Monday, 2 November 2009

Monday, 2 November 2009

UKYIE 09 - Thoughts on Mumbai.

Over the last few days I've been on a market visit with the British Council to Mumbai, India. Although the focus of the visit is business, I thought it might be useful to share a few thoughts about Mumbai the place as a bit of background:

The first thing to say about Mumbai is that flying in is a remarkable experience, it’s a simply gargantuan sprawling metropolis which demonstrates very little plan or system in its construction. The city hugs the coastline for miles and blanket of smog hugs the city in return. As you get closer to the city itself and start to be able to discern a little more detail you start to notice the slum areas dotted all over the city right taking up seemingly any available space. Weirdly, from the air these areas are quite possibly the most beautiful features of Mumbai. Each area is a fairly regular shape within which hundreds of small shacks (most no bigger than a garden shed with mixture of tin and blue tarpaulin roofs) have been thrown together utilising any and every space possible. However putting aside the reality of the place for a moment, the overall effect from the air is that of a series of warm patchwork quilts having been thrown over the city. It’s really quite stunning. (see inset picture of Dharavi slum by markhillary)

Coming on to the city itself, Mumbai can be summed up in one word – chaos. I wouldn’t even say organised chaos. I would agree, that it does seem to somehow work, but I’m damned if I know how. I’ll save you lengthy descriptions of the traffic, the remarkably unfinished state of almost every area, the largely dreadful roads or even the beggars, street children, hawkers or eunuchs, you can get that from any guide book. What I will say this that outside all of this Mumbai and its residents impart on their guests a remarkable and truly infectious feeling of opportunity and enthusiasm for change and the new. There’s a feeling that anything can, will and probably already has happened here.

However, in my opinion the most charming aspect of the city is the feeling or being very relaxed with the unknown which comes out of its chaotic nature. As was eloquently expressed by Tas, our host from the council: there’s no point getting worked up about punctuality here, for example: due to the traffic it could take forty-five minutes to get from one place in the city to another but it could take an hour and a half, there’s really no way of knowing. As a result the city, and therefore business within it, is laid back and open to change and opportunity. It’s really rather infectious and to be honest I’m a little sad to have left.
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Anonymous said...

Are you sure that's not St Albans? Looks suspiciously like it to me. ;-)

Fascination to hear how you are getting on. Look forward to reading more.

Chris Kempt said...

:O) pretty similar huh!

I've just put up another post and there's one more on the BIMA blog too: