After our incident in the Hanging Gardens, we walked around a bit more before heading to Kamala Nehru Park, which is named after the wife of the Prime Minister. It is a favorite of the local and visiting schoolchildren, and they were all over the place, but with good reason!
It's the shoe from the nursery rhyme!!!! I don't know why this family didn't walk up and take their picture inside the shoe...
This park also had a gorgeous view of Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach where we had been the night before.
water, I missed you so
We then headed to the Towers of Parsi, which was one part of the trip that we were very excited about. Basically, the Towers in Mumbai are the burial sites of a certain sect of Iranian Indians who believe that the dead body is unclean, and should be disposed of in such a way as to not pollute a body or earth that is still living. After someone dies, they put the body on the top of the tower and leave it to decompose and for the birds of prey to…well, prey upon. The towers are separated from urban life by gardens because it’s not sacred for anyone other than a Parsi to be around the decomposing bodies. All people are supposed to be allowed in to see the gardens and the outside of the towers, though, but when we went to the gate, the security guard wouldn’t let us in. I tried in Hindi and English, but after repeatedly telling us “no,” he eventually went and got reinforcements for the gate. We walked across the street and glowered for a while before a sweet woman stopped to talk to us. She explained that we were basically out of luck. They let her in to a certain point, she said, because she has dark skin, but she’s definitely not a Parsi. Basically, the farongis were out of luck again.
these are some of the crows that circle the Towers
Since we still had some time before it got dark, we went to a temple in a nearby neighborhood. It was a really pretty temple, and we saw a guru with some seriously long hair. We also made friends with a little kid whose parents were making offerings, and we played hide-and-seek a little while. I don’t have any pictures because it’s RUDE to take pictures of the temples. At this point, we decided to go back to Gateway of India and just walk around the ocean for a bit. We ate a late dinner at Leopold’s Cafe, again, and hung out there for a long time before heading back to our hostel. We made friends with some people, and we decided to meet them for breakfast the next morning at another nearby cafe.
Breakfast was uneventful (but free!) so we headed to the Mahalakshmi Temple, an enormous and extremely famous temple in Mumbai. No pictures because it is, again, against the rules, but this temple was just stunning, and probably the most beautiful temple I’ve seen while here. Since it is such a popular temple, there are vendors lined up on both sides of the street for hundreds and hundreds of feet prior to entering the temple where the preferred offerings of the gods can be bought. I always love seeing this rush to get the most beautiful flower, the sweetest desert, the freshest fruit, etc. to offer for puja. However, one thing that I don’t think I will ever get used to is the shoving at temples. Oh.My.Goodness. I know it comes from the fact that they are so excited to make their offerings, but I don’t quite understand why their love for their deities doesn’t extend to fellow devotees. People will shove you, knock you down, tell their kids to run in front of you, or anything else that they can think of to break the line, and I look forward to church services where I can just file in and take a seat at a pew without fearing for my life. That being said, the energy at the temple is so much fun to experience and be a part of.
After leaving the temple, we stopped and took pictures of a famous mosque in town. This is one of my favorite aspects of India: being able to experience SO MUCH religious diversity is so beautiful to me, and I adore the fact that the churches, temples, mosques, and monasteries here have been coexisting for so long. The mosque is the tomb of, and named after, Haji Ali, a Muslim man who traveled to Mecca and changed his life when he returned to India after his pilgrimage.
Haji Ali is on located on a gorgeous peninsula
We headed next to a famous attraction in town, the likes of which I’ve definitely not seen before. The Dhobi Ghat washings are basically an enormous outdoor laundromat in the city. Here’s what a website says about it: “This massive open air laundry provides an unforgettable glimpse into the inside of the city. Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here and painstakingly hand washed by the dhobis (washermen) in the seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs. The profession, handed down from generation to generation, requires incredible strength and determination. The thousands of dhobis spend hours every day standing up to their knees in water filled with chemicals, manually scrubbing and beating the dirt out of each item of laundry. This earns them 100 rupees ($2.40) per day each.”
and you thought you had lots of laundry to do...
only men can do the laundry here because it's such physically demanding work
sweet baby Anjali
This sweet mom was a hawker outside of the Dhobi Ghat, and she and her baby were absolutely precious. She told us all about the laundry and about the city in general. Her English was impeccable, and she was just fun to talk with. She also talked to our taxi driver for us, as he was confused about where we wanted to go and he spoke basically no English. After seeing the washings, we headed to the Dharavi slum, which I believe is the largest slum in the world. It was a good experience, and one that I am definitely glad that I had, but it was, as expected, heart-wrenching to see. The poverty in India is more overwhelming to me than anything that I’ve ever experienced simply because there is SO MUCH of it. There are so many people who have little to nothing that it is mind-boggling, and I have no idea what can be done about it. There are more people than there are jobs, and the situation breaks my heart and baffles me.
there are piles of trash like this all around the slum
lots of people live in tiny spaces
I didn’t take very many pictures of the slums because I felt like I was making a spectacle of others’ poverty, but I am glad that I saw it. We ended our trip on a bit of a somber note, but after seeing the slums, we headed to our bus stop to return to school. We proceeded to have one of the most wretched experiences of all my time in India, as our fellow bus riders were gawkers, our bus driver was surely under the influence of some illicit substance, and the volume on the Bollywood movie playing was at decibels unhealthy for human ears. Suffice it to say it was a miserable night for all four of us, but we made it back to Hyderabad in one piece and still extremely happy about our trip. 🙂