Thousands of miles away, here in Vancouver, I long ago named one of our guest rooms Bombay. I did that to honour a great connection that I feel to India. When I first visited that country, memories of the "Raj" where more alive than today. Still, even now, Indians are as likely to use the Anglicized name of Bombay over Mumbai and prefer Victoria Terminus ("V.T.") over Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Photo of Bombay University courtesy of Durga 22
Like so many visitors to Bombay, I stayed largely within the old Victorian sector of the city, anchored at one end by the Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Hotel(I stayed at the "Sally Ann") and studded with the architectural jewels of Bombay University, the Prince of Wales Museum, the High Court and V.T. itself. The mouldering neo-gothic splendour of those British monuments, surrounded by palms and lush tropical greenery, flooded by monsoon downpours and roost to pigeons and rats the size of rabbits, still form a backdrop for modern Mumbai's sensual, brash, and free-wheeling spirit. Its magnetic attractions may soon make it the most populous city on earth.Amidst the crowding, the multicultural clamour and colour, India remains the most human of societies. People remain interested in one another. In so many ways, I found a lot of love in India. There is certainly a great deal of common decency. Bombay is often called the New York and Hollywood of India. Imagine a city that can play that role for a sixth of humanity. For me, Bombay answers the important Why? of travel. It is a place where human needs and aspirations meet.
Photo of Bombay's Marine Drive courtesy of Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram
So Bombay will survive this. Mumbaikars have always been survivors. This great and difficult city, will continue to express the human condition in all it's shades of good and evil. For those of us born to an easier place, we can ask ourselves - what have we done for the common good?