As we first came to Bombay more than 30 years ago – sorry, but we stick to the traditional names as most Indians do – we feel like re-visiting the Elephanta Caves. Looking back at the Taj Mahal Palace after leaving the jetty at the steps of the Gateway of India it seems nothing has changed. The first innovation is the toy train that you can ride for the short distance from the dock to the entry to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For lunch, we drop in at The Bombay Canteen. This unpretentious slightly industrial looking bar and restaurant is widely known as one of the best places to get a taste of up to date Indian fusion cuisine. The highly motivated and competent staff is introducing us to all the delicacies on the menu and their origin that often lie in Bombay street food. Get a reservation if you want to go there in the evening!
To walk off the sumptuous meal we go for a guided tour of the Dharavi Slum. This extremely densely populated district of Bombay claims to be the greatest recycling workshop in the area. Waste plastic in any form is carried into the alleys, sorted broken down and sold for industrial reuse. Any sort of metal is transformed into sheets or daily goods and cardboard is …. and on and on. People not only work here but they also live among heavy fumes from chemicals used in the processes and waste and sewage – it life expectancy is said to be 9 years below Bombay average. We learn that these people put up a strong fight against the city’s plans to redevelop the area with public funded housing. We sooth our conscience by the fact that the guided tours are run and led by residents of the slum and their claim that all the proceeds go to slum related projects.