2/15/2014 – We’ve arrived safe and sound in Mumbai and by some miracle our bags even arrived with us. We arrived into the brand new terminal at the airport which had only be open a few days. It’s pretty incredible—spacious and all glittering glass, colored marble and avant-guard architectural flourishes. It was immediate reminder that though we came to experience India’s traditional culture and see its historical sites, the Indians eager to embrace modernity with breakneck speed. At least most of them—a huge swath of slum was cleared to make way for the new terminal and despite government promises to re-locate the occupants in newly-constructed apartment blocks, a lawsuit with the construction company has prevented the move and rendered thousands suddenly homeless. Right off the bat, we were confronted with a taste of the contradictory nature of India, which is so often leaned upon to describe this complex country.

Our initial introduction to the city was our drive from the airport at 4 am. We Despite the hour, we saw plenty of young people loitering on the ocean-front promenades and taxi drivers taking a cigarette break with a view. We wove through streets lined with water and soot stained concrete facades and hemmed in by endless billboards. As we neared the center, the buildings suddenly became more grand and European and then we were there, the entrance of the Taj Mahal Palace directly across from the Gateway Monument. Sure enough, our lovely room looked directly out on the harbor and monumental archway (photo above is the view from the room). Things are off to a good start!

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