Obama in Mumbai (and more about Mumbai)…
= May 2011 Update: I’ve put up a new Photo Gallery, Images of India. Also, a Mumbai photo of mine (featured below) was picked by the Illinois Institute of Technology for use in a poster promoting an upcoming “study abroad” trip to India. Please see/click on this link: “India Immersion.” =
. . .
U.S. President Barack Obama will make his first visit to India, and the city of Mumbai, this weekend (November 6, 7, 2010). While in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, he will meet with business leaders there. He will also stay at the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the places which, two years ago this month, terrorists from Pakistan attacked and burned and where they killed dozens of innocents.
Note: all photos and videos featured here taken by Richard Newton. Please contact me if you would like to re-use any of them.
Mumbai — formerly “Bombay” — is an energetic, crowded, verdant, upbeat (and sometimes odiferous) city. Mumbai offers its residents and visitors both modern restaurants and side street food kiosks, lingering colonial trappings and 21st Century Indian pride, bustling intersections and quiet parks, Hindu Temples, Mosques, Churches and Parsi Agiaries (fire temples for the now-dwindling population of Zoroastrians). Situated on the Southwest coast of India, looking out on the Arabian Sea, it’s home to almost 14 million people. Since 2006 I’ve been fortunate to have visited Mumbai four times, though I haven’t been there since 2008. I’ve stayed at the Taj Mahal hotel. It was built in 1903 and is the crown jewel of the extremely unique architectural style known as “Bombay Gothic,” a mixture of late-Victorian, early Edwardian, Rajastani forms, and even some Hindu Temple cues. One story, perhaps apocryphal, goes that its builder, Jamsetji Tata, was denied entrance into “whites only” British hotels of the day, so he just up and decided to build his own, a more beautiful and luxurious “palace” than any in old Bombay. Note: please see my first Mumbai/India post here at LetsJapan.Wordpress, from July 2009.
A few micro-vids I made in Mumbai:
In front of the Taj Mahal hotel (just to the left) on a Sunday in April 2007
Along the right side of the Taj, with the Gateway just behind, walking towards the Colaba Causeway
Along the Colaba Causeway. Leopold Cafe sign just visible down the street on the right.
The Gateway of India
Directly across from the Taj Mahal hotel is the Gateway of India, constructed (beginning in 1915, completed in 1924) to welcome British royalty and other dignitaries into the Jewel in the British Colonial Crown, India. Ironically, it was in front of the Gateway in 1947 that the final ceremony ending British rule was held and through the Gateway that the final British soldiers passed to board the dinghies that would take them to the ships that would take them home to Great Britain. The Gateway is a basalt amalgam of Euro-British “Triumphal Arch” architecture, medieval Gujarati design and form, and various Hindu temple embellishments. When I was last in Mumbai (in April 2008) the Gateway of India was being renovated and repaired.
While on business in Mumbai in April 2008 I stayed at the Radio Club. More about the Radio Club later. It’s just a few minute walk from the Taj, and from the Gateway of India. Below is the view from just in front of my Radio Club room, looking towards the Gateway of India. Just past the pool you can see where preparations are just beginning (on the long, stone and concrete pier) for a wedding reception to be held later in the week.
The Radio Club
The Radio Club (officially: the Bombay Presidency Radio Club) is a members-only social/sports club, situated at the end of the same street that runs in between the Taj Hotel and the Gateway of India, PJ Ramchandani Marg. I heard that the main building, with indoor and outdoor dining, meeting rooms, and the like, was built by the British back in the 1920’s as a military listening post, but that may be apocryphal or I may not have heard right. Many of Old Bombay’s well-heeled business tycoons, and their progeny, are members, but it’s not exactly a luxurious collection of buildings. Nevertheless, owing to a previous meeting with one of the Radio Club’s long-time past presidents in 2007, I was honored and humbled to be invited to stay in one of its rather austere guest rooms, for a very reasonable per night price, when I was back in Mumbai on business in 2008. The people there, though titans of Mumbai Industry, are informal, kind and seen as — or more — often with their families as they are looking dour and businessy. In fact, no one I saw there ever looked dour or businessy. I was also fortunate to have a beautiful view of the harbor, looking out towards the Gateway of India (see photo above) and the several islands off shore, one of which was the famed Elephanta Islandupon, and in which, you’ll find the ancient Elephanta Caves. There’s another, smaller island just off shore from the Radio Club, I’m not quite sure where, that according to one of the happiest men I’ve ever met — at the Radio Club or anywhere — is owned by his “beautiful billionaire wife.” So he said while laughing the laugh of sublime satisfaction and appreciation of his superlative good fortune, as we sat over steaming cups of masala chai one morning on the Radio Club patio. I don’t think it would be proper to name names in this blog post. Practical note: the masala chai at the Taj Hotel is pretty awful, just shockingly overpriced hot English tea with some milk and a few spices thrown in. The street vendors just a few steps away from the front entrance make the real stuff, from scratch, with pride and keen attention to age-old family recipes, and sell their cups for just a few Rupees each.
Note regarding photo above: all the masonry is from the plaza surrounding the Gateway of India, being torn up and replaced.
&etc. . .
. . .
Posted Fri Morning, Nov 5, 2010. Please check for updates over the next 24 hours.