There are very few cities, if any, in the world that can boast to pack so much punch in terms of pure and unadulterated uniqueness like Mumbai. Earlier known as Bombay, the city was renamed as Mumbai in 1996, the name being derived from the goddess-Mumba Devi.
Mumbai has always been an integral part of India’s history. Once a cluster of seven islands, the Portuguese overlooked this swampy, mosquito infested, marshy island off the west coast of India as a land with little or no potential and gave it to Charles II of England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. How very naive of them! The British East India Company leased it from the Crown, and developed the small fishing villages and natural harbours into the subcontinent’s busiest port and the region’s centre for trade, finance and industry.
Over the years, as India attained freedom, Mumbai has transformed itself into a bustling one of a kind metropolitan with thriving markets, businesses-both small and big with many different communities settled in perfect harmony reflecting a cosmopolitan and trendy atmosphere rarely seen elsewhere. On the surface, it represents the ever-changing face of today’s India — the old coupled with the dynamic new, and yet at its very core, the heart of the city is steeped in Indian customs and values.
Its official language is Marathi although English and Hindi are widely spoken and understood and don’t be surprised if you meet a youngster with an accent which might suggest that they have been lucky enough to have travelled extensively. For most people it can be a city that will take time to come to terms with but once it does, you will come back for more or even make it your choice of residence. On the surface, you will see that everyone is rushing to be somewhere and everywhere but upon a closer inspection there is a pattern and everything is in tandem and everybody is just a part of this larger orchestra, Mumbai.
The fast-paced life has given rise to hordes of “fast-food outlets” on almost every road, offering lip-smacking choices of Mumbai’s very own pav bhaji, bhel puri, wada & samosa pavs and wide variety of other delicacies. You can just as well have a classy culinary experience at one of its many high end restaurants with meals prepared by expert chefs.
Mumbai wears several hats or should we say crowns? India’s largest city, commercial capital, industrial powerhouse, fashion capital, ‘Bollywood’– the list goes on and on. The city thrives on contrasts; it is home to the richest and the poorest, expensive imported vehicles jostle cycles, red double-decker buses and three-wheeler auto-rickshaws; new and spanking high rises soar above crowded ugly slums and shanty towns; designer labels fronts amid pavement stalls; glamorous movie stars, homeless beggars and eunuchs all attract attention at traffic lights and amidst all these are people everywhere, for Mumbai is home to more than 13 million inhabitants and growing by the day.
Like a flower to a bee, it draws people from all walks of life. In fact, any Indian with a dream heads for Mumbai and this pulsating, cosmopolitan, multicultural city of opportunity folds them all to its bosom.
Mumbai is a shopper’s delight with bargain buys, exclusive boutiques, ethnic markets and mini bazaars. The home of the Hindi film industry, known as Bollywood, it produces the largest number of films in the world. Mumbai caters to the adventurous and the romantic through its sporting activities, nightclubs, pubs, theatres, beaches and restaurants. Old and new, rich and poor, classical and modern – it’s all here for you to savour and enjoy!
Pulsating, alive, on the move, vibrant, fun – this is Mumbai or as it is still frequently referred to – Bombay. Welcome to the other city that never sleeps!