Mumbai is a violent assault on the senses. The clamour of traffic and the aroma of sweat and spices and life, the chuntter of the morning commute and the cry of the crows. It’s a relentless beautiful attack. The burn of the sun and the choke in the throat. Little of you is unscathed after a single day.
But the people smile and contend and pretend. And harry and chase and mob. And by the end you are quite exhausted and wanting for more. It’s an emotional grab whilst your back was turned and it takes its toll, because in all the warmth of the sky and the people, there is a darkness in there that is hidden by the glare of those sometime pretend smiles.
The ‘Untouchable’ caste, the Dalits, have no place, a secret 200 million nationally, the broken and scattered considered too impure to be let in. The 100 million muslims across India who are denied education and jobs. 30% of a population don’t exist. And these are their faces, those who live in perpetual poverty in the Dharavi slums, or in small fishing villages that lie next to filthy beaches, eking out a meagre living - life on the edge, but always with the smile that pretends.
I passed by the home of the richest man in India, his home, the grandest of them all, sat squat like a concrete stab in the heart of destitution - nothing but the impoverished for neighbours. And on my final evening, I had dinner with the mother of a friend, the wife of a lawyer and she urged to see my pictures, and she raged at me. ‘Why don’t you photograph the shiny new office blocks and the business men in suits, not this version of my country that everyone projects?’. And it was a reasonable point, but I replied ‘Why does the British government give £100 million in aid to a country that will soon be the 3rd wealthiest on the planet?’ We could never agree on that and dinner was short.
Mumbai is an assault on the senses - I really must go back very soon.
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