15 Mar 2005
The first striking thing a person coming from Cameroon notices is the left hand driving rule in India. Mumbai is a densely populated cosmopolitan megacity with Indians from virtually all parts of the country living there. It is a commercial and financial centre and the most important seaport in the Arabian sea.
Common features of interest we visited or observed include; The gateway of India (a huge structure containing halls and archways overlooking the Arabian sea) said to be constructed to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The Girgaum Chowpatty (area where sandy beach meets with high rise buildings). The Haji Ali (a five hundred-year old Muslim shrine surrounded by water with a narrow causeway linking it to land).
We boarded a motorized boat from the gateway of India to Elephanta island situated about ten kilometers into the Sea of Oman (host to the 8th to 9th century Hindu cave temples). On our way we could see clearly the Mumbai harbour, the Indian Naval base, and one of India’s petroleum terminals. (see photo of gateway to India at this link)
An attempt to move us from the landing site inland by a miniature steam engine train ended in a fiasco as some coaches detached just when the train started moving. We did the short distance to the caves on foot. The temple caves are quite impressive and contain sculptures pertaining to Hindu religion caved on the rocky walls. The main cave of the six is supported by giant pillars cut out of the rock and has an area about 160 square metres and an average height of 5 metres. The most prominent sculpture is a triad-headed deity representing the Hindu Gods Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer).
The only sad thing we noticed was that some of these magnificent sculptures were defaced. We were informed that this primitive act of vandalism was carried out by the Portuguese at the time they ruled Elephanta. Until I saw what they did, I had all along thought that only the talibans could do such a thing.
In Mumbai, as well as other Indian cities you come face to face with the practical realities of human contradictions. Here, some people live in unbelievable opulence with all the luxury you can find in any part of the world while others live on the streets in a class of the poorest of the poor of our world. The gap between the rich and the poor is one social factor that distinguishes India from her other fast developing giant neighbour (China) to the north.
The first impression I got was that Indians are receptive to visitors but the only reason you can not easily exploit this friendliness is that only few people you come across on the street can speak English even though English is the major official language of this former British colony. Most of them communicate in Hindi and a couple of other national languages. Towards the end of the day of 10th March, we boarded a northward bound plane for the city of Jaipur.
Copyrightã 2005 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah