Letter from India – 60 hours in Mumbai
23 August 2014
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For the fourth day in a row we had a 5am start to catch an early flight to Mumbai for a 2½ day visit. Those tourists that went to the Brauhaus with the Delhi Hurricanes and returning at 1:30am were understandably quiet both on the coach and on the two hour Spice Air flight.
Arriving at Mumbai the atmosphere was still hot but 10 degrees cooler than the 40c we were experiencing in Delhi. As we drove from the airport in the North of the city to our hotel almost on the Southern tip, we had a tour guide tell us something of the history of Mumbai, one of the world’s mega-cities with a population of 21 million people, which changed its name from Bombay in the 1990s to make it sound more Indian.
If you have seen Slumdog Millionaire or one of the many documentaries the film spawned about the city, you will know that Mumbai is a place of huge contrasts. We passed the billion-dollar residence of the fifth richest man in the world with its three helipads and 600 staff (click here to read more about it), while from the 568 foot tall building the residents look down on the second largest slum in the world after the Brazilian Favelas. As you walk or drive through the city the disparity is in your face as big, new cars drive past the entrances to shacks squeezed into any available spaces. What is remarkable is the lack of envy amongst the population. Everyone seems to accept that this is the way it is and it is up to them to make things better, even though the odds are stacked against them.
After the very hectic schedule in Delhi which included a reception at the home of the Chairman of the Confederation of Indian Industry where our official tour suits of white linen were on show for the first time, and an inspirational trip to the Taj Mahal (click here for pictures) our timetable in Mumbai is more relaxed. After checking into the Trident Nariman Point Hotel with its magnificent views over the bay, we went to the world famous Bombay Gymkhana club for lunch followed by a coaching session for children. This had been arranged by the Magicians & Ace Foundation with the participants enthusiastic to learn about rugby and how to play.
A couple of hours back at the hotel when many tried to catch up on some sleep then it was back in the coach to struggle through the rush hour traffic for a reception hosted by the British Council. This organisation promotes cultural and educational links with the UK but this was the first time they had welcomed a rugby club, albeit one with Lords and MPs. From my point of view I found it useful to talk with officials from the Indian RFU to discuss how the game is developing and how we in England could help them either through the counties or the RFU.
This morning we have the luxury of a lie-in and a breakfast of chicken curry with scrambled eggs, and with no commitments until 11am when we have agreed to visit a local school for children from the slums to run a coaching session. This afternoon is the second of our two tour matches against Bombay Gymkhana, some of who we met at last night’s reception. As the Commons & Lords have brought some of the Delhi Hurricanes along it promises to be a tight game and some are even predicting a rare Parliamentary win!
Time permitting I will publish a brief match report and more thoughts about this fascinating city tomorrow.