*Nope, the quest to document each port has not been forgotten!!
Namaste! (Hello in Hindi)
- Date: 2015/9/8
- Port Name: Mumbai
- Country: India
- First time there?: Yes!
- What did I do?: Interpreting for a full day tour of Mumbai City.
What I learned about Mumbai onboard:
The Caste System
One of the reasons I took so long to get this post up was because I kept getting stuck every time I try to write what I learned about the caste system in India. To be honest, it was only a 101 level session (just a rather dated video shown by my colleague) and it’s too difficult and deep a topic for me and I feel like I don’t know enough about it to share my thoughts about it.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, but basically, in India, people have inherent status from birth, and the lower your class, naturally, the poorer you are. However, there exists people outside of the class system called the ‘Pariahs’ (‘pariah’ became an English word meaning ‘outcasts’, and I suspect that this word also got adapted in Manglish into ‘palia’, meaning lousy or low quality). The ‘Pariah’ were/are refused opportunities to certain jobs, political positions, and in more extreme cases, they were so discriminated that they live far away from the other classes, living on unclean water and other limited resources. Discrimination against these people who are often referred to as “the Untouchables” has technically been banned for around 60 years but sadly, in reality it is still prevalent. Here is an excerpt from a National Geographic article:
Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live. Untouchables are shunned, insulted, banned from temples and higher caste homes, made to eat and drink from separate utensils in public places, and, in extreme but not uncommon cases, are raped, burned, lynched, and gunned down.
Some lighter information on the city of Mumbai:
(Extracted from an email sent to le bf a few days after leaving Mumbai)
・ It is the financial capital of India although New Delhi is the capital.
・There is a fancy area called Malabar Hills, kinda like Beverly Hills in California. The real estate in Malabar Hills rival the apartment prices in New York.
・I’ve heard that India is famous for its gap between the rich and poor. That they live right across the street from one another. Boy, it was true. There are slums where people can’t get clean water and right across them were skyscrapers.
・ You know the word ‘Namaste’ in yoga class? According to the tour guide I was working with, ‘Namaste’, a greeting in India used very commonly literally means ‘Not mine’. Basically you remind yourself that your body is not yours, you are just a steward and everything on earth including your body belongs to God. It was indeed evident that spirituality is a big part of life in India.
・As India was a colony of England for a long time, a lot of their buildings have European influence. Honestly in my opinion the streets of the city centre in Mumbai are more similar to Europe than Malaysia / other parts of Asia I’ve visited. Only the people and cars looked different. And the air smelt different, too.
・Here is Dhobi Ghat. It is the biggest laundry area in India. Inside, about 1000 workers work as clothes cleaners – a lot of lower class people cannot afford a washing machine in their houses so they send their clothes to this place to get their clothes washed for a fee. Small businesses and hotels send their staff uniforms and bedsheets too.
・The Gateway of India, built just to commemorate the visit of the King of England in 1911.
・I was trying to catch the red bus in this photo. They were everywhere in the city! My guess is that its design was influenced by the red double-decker buses in London.
・Forgive me for the bad photos, it was quite hard to steal a few snapshots while working! This was taken outside Mani Bhavan, Mahatma Gandhi’s residence and where he started a lot of his movements in his struggle for India’s independence. It has become a museum exhibiting some of his notes and correspondence with other politicians at that time and pictures documenting the major events in Gandhiji’s life. I also remember seeing his iconic spinning wheel. I got stuck on the Japanese word for it and luckily, one of the Japanese passengers I was translating for told me it was 紡ぎ車 (tsumugi-guruma). It’s called a chakra in Hindi and it can also be found on the Indian flag as you can see below. Mahatma Gandhi had included this because it symbolises his hope for all Indians to become self-reliant by spinning cotton or fabric on their own. More trivia: India got its independence in 1947, 10 years before us in Malaysia.
- Expenses: US$20. For buying snacks and chocolates for the long 10 days spent onboard across the Arabian Sea to Dubai. I had some remaining rupees so I spent them on a pair of slippers from a local vendor which I wore for only 2 occasions as they hurt my ankles.
- Postcard back home (torn messily from the book of postcards I bought because I was in a rush):
- Postcard for le bf:
NEXT PORT: DUBAI!