Return to Mumbai
Patricia and I visited Mumbai in March for 10 days with Rotary Club of Battersea colleagues.
We were hosted by the Rotary Club of Bombay Central, with whom we have a number of joint projects. The club is sufficiently traditional to keep the original name of Bombay!
Since we were there with the Diplomatic Service in the 1980s (I arrived in 1984 after my
predecessor had been shot) Mumbai has become a mega city of some 18/22 million. It has huge commercial resources and inevitably vast slum areas, notably Dehlavi, where the film “Slumdog Millionaire” is said to be based.
To visit the various villages where our projects are situated, we had to leave at 6:00 AM from our YMCA accommodation in the south of the peninsula to escape from the city before the horrendous traffic build up.
Our furthest point was Karjak, some 45 miles northwest of the city. We visited village schools which we have assisted in the past with desks, computers, uniforms, latrines, etc. This time the emphasis was on solar panel lighting. Once set up, the batteries run for 2 years. This is a good investment in a country with lots of sun like India. We also supplied a good deal of stationery equipment, which is always welcome, and sewing machines.
There are many plaques in the villages to “The Rotary Club of Battersea Park”. Indians may well wonder what this means! We put in some £10,000 in total.
Mumbai itself continues as a commercial powerhouse. We visited the cultural highlights and the main cricket stadium for hospitality. The Anglican Cathedral and other churches still flourish, many charities are very active, and Crawford Market is as fascinating as ever.
The vast pile of Alphonso mangos still exists. The mango boss is called Dhoble, a local surname, like my own name with an ‘h’. This led to my being nicknamed ‘The mango king’ in 1984.
We lunched in Leopold’s Cafe and visited the Taj Hotel, both victims of the terrorist attack in 2008.
After a final farewell, we left for a few less exhausting days in Rajasthan.