I’ve had a bit of a crazy travel schedule the last few days. On Monday morning I took a bus from Udaipur to Ahmedabad (pronounced more like “Ahmdavad”), stopped there for a few hours, then traveled onward overnight by train to Mumbai.
The bus itself was quite nice, and there was no one sitting next to me. On my descent from the bus, the craziness started. I got a rickshaw to the train station so that I could stow my luggage and get my follow-on ticket for that night. Then I wanted to go to Gandhi’s ashram north of town. I started bargaining with the first rickshaw driver who was overcharging me when a young guy stepped in and asked if I needed help. The rickshaw driver got in his face and started yelling. I was impressed by the young man’s peaceful nature, as he calmly dealt with the driver. After the altercation he warned me off that particular driver. I had seen enough to concur, thanked the young man and went onward. The second driver told me that he suddenly remembered the ashram was closed that day after I had got him down to a realistic price. Next? So rickshaw wallah #3 got my business, even though he had a high fare as well. I was tired of fighting at that point, and besides, it was still only about $2 total. Pick your battles, as they say.
The ashram, Sabarmati, is named after the river where it lies adjacent to. It’s a peaceful place where he lived for twelve years, and served as the base for his famous salt march. Now it serves as a tribute to all the work that Mahatma Ghandi accomplished. He’s been someone I’ve really respected, and I was happy to be able to visit a place where he accomplished so much.
Other than the ashram, there wasn’t really anything in Ahmedabad that was on my “must see” list. So it was back to the train station, hiring another rickshaw. This time, I paid more attention to what he was doing, and developed a bit of respect for the rickshaw wallahs. These guys ferry their passengers around dodging cows, people, bikes, cars, and buses. There are no lanes, no signals or stop signs. The only safety mechanism is honking, which serves as echolocation around other vehicles. It does work to a large degree, but it’s really amazing that more accidents don’t happen. Add the noise and the exhaust fumes, and imagine dealing with it all day. That’s their life. When I think about that plus the skill they display, it makes it easier to pay them closer to what they ask for, even if it is probably 2-3 times the local rate.
The next morning I arrived in Mumbai. While I was eating breakfast, I was joined by two Chinese tourists, a woman and her boss. They had the day off from their duties, and we joined forces to go to Chowpatty beach. I had heard much about it, and wanted to see it and try the famous Bhel Puri that is made there. The beach was smaller than I imagined, but the Bhel Puri (a snack of sorts with fried crackers and noodles, tomato, peppers, onions, potatoes, chickpeas and sauces) was great. Worth the stop in Mumbai just for that. Afterwards we went on a taxi tour of the town, stopping at another residence of Ghandi that I hadn’t heard about, a Jain temple, a nearby park, and the dhobi ghat. For those that don’t know, there are men in Mumbai who wash clothes and linens at the edge of the river for their living. Hospital, school, and hotel linens are all washed here. The amount done with minimal machine assistance is staggering.
Mumbai also has a large slum area made famous in the movie “Slumdog Millionaire”. I considered going, but had mixed feelings about intentionally seeking out such a place. It seemed like an act of exploitation to go see it. I am very aware of the poverty here. Even without going to a slum, the poverty is in your face. In the end, I decided the slum residents didn’t need to have me gawping at them.
And that concludes the whirlwind tour of Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Hope you enjoyed it!