25 September 2013

Mumbai, India - (6)



Churchgate Station, Mumbai, India
We arose rather late this morning - all the walking and noise is exhausting!
Breakfast at the President Taj was busy this morning. Service is always friendly although sometimes rather hit and miss as the staff seem to be all over the place instead of concentrating on a few tables. The spicy tea (don't ask me for the Indian name) gets the taste buds going and then we can enjoy our eggs and normal tea/coffee.
A IR 50 taxi ride, with us holding on for dear life, got us to Churchgate station in time to watch the  dabbawallahs come off the trains, cross the road and start sorting out their food bags for delivery to offices across  the city. How on earth they know what goes where is beyond my little brain but it is all precision packed either onto bicycle handle-bars or those famous Indian wooden carts. The carts take loads of meals and are pulled by hand. Luckily, all the bags are closed as we saw one of these guys picking his nose and then proceeding to go off on his deliveries for the day.
Hygiene does not seem to be a big thing in India, given  the fact that so many tourists fall ill.
Started a century ago with home-cooked meals. this tradition lives on in the modern Mumbai. 5000 of these man deliver approx. 200,000 lunch boxes from homes to respective offices every day. Making virtually no mistakes (1 in every 16 million delivers)  these men earn between 2000 - 4000 IR per month. The system was started by the British who preferred their home-cooked meals, made by their staff, to be delivered to their workplace. The fact that this system still runs like clockwork and is favoured by many so many years later, is incredible, given the age of modern technology. This defies modern systems and shows that old traditions can survive, despite everything. The boxes are colour coded which tells where the food comes from, which station it will be delivered to and the address where it has to be delivered. The dabbawallahs deliver in all weathers, never go on strike and now even have their own website or you can order via sms. Modern and ancient mixed together in an incredible way.
Apparently, business schools ask these dubbawallahs to lecture on their systems and they have been used to promote their new products. Prince Charles met them in 2003 and Richard Branson has also spent time with them. It's totally mind-boggling that such a simple system, yet with so many logistical problems such as train travel, can be delivered on time each and every day. Dubbawallahs need to be well-disciplined as there reputation is of paramount importance.
Hats off to these people in carrying on with a tradition which started in the 1890's. It's mind-boggling to me, yet it runs like clock-work.
Sometimes, people from other countries need to sit up and take note of systems that work, of people that have pride in their jobs, no matter that they are not the most well-paid in society. Coming from South Africa, where many people have no pride in their work and yet expect huge pay increases  every year, despite the poor economic climate, makes one see India in a very positive light. The Indian papers are also quick to report rapes or crimes - they are not hidden away or swept under the carpet.
Once all the dubbawallahs had left, we saw from the map that Churchgate  Station is not too far from Marine Drive, so off we set on foot. This time we walked North to the end of the pier which is right opposite the Fisherman's Village (near our hotel). With humidity of around 88% today, it is very hot unless walking in the shade. Once again, we are surrounded by only Indians - the Westerners can be counted on 10 fingers so perhaps they are more into the fancy shopping centres than the down-to-earth Mumbai with it's thousands of taxi's, honking horns, normal people going about their daily lives, collecting their kids from school and catching buses and trains to wherever they need to go.
We have not been brave enough to catch either a bus or a train but we have walked most of Colaba -  my feet and legs tell me so. 
Most of Mumbai is fairly clean - the streets are tidy and neat except in the areas where the squatters (fisher folk) live. Even there, the rubbish seems confined to patches near the rubbish skips and on the beach where they have their boats.
Crossing the roads in Mumbai is a rather death-defying experience as nobody stops at a pedestrian crossing and one wonders why they even bother to paint them? Most are very faded and worn from all those feet stumbling across! I nearly got squashed by a taxi today and I was not amused - silly people - surely a second will not make that much difference in their lives? But no - they blow their horns and just keep going hell for leather. It's daft, it's crazy, it's Indian and it's Mumbai. Love it or leave it! Some of the locals just walk - I suppose they know the taxi will stop at the last minute or face homicide charges, but we are not willing to take that chance. Scaredy cats? YEP!
We have not seen many stray cats or dogs - those near the shack dwellers are all rather thin and don't look too healthy. The well-looked after dogs are being  walked on leads by their well-dressed owners. Those look in tip-top shape.
We reached our hotel totally drenched in perspiration and me looking like a beetroot with my hair all over the place and the shorts sticking to my limbs. A cold shower has somewhat revived me but my core temperature still feels overheated!
At least we can say that we have walked this small area of Colaba (in relation to the entire city!) It is so very different to anything that we are used to in Cape Town or have ever experienced anywhere else in the world. Over-stimulation of the senses, especially the ears!
Feeling peckish, we decided to try a Pizza place in Nariman Point. Well....nobody wanted to take us there - obviously too close and they wanted a min of IR 80 to virtually go round the corner. So...too far to walk and having tried at least 5 taxi's, we decided that they were all a rip-off so we stayed at the hotel and ate their pizza instead! Boring?? Yep but what can one do. The taxi's do seem to rip off foreign tourists, as I suppose they do all over the world.
Complimentary fresh fruit from the hotel and a cuppa of my own Five Roses tea will do me fine together with some R&R time on the Kindle.

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