The next day, we headed to a free photography exhibition that we’d read about in the Time Out guide to Mumbai. It was snapshots of the city throughout the 1980s and 1990s - all in black and white, but reflected really well the juxtaposition of a developing, modern city well on its way in the industrialistion process, but growing out of a country still entrenched in poverty. For example, the photographer, Pablo Bartholomew, portrayed beggars and children lying on the street, wrapped in blankets, next to soaring skyscrapers; the Taj Mahal hotel; shots of Mumbai looking not unlike Atget’s Paris in its faded colonial glory. It was an incredibly interesting exhibition, particularly as it documented the city through what must have been one of its major periods of change, and really brought out the diversity of the place.
After visiting the exhibition we remained in the vein of juxtaposition by paying a visit to Cafe Coffee Day, an Indian coffee chain which I guess is like their version of Starbucks. It was air-conditioned, with fancy coffees, sundaes and desserts. We both ordered a “chocaccino” and wrote our journals for a few hours. The cafe was clearly popular among the middle-class Mumbaikers in their tight jeans and busty blouses, iphones strapped to their ears and designer handbags. Similar to the social commentary of Bartholomew’s exhibition, an elderly woman without the use of her legs hoisted herself along the pavement outside with her weathered hands, pausing by groups of affluent, pale-skinned Mumbaikers and tourists to beg for food; this was less than a metre away from where we were stitting, cocooned in our air-conditioned box and protected by a security guard from the reality of the street.
After lunch of a masala dosa at a local cafe, we took another train to Grant Road station again, to visit Chor Bazaar, a market famous for its antique goods and where Sarah bought a beautiful Bollywood poster. Unfortunately it took us a while to find; we ended up walking through meat markets before we found the area we wanted. Neither of us could look or breathe: the lasting image I have of when I did look was of a bloody hairless chicken still squawking away as a butcher chopped it up.
We went to treat ourselves to a drink in the Taj; Rob had done it and admitted that despite the extortion it was definitely worth it. Outside were posh Indian families getting horse-drawn silver carriages along the seafront; whilst they were clearly having fun it did look pretty tacky. We went through a bag-check before entering, using the amazing toilets where we were waited on, and went to the Harbour Bar for a ridiculously overpriced Diet Coke.
In the evening we finished off some shopping, and the next morning crammed everything into our rucksacks… it was goodbye to India!