India’s largest city is exciting, chaotic and
overwhelming. Mumbai is where the country’s future is being forged, and gleaming
towers and a new middle-class co-exist with sprawling slums and entrenched
poverty. Living here means not only surviving, but learning to appreciate the daily
tumult, epic traffic and seasonal monsoons, while enjoying life in the most
cosmopolitan city on the subcontinent.
What is it known for?
Mumbai, the fourth-largest city in the world, is home to 20 million people and fans
out along the coast of the Arabian Sea as an ever-growing megalopolis. The city
attracts workers from all over India and from nations around the world, and its
upwardly mobile skyline is a statement to its global ambitions.
“Mumbai is one of the most
liberal-minded cities in India,” said Maithili Ahluwalia, owner of Bungalow Eight , a concept store that
showcases Indian-inspired interior and fashion designs. “[It] is an
all-embracing city on every level.”
Mumbai is home to major financial institutions such as the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of India, as well as
Bollywood, the movie industry that produces around 1,000 Hindi-language movies
and musicals a year in Film City, a complex of studios, backlots and
landscapes. Bollywood’s raft of movie stars , such as Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan, are
increasingly known outside of India, and
many can be seen dining out at the city’s best restaurants and lighting up the
red carpets at premieres.
Mumbaikars of all stripes eat very well, from the panipuri (fried savoury snacks) sold in khau gullies (lanes filled with food
stalls) to the world-class cuisine at five-star restaurants. Dabba wallahs (delivery men) fill the
streets at lunchtime, bringing tiffins (metal food containers) filled with
home-cooked meals to city workers.
The city’s British colonial past can be seen in the
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
(formerly Victoria Terminus Station), a Gothic Victorian train station, as well
as in the Art Deco buildings that line Marine Drive and in the Gateway of India, a monument that
sits along the harbour, erected during the British Raj (the
period of British rule between 1858 and 1947), where viceroys would alight
after their long voyage.
Where do you want to
Mumbai has popular districts in both the north and south of the city. Malabar
Hill in the south is an exclusive district with views of Marine Drive and Chowpatty
Beach. Just north of Malabar Hill, the areas of Breach Candy on the seafront
and Carmichael Road in Cumballa Hill, a heritage neighbourhood filled with low-rise
bungalows and lush landscaping, are both very popular. At the opposite end of
Marine Drive, Colaba lies at the southern point of the city and has many Art
Deco and Indo-Sarsenic buildings. “Colaba’s faded glamour
is seen as the bastion of Mumbai’s privileged and well-heeled,” Ahluwalia explained.
In the city’s north, Bandra is called the “queen of the suburbs”, home
to Bollywood stars, gourmet markets, restaurants and cafes, and the American School of Bombay. “In the past decade it has become an epicentre for creatives and hipsters
and is considered the Williamsburg [Brooklyn] of Mumbai,” Ahluwalia said.
New development is taking
place in older neighbourhoods, including Tardeo in the south of the city, where
two 60-storey residential towers called The Imperial were
Many professional Mumbaikers and celebrities who want a respite from the city’s
dizzying pace head to the green hills of Alibag. Often called the “Hamptons of
Mumbai” for the chic, well-heeled crowd that makes this their beach getaway, the
coastal town and surrounding villages and beaches are about a half-hour ferry
ride across the harbour from the Gateway of India. The relaxed oceanfront
resorts of Goa, India’s smallest but richest state, are just a 45-minute plane
ride away to the south.
The main airport, Chhatrapati
Shivaji International, is in the north of the city and
has flights to dozens of domestic and international destinations. London is an
eight-and-a-half hour flight away and Dubai is just less than three hours.
The housing market has seen a recent slowdown, and housing sales dropped by 28%
in 2011, caused by the rise in both interest rates and prices due to limited
supply. However, 2012 saw an increase in new construction projects and estate
agents hope this will lead to a corresponding jump in sales.
Prices for a luxury bungalow in a heritage district such as Carmichael
Road range from 40,000 to 90,000 rupees per sqft. One such bungalow sold in
2010 for 3 billion rupees, while a two-bedroom apartment goes for around 100
million rupees. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bandra is
75,000 rupees a month or 150,000 rupees for a three-bed. House rentals are
roughly the same price.
The Caravan: reportage
and essays on politics, culture, travel and art
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guide to food, music, art, books, nightlife, music and media around town
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