The night train to Delhi leaves Mumbai Central station exactly at 4.40. 4.40 being the time it was supposed to leave. Indian railways apparently is the second largest employer in the world. Don’t ask me who the first is, maybe the Chinese army or the company that makes those toast racks you find in most bed and breakfasts.. Sorry I digress, whatever, I have to say that I am impressed in the Indian railways efficiency.

We dreamily filter through the suburbs and the names I have come to know so well, Bandra, Santa Cruz, Andheri, and as the sun starts to get low in the sky we cross the piss filled waterway that separates the rest of India from my beloved Bombay (Mumbai).

I say my beloved Bombay purely because I have always wanted to make a statement like that. I have been here for over 2 months and in my mind that allows me to say “My beloved” about anything I please. I ponder whether there is a justifiable amount of time you have to spend in a place before you can make this statement.

As soon as you cross the waterway you are into the rural countryside of India. It could be England except for the palm trees, occasional buffalo and a semi naked man masturbating behind a tree.

Hang on a minute, why on earth would anybody use the words beloved and Bombay in the same sentence. I guess it is the insanity of the place. It just does not get out of your head. In terms of touristic wonders, there are none. The gateway to India is a crappy lump of carved rock that serves little purpose than to attract the most touristy of tourists and touts. The buildings of any note are all designed like St Pancras Station, so if you are a particular fan of seeing your favourite station in warmer climes, then this is for you.

There are no public spaces where you can chill out, as these would rapidly be filled by slums. It takes an age to get anywhere, because the roads, which barely rise above the status of a track are gridlocked. The commute on trains finds people crammed in like sardines. that is if sardines commuted, and in fact sardines are lucky, at least they have a fine film of oil and tomatoe sauce between them and the next sardine.  Instead you find yourself so close to your fellow man that you can feel the warmth from their crotch against you leg and regularly have you buttocks felt to check for your wallet or just perhaps cop a feel of the white guy.

Beggars of all types are everywhere. Even the person with the biggest heart in the world soon becomes hardened to the plight of the frail and needy and you find yourself questioning if you have a conscience anymore. If a 4 year old child is standing in front of you, with their big needy eyes, holding their 6 month old brother, kissing your feet and saying “please uncle” you just ignore them and don’t feel too bad about it either, because that is the 9th one you have had that morning and it is only 9am. Furthermore you are sure they are sharing the same baby, but in a different rag. Then you have the cripples with every kind of disease and limbs missing. They make a bee line straight for you, thrusting out their particular ailment like some perverse human game of tetris.

Transvestites wear saris, which at first seems odd, but why wouldn’t they, it is what the lady folk wear. But they feel it is their right to beg off you too. I guess those saris don’t come cheap and a transexual has to have a good wardrobe. So on an average trip across town you will be approached by 30 or more cripples, sari wearing chaps and baby wielding babies.

In Bombay there is little opportunity to relax. The city will not allow you to do this. I am sure there is little of the western ailments like depression. Because the time you spend being depressed is just about the right amount to allow the city to swallow you up. The brain is not allowed to stop and contemplate. It has to be active and fighting for survival all the time. People fight to board, and suffer, the over crowded trains and 2 hour commute. They step over the beggars and jostle with their fellow 20 million Mumbians all without concern, because it is what they have to do.

It is the intensity of Bombay that makes it my beloved place. If you can survive Bombay then everything after it is a milder form of insanity. It is my beloved because it  has given me good training for the rest of the sub continent that awaits at the end of these tracks….Delhi next on route to Katmandu.

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