Tag Archives: Monica Bhide

Traveler’s Library Short Passage

  • Deep gratitude to Monica Bhide for her guest posts, which brought scads of new readers to A Traveler’s Library.
  • I have rearranged stuff, added buttons and made it easier for you to subscribe to A Traveler’s Library, and I hope you will take advantage of that big orange button to the right.
  • I woke up Thursday morning to discover that I had been handed the Sisterhood Award (shown in the right hand column) by one of the loyal readers and frequent commenters here–Pamposh Dhar.  She brings readers peaceful, healthful thoughts, personal observations and my favorite, her travel experiences. Thanks for being a friend, Pamposh.
  • I hereby hand the Sisterhood Award off to world traveler Donna L. Hull, whose My Itchy Travel Feet particularly appeals to members of the boomer generation. Don’t miss the gorgeous photos she posts along with her interesting travel stories. She finds bargains for our home town at Tucson on the Cheap as well. Donna has been my blogging mentor and patiently answered endless stupid questions.
  • And another Sisterhood Award goes to Jenn Maciejewski, whose sharing spirit deserves recognition.  Jenn is the wizard behind Cities on the Cheap.  She started her blog in Atlanta and when other writers inquired, she  started a national movement which launched just this week. The network of blogs help residents and visitors to 40 cities across North America (and one in New Zealand) find bargains, free stuff and cheap deals.
  • Congratulations to Donna and Jenn, who now get to hand the award on to a sister blogger.

Seeing Mumbai, Part Two

Today Monica Bhide tells us about her own experience in the slums of Mumbai.

Americans find some familiar sights in Mumbai--McDonald's.
Americans find some familiar sights in Mumbai–McDonald’s.

I went to Dharavi once, it is said to be the largest slum in Asia and it is located in Mumbai.  I went there because I was told I could buy a leather jacket for a good price. I stepped out of my car and saw kids playing in absolute filth. I was holding my young baby in my arms. I could not stop staring. They stared back, smiled and waved at the baby and kept on playing. I stood there, unable to move, unable to react, I just stared. Such horrid poverty, I had never seen anything so bad in all my life. And yet the kids played, oblivious to me and my thoughts. I went to the closest vendor and bought a jacket. I paid full price, although bargaining is the name of the game here.  I couldn’t bring myself to ask them to reduce the price.

My family and I walked back to the car. The kids were still there, still laughing and my brother in law remarked – they are poor but laughter is free, right?  Before I got in the car, I cried so hard, I threw up several times. It was  gut-wrenching as a mother,  to see these little ones in this filth. I wanted to give money but was told not to – “A  hundred others will come and we cant help them all.” So we left, as I quietly dropped a few hundred rupees on the ground before sitting in the car.

Regarding Slum tours, I am not sure what value they provide. People want to go and see other people’s misery? If people want to help the slums, find an organization that does good work and work with them.  But if you just want to go and visit, on your own, guess what … poverty isn’t contagious. You can visit it, if you have the stomach to see how hard life can be for some people. I was on the periphery of the slums for my visit and I still cry when I think of some of the things I saw that day. But trust me, that will never, ever stop me from visiting Mumbai.

You see, the city compels me return, to learn from it,  to write about it. It has stolen my heart.

Monica Bhide

Photograph by Monica Bhide

Thanks, Monica for sharing your love of Mumbai. And how about you, readers?  Do you see Mumbai differently now?

Seeing Mumbai, Part One

Our guest today is Monica Bhide, a fine writer and an expert on Indian food. Her latest  imagework is Modern Spice. Monica wrote a moving essay on her blog which was posted at Facebook after the terrorism attack on Mumbai. I knew that she might have some different ideas than those I came away with from Slumdog Millionaire. 

I was not born in Mumbai nor did I grow up there. I have never lived there for longer than a few months at a time. And yet, as a writer, it is the destination that I have written about the most.

I have written love stories in yearning for the city’s seafood, I have written essays on my Mumbai-based idols, I have written pieces on how to shop in Chor-Bazaar, the Thieves Market, what to order at the Taj and the craziness of the fish markets. Mumbai has given me inspiration, it has given me dreams, life-long friends, a zest for learning the local language so I could understand all the bad words being hurled around by street kids, and it gave me the love of my life – my husband.

What is it about this city that makes everyone who lives there call it “Amchi Mumbai” (My Mumbai) and what is it about this city that makes people like me lose their hearts somewhere between the street food vendors and the glamorous shopping arcade at the Oberoi?  The short answer is the people. They have a spirit and a love of life unlike I have ever seen. They have a determination to make their city thrive, no matter what.  And I think this is what was central to Slumdog Millionaire.. the spirit of the people, it is why the movie succeeded, I believe.

To your question of not wanting to visit after you saw the movie, well, I can understand why. But if you feel that Mumbai is only about those slums, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Yes, there are slums in Mumbai, but that is just one part of the city. There are also glorious monuments, fantastic eateries, and places where the real estate is more expensive than in Tokyo. That is also Mumbai.  Mumbai is India’s nerve center, much like New York City is to the US.

There have often been comparisons made between the two major metros: they are the financial capitals – NYC has Wall Street, Mumbai has Dalal Street; they have major populations – Mumbai was 14 million at last count; they are melting pots of cultures and languages; they are home to major food establishments and businesses; they are cities where dreams come to build a life; they are places where even wanderers can find a home.

There are differences:  Mumbai is also the host for India’s movie industry, has strong religious undercurrents, and yet Mumbaikars are equal opportunity devotees and the Lord Ganesh offers his blessings to one and all, religion not withstanding; and monsoons still define the way of life.   I have seen movies about gangs in NYC, about the people who live under the city.. that does not stop me from wanting to visit what I consider to be an absolutely glorious city – I just stay away from the areas that I feel l don’t belong in or want to see particularly.

Next Monica tells us about her encounter with one of those areas of Mumbai that deeply affected her.