Last night we visited many of the Mumbai’s famous landmarks which were very impressively floodlit. On this occasion the imposing Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was floodlit in the colours of the French Tricoleur showing respect for the French people in the light of recent terrorist attacks in the city of Paris.

Mumbai street shoppingMumbai is a shopper’s paradise; from designer outlets to street shopping. Spend an evening in Colaba to experience street shopping at its best with sellers purveying everything from food to clothes to jewellery to leather goods and perfumes. When you’re ready to drop visit one of Mumbai’s iconic cafe/bistro for some delicious Indian or Continental food. For delicious food and fun atmosphere you might try Leopold’s Cafe in Colaba Causeway.

Today we are heading out to the sprawling slum area of Dharavi. Although the people who live in the slums are poor, the sanitation and facilities are basic and there are thriving cottage industries based in the slums where local people produce goods to sell in their own shops and stalls or to companies across Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Among the cottage industries based in the slums are potteries, bakeries, leather goods (often goat skin), tailoring and traditional popadom making. The government has introduced schemes to rehouse slum dwellers in nearby blocks of flats which run as co-operatives but many slum dwellers opt to keep their traditional way of life.

Mumbai HousingAnother cheap form of housing in Mumbai are the old, usually dilapidated colonial buildings that at one time housed the thousands of cotton mill workers in the city. In the 1990s a strike among the cotton workers resulted in the mill owners closing down the mills and relocating their business to neighbouring Gujarat. The court, after decades of deliberation have at last decided the mill workers should be compensated for losing their jobs but some cases re still ongoing. The government also decided the workiers have a right to stay in the accommodation once provided by the mill owners at a nominal rent. There flats are called Chawls and often comprise just one room with many residents sharing a toilet.

One of the totally unique traditions that survive in Mumbai today is the personalised delivery of lunch boxes known as ‘Tiffin’ from homes in outlying districts to the family’s breadwinner working in Mumbai. The service is provided by Dabba Wallas who operate a 3-stage operation to get the food, packed in travel bags, rucksacks, cool-bags etc, from households on to the train and from the train to their specified destination via a central distribution point in Mumbai. The service costs about £6 per month for daily deliveries and an extra £1 to have the empty bag delivered back home the same day. You may ask why the breadwinner does not simply take the food with them to work and take the empty bag back but if you have ever travelled on a rush hour train in Mumbai you will know the answer to that question.

On our way back from Dharvi we visited Mount Mary Church, a famous place of worship of the Christian community in Mumbai and the Jain Temple which is still a central point of prayer for the Jain community. The Jain tradition of disposing of their dead is not buried or cremation but to leave the bodies to be devoured by vultures this maintaining the cycle of life. In Mumbai the bodies repacked in a well on top of a hill known as the Tower of Silence although today decomposition is aided by technology.

Finally we headed to Land’s End and the Bandra Fort where remnants of the original walled fortress built by the Portuguese can still be seen. A beautiful sunset over the Arabian Sea brought our visit to Mumbai to a picturesque finish.

Day 1 of Mumbai can be read here.

Steve O’Donnell is Director (UK & Ireland) with Serene Journeys and a freelance travel writer and photographer.