I dived headlong into the crowded, feculent, rubbish-strewn alleyways…
Evening on Marine Drive. Crowds of locals stroll along the concrete bund overlooking the choppy waters of Back Bay. Hawkers sell water, chai and snacks. A few hustlers try their luck with the occasional tourist…including me. Offshore, the sun is setting in a bright orange ball into the Arabian Sea.
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is home to at least 20 million people. It could be as high as 26 million. No one knows for sure. Whatever its population, arriving in Mumbai from my small New Zealand town, population 2,600, was like being teleported onto the surface of another world. My hotel, in Colaba District, near the Gateway of India, was right in the heart of the market district. So, I dived headlong into the crowded, feculent, rubbish-strewn alleyways where vendors sold vegetables, flowers, meat, snacks, spice, shoes, garments of all shapes and sizes and, of course, chai.
I walked for hours amongst the confusing, incomprehensible jumble of the city. I navigated with my phone: Google Maps keeping me grounded and in touch with my location in relation to the safe zone of my hotel room. I was occasionally hassled by scam-artists and hustles. One guy followed me around for two days until I told him to fuck off. But mostly, I was invisible: just another face in the crowds.
At sunset each evening, I tried to be near the water. Mumbai evenings are short and as the lower limb of the sun touches the sea, the sky glows momentarily with an incandescent orange then bleeds quickly from pink to mauve to indigo…and it is night.