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Mumbai - Then and Now

I first landed on Indian soil in 2000. As the 'New India' emerged, I observed the changes in one of my favourite cities in India, Mumbai.

Mumbai, India Look at the construction cranes - it's still growing...

First Impressions

I remember landing in Mumbai for the first time. It was 3 am and it was hot. I remember there were so many people on the street, celebrating a festival, even at that late hour.

“My first arrival in India was a decade before the striking Sea Link bridge was completed in Mumbai; before the IPL (Indian Premier League) and before Facebook was invented!”

India was a challenging first overseas trip for me but has also turned out to be a very personally rewarding one.

It was a slightly rocky start for me and Mumbai; I have often described Mumbai as 'not love at first sight.'

I also had to learn to stop calling the city its previous name, Bombay. But before too long I was hooked and began to feel comfortable, and even miss the non-stop metropolis.

I arrived in India before the striking Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge in Mumbai was opened; before the IPL (Indian Premier League cricket tournament) and before Facebook was invented! It was a different world.

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge in Mumbai. It is especially spectacular in monsoon season, with the dark, crashing seas below.

Infrastructure Boom

One thing you cannot say about Mumbai is that the traffic is free and easy!

The trains are great, but once you make it onto the roads, the stop-start traffic is a leveller.

It doesn't matter how important you are; you can be Bollywood's brightest star, but you will be stuck in the vehicle next to me and everyone else, and we won't be moving.

It's a function of a huge population and the geography of the city.

But things are on the move. The spectacular Sea Link bridge extended the road offshore to attempt to alleviate the heaving traffic going from south-north and return.

There are elevated metro rail services being constructed all over the city, and the engineering departments must be delighting in the challenge of constructing underground road and tunnel projects in a city of 20 million-plus.

Flying High

Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, Mumbai.

This is just the outside!

One of my personal favourite changes in Mumbai in the last twenty years has been the Mumbai airport development.

It was an efficient and functional building when I first touched down. I remember the atmosphere, not much more.

The building was austere but the staff were friendly. But today the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport is truly a thing of beauty!

When I alight from my taxi to depart Mumbai I risk being run over by a vehicle as I look up and admire the magnificent ceiling design of the building - and that's just in the drop-off zone outside!

Once inside, I found the airport to be extremely efficient at processing passengers. And just as impressive is the stunning interior design.

The lighting is fantastic for an airport and the atmosphere would be among the best of any airport I have experienced. It makes you not want to leave the city.

Out to Sea

Marine Drive, Mumbai

One of my favourite places in India is Marine Drive in Mumbai.

I love walking along the sea face, watching the birds and fishing boats go about their day.

But as the city groans under the population, and with the increase in car ownership, so grows the need for more ways to get people across the city.

Mumbai once again looks to the sea for answers.

Marine Drive forms part of an innovative Coastal Road project. A 22-kilometre, 8-lane road is under construction in the bustling cty.

The project involves reclaiming land along the seafront in Mumbai to build a new road that follows the coast on the western side.

It's yet to be seen the impact the road will have on the city.

No doubt the residents are feeling the impact of construction, which coincides with the tunnel project and other works across the city.

I selfishly wonder about the impact the road will have on my favourite view out to sea. (I'm not the one driving in the peak hour traffic, so it is definitely a selfish view!).

The Changing Face of Mumbai

Many of the changes I have mentioned are of course just infrastructure. The people and society of Mumbai have changed a little too.

The new shops, cafes, nightlife, food products, entrepreneurial activity etc all speak to a slight shift in thinking. Organic food is everywhere. I went to my first (and only) keto cafe in Mumbai.

But the essence of the city remains largely unchanged.

Friendly, smart people, a frenetic pace of life and the ever-hopeful attitude that things will work out in the end. Be warned; it's addictive...

Let me know your favourite stories about Mumbai. Comment below.

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