03.04.2009 38 °C
Since leaving Pushkar I have spent a week in Udaipur and am now in Mumbai. Initially my plan was to only be in Udaipur for 2 days before getting the train to Mumbai but I arrived there at 5am in the morning and trusted the rickshaw driver to recommend a good hostel......and luckily this time I came up trumps! The hostel I stayed in was lovely, right in the centre of the old city in between the main temple and over looking the lake. It had a rooftop resturaunt that you could over look the ghats and lake from and really friendly staff.
Udaipur is a lovely city really nice and relaxing and pretty, I visited some of the sights, the city palace and the monsoon palace for sunset but mostly wandered round meeting up with different travellers, having coffees...and lots of cakes!! Udaipur is famous for its palace in the middle of the lake which is now a 5star hotel that yopu can only travel to if you have a dinner or lunch reservation. The palace was used in the film Octopussy so religiously at 7pm every night, every hostel and hotel shows the film...I think I now must know it off by heart!
On Saturday I got the sleeper train to Mumbai which took 16 hours but luckily I got a top bunk and a really nice Indian guy bought me fruit, salad and biscuits throughout the journey!
Mumbai is not like any of the places I have visited so far, it is the most cosmopolitan place which is nice as I have been able to walk down the street un noticed and un hassled for the first time since arriving in India, and its not so touristy. However everything is more than double the price of every where I else I have visited and my first couple of days I hated it here, although I am now warming to the place!
I am staying at the YWCA which is nice and clean and am sharing a room with a girl who I met in Udaipur which is great to have someone to go for drinks with in the evening.
My first day I went to Chowpatty beach for sunset and met a really lovely Indian family who took me under there wing when they saw me sitting alone. All of the Indian families I have met so far have been lovely and but they so not take no for an answer especially when it comes to giving you food and feeding you up and paying for everything. This family was lovely, they bought me ice cream, fed me a million biscuits and peanuts and sugar cane, and then took me on the most rickety ferris wheel ever. Luckily it wasn't that high but it worked by 4 guys standing on the top of the frame and then jumping down hanging onto one of the carts in order to make it go round! It went really fast and everyone thought it was great fun apart from me ...I just kept a close eye on all the nuts and bolts making sure that they were hanging in there and tried to smile and laugh like I was having fun whenever anyone looked my way!
On my second day here I was approached by a guy who asked me to be an extra in a Bollywood film. I had heard that quite often they need western people for the films so the next day I took the train with 6 other people to a film set in North Mumbai. The film is called Love Aajkal and they were shooting the end scene which was at a Rajasthan market with loads of dancing and singing. I had to be a tourist wandering round the market watching the dancers and having my photo taken...it was so funny! I was paid 500 rupees for the day and given breakfast , lunch and dinner which was a bargain for the experience that I got. I got to meet the two main Bollywood actors aswell Saif Ali Khan and Dipika Padukon who are quite famous here! The film is due to come out on the 26th June so I am going to look out for it and see if I am famous!
The local trains in Mumbai are crazy at rush hour, every day on average 8 people die from using the trains. As the trains pull into the station everyone who wants top get off start jumping off and people fling themselves onto the trains as they are still moving to try to get a seat and some space. Once the trains stop there is a massive surge and if you are in the wrong place whether you like it or not you are either on a train or off a train at a station! Luckily they have women only carriages which are a little more civilised but seeing the busy trains going passed is funny, there are people sitting on the tops of them, people clinging onto the sides of them and out the doors.
Yesterday I went to the Dharavi which is the largest slum in Asia, over 1 million people live there. I went with a guide who lives in the slum and works for a charity organisation that gives 80% of the money from the tour back into developing schools and education for people from the slum. It was really interesting and completely changed my perception of what it would be like. It was really organised, there are residential street areas where up to 9 people live in a tiny room, there are business areas where men have set up work recycling all the plastic from the streets, sorting it into colours then melting it down and selling it back to plastic industries. Most of the people who live there have come from villages outside Mumbai from all over India and want to experience the wealth and oppotunities in the city, although they all live below the poverty line with a family living on less than 2USD a day they all work in various industries within the slum. Whilst I was there no one begged, everyone was very friendly and I felt safer there then in some other parts of the city. I went to some of the local schools in the slums aswell that have been set up by NGO organisations or by the government. The government has recently recognised Dharavi as a slum and started to provide them with community toilets, and electricity and water at certain parts of the day.
My guide also took me to the red light district area in Mumbai and explained the problems that they are having with putting a stop to industry and where the women come from and how they are treated. Amazingly over 8000 sex workers work in one street which has a police station at the end of it. Although illegal in India the police and government officials make up a large proportion of the customers in the red light district and therefore often brothel owners get tipped off before any raids on there houses.
Whilst I was in Dehli I read an article about a charity organisation called Apne Ap working in Mumbai to try and empower the women and their children who work in the red light district and also re-educate some of the customer men who come from the villages to stop them using the prostitutes. I am currently in contact with them to see if there is any volunteer work I can do either whilst in Mumbai or from the road whilst in India so fingers crossed.
So anyway after my cheery couple of days getting a better understanding of the poverty in India I am now planning my trip down to Goa for some time chilling out on the beach. The weather here is now getting much hotter as I head down south and the last two days in Mumbai the humidity has been so high, I don't think I have ever sweat so much so I am really looking forward to being able to cool off and swim in the sea!