Mumbai is much more intense than Delhi. It’s India’s Manhattan: as a peninsula, its waters prevent a Delhi-like sprawl. So Mumbai has grown up instead of out.
Imagine the population density of Old Delhi multiplied across an entire city.
That’s Mumbai. You walk in the streets because every inch of sidewalk has been claimed for business. You ignore the speeding taxis.
Somehow they don’t hit you.
Mumbai abounds with elegant old buildings that have been swallowed by the pressures of the city.
Beneath the signboards and hanging laundry and air conditioners are once-stunning examples of Art Deco and Victorian Gothic and Islamic-Indian. Look closely, imagine some fresh paint, subtract the haphazard additions, and you see buildings as glorious as the showpieces of Miami and Geneva and Istanbul.
But I’m not here just to gawk. I’m here to promote a book about quiet old Delhi to sophisticated, jaded Mumbaikers. To ensure I’d connect with them, I needed a Mumbai state of mind. This meant strolling along Marine Drive…
…visiting Chowpatty Beach…
… and stuffing myself with bhel puri.
Then, with my shirt pressed crisper than I’d ever been able to iron it myself (for ten rupees, a sidewalk ironwallah made it look better than new), I was off to Crossword Bookstore to do my reading.
At the foot of Malabar Hill (and within walking distance of the spot of our famous gora evasion experiment), I met Sharell Cook, one of Mumbai’s most famous bloggers, and my conversation partner for the night.
Together, under the unblinking glare of the camera from DDI news (did anyone see the report?), we discussed the three most important Hindi words for any traveler to know (I even attempted my most persuasive “bhaiya”), the philosophical lessons of Delhi traffic, and how expats in Delhi react when the air-conditioning goes out. (Hint: we panic.)
Here’s a brief clip of me reading an excerpt from chapter eleven, exploring the mindset of American travelers who visit India.
Following the event, I spent a night in Mumbai as a writer should: I joined an editor from HarperCollins and an editor from Time Out Mumbai at the Mumbai Press Club to dine drink whiskey, eat fried fish, and discuss the universal truths of journalism and casual Fridays.
Next stop: Crosswords Books in Bangalore on Wednesday, and then back to Delhi for a reading at Olive Beach Restaurant in Chankyapuri.