Sunday, 4 January 2009

Memories of Mumbai

One of the things we’d all like to see the back of this year is terrorism, along with other mindless acts of violence against our fellow human beings. It’s with this in mind that I’m dedicating this blog to the city of Mumbai and its residents, who have inspired us to have strength in the face of adversity – and to continue working towards a peaceful, successful and fulfilled life for our families, friends and neighbours.

I spent a week in Mumbai at the end of October. My enduring memories of my visit are of positive and happy people, working incredibly hard in a city that is the vibrant heart of the Indian economy. Everyone I met was kind, courteous and considerate – qualities that you can’t take for granted these days – and none more so than the exemplary staff at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where I was staying.

The Palace wing of the hotel is a truly magnificent building, steeped in history and beautiful decorative details – not to mention the breath-taking array of Indian antiquities on display, some of which have hopefully survived the attack in November.

If you visit Mumbai, you'll experience a feast for the senses. The eclectic and exotic mix of sights, sounds and smells is quite unique. Yes, there are shanty towns – but I can honestly say that I didn’t directly encounter any more beggars than I've sometimes seen outside the Gare du Nord in Paris.

Like London, Mumbai is a true mélange of races, cultures and religions. This is reflected in the city’s rich architectural heritage – from the Haji Ali Mosque (left) to the Jain Temple (right).

Occasionally, you'll still see the odd cow wandering about in a busy street, amongst the myriad of motorized rickshaws.

If you’re planning a trip, it’s definitely worth visiting the museum that was once Mahatma Gandhi’s home.

If you like to shop or want to find unusual gifts for your friends, there's plenty to buy - from modern fashion clothing to jewellery, unique accessories, antiques and curiosities for the home. There are also some fabulous stores to see - like the huge emporia selling saris and traditional Indian fabrics (right). In fact, from next week, we’ll be offering a small selection of stylish Indian cruise and loungewear at ShopCurious.

The now notorious Victoria Terminus is another iconic building that I explored during my trip. The impressive gothic railway station is featured in Slumdog Millionaire, a new film to be released on Friday. In the light of the massacre that took place at the station, the film’s screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy (writer of the Full Monty) told the Times Online of his initial concerns about making a rather naïve film about the wonders of the city -“But then I started getting emails from the Indian film crew in Mumbai and they were fervent and full of spirit,” he said, “It’s absolutely right to feel the city is a place of hope and generosity.”

Love and romance, the hallmarks of Bollywood blockbusters, are central to this overriding sense of hope and optimism. Slumdog Millionaire is ultimately a love story and its Director, Danny Boyle, is “glad that there was irredeemable romance in that station.”

A popular feature of station concourses throughout India are ‘wheel of fortune’ style weighing machines – I photographed this one in Victoria Terminus. Perhaps you’ll join me in wishing that 2009 brings plenty of good fortune, health, happiness and prosperity to everyone in Mumbai – and to all hard working, kind hearted and caring people around the world.

Will you?

Happy New Year!

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