One of the most shocking things about India – and Mumbai, in particular – and is the way that luxury and poverty coexists side by side. It’s so difficult to even comprehend the disparity that you have between the “haves” and the “haves-not”.
You can be right in front of a skyscraper and then walk 100 meters to find yourself in the slums. It’s quite common for luxury buildings to be built right next to shantytowns and the slums. Or the other way around, as the slums were often formed by the construction workers who came to the city from the rural area and needed to live near the construction area, so they put together these illegal dwellings and simply never left.
You can do your shopping in a posh, air conditioned mall where 5 assistants will help you to buy a pair of socks or you can go on the street and buy virtually anything for pennies on the dollar. Anywhere you go, the streets are lined with hundreds of vendors and stalls selling street food, shoes, cigarettes and candy.
You can see expensive imported cars on the street riding next to a scooter or a motorcycle carrying 3 or 4 people. Honestly, I didn’t think it was possibly to fit 4 people on a motorcycle, but there it was – a whole family going home on a single bike.
It’s fascinating to be in a country that’s both so developed and yet still developing. Over half of the population lives in poverty, but yet the country has many elements of the Western infrastructure – financial sector, medical sector, etc. is all there. It’s just that 500+ million people aren’t plugged into it…