We had met Zafar on the YHAI Dalhousie trip. Zafar stays and works in Bangalore but visits Mumbai occasionally to meet his relatives. Even though he had visited Mumbai a number of times, he had not seen Mumbai which means that he just visited places where his relatives stayed and then he was back to Bangalore.
So when he informed us that he was coming to Mumbai, we decided to take him of a Mumbai darshan tour. Here ‘We” meant all our friends who were part of Dalhousie trip.
Mumbai darshan tours operated by various tour operators takes you around Mumbai and shows so-called tourist attractive places.
Couple of years back, I had some friends from Delhi who wanted to see Mumbai. I had hired a car for them as we roamed around Mumbai showing them Mumbai. Ask a Mumbaikar what is there to see in Mumbai and most of them can name the most common usual suspect which includes Gateway of India, Bandstand, Nariman Point etc. Mumbai does not have many places of historical importance.
I hardly know people who hang at these tourist places unless its very close to their home. Mumbaikars are happy being in Mumbai or maybe malls now.
So what is there to see in Mumbai? What do you show Non-Mumbaikars who come from outside? What do you show-off in a city which boast of the busiest local trains or the busiest street or just a city of opportunities?
I don’t know!
And yet the Mumbai Darshan tour has 31 places in its list. The list must have been made long time ago when there was less traffic in Mumbai because now it does not even covers half of that list now.
So on a Sunday morning when I was supposed to be lazing around in bed, we were standing in Malad for the Mumbai Darshan bus. We a group of 6 people, 5 Mumbaikar showing off the city they probably loved to the one accidental tourist.
We had also become tourist for that one one tourist expecting nothing. I wonder what I wanted to see in a city I was born in, a city I had grown up in? I have never seen Mumbai completely. There are many part of the city I have heard about but never been there.
Even a place like Gateway of India, I have had very unclear memories. Since the time I have come back, I have seen Gateway of India almost thrice.
In all these years, I had just heard about the Nehru Planetarium and how it felt like sitting below thousands of stars. All these years, I had never been inside the Nehru Planetarium. This Sunday, I fell asleep inside.
The mumbai darshan took us from one end of Mumbai to the South most end. We visited many places that I had visited when I was very small like the “Kamala Nehru Park” in Malbar hills and Taraporewala Aquarium. Yes! there was “Gateway of India”, Juhu Chowpathy and Nariman Point but there was no Museum and Crawford Market, no Bandstand and many more places. I guess I was wrong. Its not possible to see Mumbai in one day.
As the so-called guide said, it was not a picnic but a tour to see the city but it doesn’t have to be so rigid and unpleasant experience. I have been to cities in Europe which offer city tours. Although the condition and traffic in European countries is way different than in India, we need to have some professionalism in the tour.
A city tour is selling the city to the tourist. They are the representative of the city showcasing the city to the people. When people leave Mumbai, we expect them to take a part of what Mumbai is, a part of history and lots of Mumbai’s soul. Unfortunately the tour we went in became a rushed ride through the city. I guess reduced sight-seeing but with detailed information of each site can be more effective. We had almost 20 minutes to cover Nehru Science Center.
The city tour gave me the opportunity to see Mumbai from the eyes of the tourist. Many of them were in awe of the city and I have to admit, I did not know a lot about Mumbai. I would recommend the tour for people who have very short time in Mumbai. You cannot feel Mumbai but atlease see Mumbai
For others who have more time, avoid all the favorite spots of the tourist. Walk down the streets of Mumbai. Walk and get lost in the big, bad Mumbai and then maybe you will understand why Mumbaikar really love Mumbai. What it feels like to be a part of chaos and what it really mean to “Thoda adjust”
Mumbai has a lot of problems and we too contribute to most of them but on Sunday, I tried to see it as an outsider, as a tourist. I didn’t succeed much. I guess I can never take Mumbai out of me.