Mumbai- My heartbeat!

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Mumbai is an incredible city. And I do not say this because I was born and brought up there.

But the fact of the matter is that the city holds a very very special place in my heart. For me it’s like a love affair that will always continue even though I don’t live there anymore. (how I wish I was)

The city though is a ‘dream city’ and its not just because of being home to the biggest film industry of the country. The city has an electric, energetic, and throbbing vibe that you just can’t miss. The city is life itself. And no other city in India can hold a candle to the vibrancy that Mumbai has.

You can sense the little hearts around my eyes don’t you?

And the best part about the city is the people living there. They go about their business very seriously yet having loads of fun at the same time. The people make this city what it is. Their spirit is undeniably perhaps the one thing that other people find most unbelievable about Mumbai.

They have survived bad infrastructure, floods and repeated terrorist attacks, only to go back to work the very next day. Not something you’d see in a lot of other countries, and something that continues to startle other people to this day.

Here are a few gems of the ‘maximum city’ that you probably didn’t know about.

It Was An Island!

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Yes! Mumbai was a name denoted by 7 closely located islands which were Portuguese territories until the 16th century. In 1961, Portuguese gave England these 7 islands as dowry in Catherine of Braganza & Charles II marriage. Around 60 years (1784-1845) were taken to combine these 7 islands into a coastal city.

First Train in India!

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On 16 April 1853, Bombay (now Mumbai) witnessed first train movement in India. With 14 carriages & 400 passengers left Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal- CST ) for Thane in Maharashtra. Bombay (now Mumbai) also witnessed India’s 1st rail bridge. 

Sprawling slums and the rich-poor divide!

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I know, I know, what could I say about Mumbai’s slums that hasn’t already been spoken, written or sung about in articles, films or music videos? The slums have been analyzed, studied, investigated, dissected, condemned, saved, conserved, exploited and celebrated — but there’s no denying their place on this list. Dharavi, once Asia’s largest slum and housing nearly 300,000 people, and the slums in other areas of Kurla-Ghatkopar, Mankhurd-Govandi and Bhandup-Mulund — all larger than Dharavi — account for more than half of Mumbai’s population of close to 13 million people. Another Mumbai cliché that never fails to amaze visitors is the rich-poor juxtaposition. Where else in the country, or the world, can you find slums or shanties, next to multi-million (and now multi-billion) dollar homes and hotels?

National park in the middle of the city!

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Leopards, deer and monkeys right in the heart of Mumbai. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park, is a unique 104-square-kilometer park within a metropolitan area, -a protected forested area that houses around 5,000 insect species, 1,000 plants species, 250 bird species, 40 mammal species, 38 reptile species, nine amphibian species and ancient Buddhist caves going back to the first century. In fact, Mumbai may be the only city in the world to have a fully functioning national park with freely roaming large carnivores, within city limits.

A Geological Wonder in the Heart of the City!

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Located in the Andheri West, the unique Gilbert Hill is a 200 ft single column of black basalt rock. Also referred to as Gilbert’s Toe, the hills is more like a sudden protrusion from the ground with a sheer vertical face around it. It was formed a little over 65 million years ago when molten lava was gushed out of the crust and cooled, during the Mesozoic Era.

Secret Tunnels and Escape Routes!

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South Mumbai still retains its old world charm, filled with beautiful colonial-era buildings and other monuments. Not surprisingly, it has also clung on to some secrets. An underground passage speculated to be dating back to 200 years was built by the British who were worried about a possible French invasion. The entrance to the tunnel and its existence only came to light a few years back , when it was discovered below, what is today, Mumbai’s General Post Office (GPO).

Colaba Railway Station!

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Ask any youngster in Mumbai and it’s likely that he /she hasn’t even heard about Colaba station.  Although long forgotten, Colaba once had its own railway terminus, and began operations in 1893 .It was housed in an imposing stone building with high towers, just adjacent to Wodehouse Road and next to Sassoon Docks. As the city kept expanding and reclamation efforts accelerated, the rail line between Colaba and Churchgate had to be severed, to make way for the creation of Backbay Reclamation.

Best Food Suppliers in the World!

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If you ever travel to Mumbai and notice a person wearing a white cap and holding too many lunchboxes or tiffins as they are known by, you might wonder what will he do with these many lunch boxes? Known as Dabbawalas these people are a part of the giant organization. They collect the tiffins of food from homes to reach the customers office and return back with empty tiffins back to the homes, efficiently without any flaw. Every day they transfer 260,000 dabbas only in 6 hours. They work 52 weeks of a year and more impressively have got a six sigma compliant. Usually transporting these dabbas by the local train they get only 40 seconds to load and unload these boxes. They have been doing it since 1890 every day at a very steady rate. But what is even more surprising is that even after their average literacy being of 8th grade, they are chosen for various management case studies and their management skills are discussed in colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

Many places of Worship!

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Mumbaiites are very proud of their cosmopolitan culture and their embrace of religious diversity. This is one of Mumbai’s proud traditions, with temples, mosques, gurudwaras, and churches to be found in almost every corner of the city. In the older areas you will also find fire temples and synagogues. What most of the city’s inhabitants do not realize is that Mumbai is also home to Chinese and Japanese temples that date back to the colonial era. At the time, Mumbai was an international trade hub, attracting merchants from across the world. Many lived and worshipped in the city. In the Mazgaon area, you will find Kwan Tai Shek, a Chinese temple, while at Worli Naka, you will find Nipponzan Myohoji, a Japanese Buddhist Temple.

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So the next time you are traveling through Mumbai, look around and soak in the rich history. These interesting facts should enrich your experience and help you appreciate the amazing city.

 

Madhavi

 

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A New York state of mind !

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This isn’t my first time in New York but still whenever someone asks me what they should see and do in New York, I’m almost always stumped for an answer.

I mean besides the obvious touristy places /things, how can I sum up my answer? New York isn’t just any other big city. It’s an experience.

New York emits a mixed response from people. The crowds that throng this city is unbelievable. Some just love the crazy vibe the city has, and others hate it.

There are a million things that you can do in New York City that if I start talking, I wouldn’t know when to stop. After all, it is known as the city that never sleeps.

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But let me begin by saying that you better be prepared for walking a lot! A lot, a lot, a lot!! I mean you definitely can hail a yellow cab, just like in the movies and all, but who wants to see NY from a cab window, come on !

New York traffic can really leave you exhausted; not to mention the cab fare which can add up and get expensive in the long run.

Subway is your best bet and the 7 Day Metro Pass card will give you the best bang for your buck. And sometimes, Uber and Lyft are better options since most of the time, they are cheaper than regular cabs.

Speaking of traveling by Subway, be prepared to spend a little time figuring out which train goes where. Although I have traveled by Subway several times, it does get a little confusing for me. Figuring out the direction I need to take rattles me but then I figured out that doing a recee first on the google maps helps in taking the best possible route. Also downloading the NY Subway app on your phone can be really helpful.

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While there are the definite,’Things to do in NY’ such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building , Rockefeller center- the Top of the Rocks a 3-tiered observation deck at Rockefeller Plaza, that offers a great view of Manhattan, Chinatown, SOHO, the numerous Museums , the list is endless, but most of these attractions are chargeable . But surprisingly there are also so many things that you can do for free.

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Some Museums have free entry on certain days/ times. Or you can catch The Staten Island Ferry which is a Free commuter ferry that travels back and forth from the Whitehall Terminal at the tip of Manhattan to the St. George Terminal on Staten Island. You can catch a stunning view of the city as well as the Statue of Liberty while on the Ferry. This is such a great alternative especially if you do not wish to buy tickets and go to Ellis Island to see the Statue of Liberty or have already done that in your previous trips.

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Apart from this, popular places like Central Park, Bryant Park, Battery Park, Grand Terminal station ( an Icon) the 9/11 Memorial and Museum , Wall Street and its cobbled streets,  taking a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge , or DUMBO (The neighborhood of Dumbo is a beautiful place to visit. It has cobbled streets, vintage brick buildings, sits under the Brooklyn bridge and sports some sweet street art. Just walking around this area is a real treat). The HighLine which passes through Chelsea market and the nearby honeycomb structure  ‘The Vessel’ are all free activities.

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Stretching out underneath the Highline you’ll find a plethora of art galleries. These galleries are funky and weird as hell. They’re free to enter and some are big. This may be one of the most underrated things to do in New York City.

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Other than the tourist spots there are numerous other places of interest such as the ‘house from FRIENDS‘ in West village, or the the fact that Macy’s the trendsetter store covers an entire block with 11 levels of fashion for you and your home.

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NY has some of the hippest restaurants and rooftop bars that exude the vibe of this vibrant city.

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Of course there are many more sights that I haven’t included in this post, as I feel there will always be something I may leave behind.

You can somewhat relate to the quote from the movie Forrest Gump – “Life is a box full of chocolates, you never know which one you get”

Such is New York- Always a little mysterious, a little sweet and a whole lot saucy!!

 

Madhavi

 

 

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