Hi friends and family!
As you know, I’ve been in Bombay for the last few days spending time with some lovely family friends. They run the magazine Sanctuary Asia, and are basically an incredible, tiger-saving, nature-loving extended family with three adorable grandsons who I get to hang out with.
Over the last few days I’ve gone to the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards (held annually), compared my journeys around the city to what I remember from being here seven years ago, eaten DELICIOUS food (I promise to post pictures soon), watched a Bollywood film, and… met the great great grandson of Charles Darwin and drank red wine, listened to him play classical Indian rajas and Christmas carols on the violin, and talked about radical politics. (WHAT?!?! – that was probably the best evening yet.)
Bombay is a beautiful city. I eat bananas here and don’t feel so guilty because they haven’t been transported halfway around the world, and this evening I am going on a bus tour with some eight-year-old boys. But Bombay also has some of the largest slums in the world, and is so polluted and crowded that The Guardian says that “Mumbai is on the verge of imploding.” Kya? What I see is a city in desperate need of creative, revolutionary urban planning. My friend Bittu has thought of so many ideas to make Bombay greener, more open, and more equitable.
After all, according to The Guardian Bombay used to be India’s urban showpiece. There’s still some green space left, and Chowpatty Beach and the views of the Arabian Sea are breathtaking, when you can see it through the smog. The mix of British colonial and modern Indian architecture is interesting and often beautiful.
But my friends are not always optimistic about the future of their city, or of India. A toxic mix of industrial power, corruption, bureaucracy, and exploding population is hard to deal with all at once.
I’ll post more in the coming days! For now I’ll leave you with a crazy thought (maybe only crazy for me) – I’ll be back in the States in 12 days.