSMVS” but as that is both stupid sounding and still too long for people to really remember these days the museum is mostly just known as … the museum.
So we spent a few hours in the museum, a museum of India’s history. Mark is reading a (long) history of India and he in particular appreciated the layout of the exhibits, tracking surprisingly closely the structure of his book. One could argue that we should have toured the history of India before we spent five weeks there rather than on our last day but hey, we got there eventually.
That was the big museum but right in the same area were two smaller art museums so we stopped in at those as well and they were both fun. Short, quick stops with some interesting art, just the way I like it best.
And that was it, time to leave India. It is an intense place and it took me longer to warm up to all that than it did on earlier visits but eventually I got there. We had scheduled the five weeks in large part because we were afraid we would just need to get away at that point. In fact I’d be happy to have had more time to see more of the country but apparently we’ll have to save that for another visit. I won’t miss the dang dynamic currency conversion scam we have to watch for like an eagle and I’d be OK if waiters quit insisting you can’t eat Indian curry without rice or bread (you can). For now, though, it’s south to Sri Lanka!