Measure out: one part Hollywood; six parts traffic; a bunch of rich power-moguls; stir in half a dozen colonial relics (use big ones); pour in six heaped cups of poverty; add a smattering of swish bars and restaurants (don’t skimp on quality here for best results); equal parts of mayhem and order; as many ancient bazaars as you have lying around; a handful of Hinduism; a dash of Islam; fold in your mixture with equal parts India; throw it all in a blender on high (adding generous helpings of pollution to taste) and presto: Mumbai.
An inebriating mix of all the above and more, this mass of humanity is a frantic melange of India’s extremes. It is the country’s financial powerhouse and its vogue centre of fashion, film and after-dark frolics. Glistening skyscrapers and malls mushroom amid slums and grinding poverty, and Mumbai slowly marches towards a brave new (air-conditioned) world. But not everyone made the guest list: more than half of the population lives in slums, and religious-based social unrest tugs at the skirt of Mumbai’s financial excess.
Only once the initial shell shock of Mumbai’s chaos subsides, can one start to appreciate the city’s allure: a wealth of Art Deco and grand colonial relics; cacophonic temples; warrens of bazaars; and the odd spiritual bastion of tranquillity. In Mumbai you can dine at some of the finest restaurants in the country, and work off the appetite gyrating at ultrachic bars alongside Bollywood starlets and wannabes. With a pinch of gumption, a dash of adventure, an open wallet and a running start, there’s no excuse not to dive into the Mumbai madness head-first.