Dear World Wide Web and its inhabitants,
Yesterday, Mitchell M's sunny, earnest travelling journal landed in my lap asking me to write about the place I come from. But am I traumatising the sweet 13-year-old Canadian with my descriptions of Mumbai?
"Dear 13-year-old Mitchell M,
I am 29-year-old Chetna M who's just had her big, loud Indian wedding in Mumbai (or Bombay), India. The guest list went upto 450 people, of which 150 were mere family. Too big? Not if you consider that nearly 1 billion Indians infest India, of which nearly 16 million live on the island of Mumbai.
To fit the 16 million of us, the city has two kinds of housings: the tall, somewhat dingy, concrete high rises for the rich and middle classes, and definitely dingy and crowded slums - made of plastic, cardboard, bits of bricks, sacks, asbestos and other stuff you probably throw away as waste - for the poor. Nearly half the city lives in these makeshift homes called slums. I, fortunately, live in a highrise (lest, you start feeling sorry for me.)
When we get sick of the other 15,999,999 of us milling around, we head for the beaches, sea fronts and promenades that stretch along the western edges of Mumbai. The city stands along the endless Arabian Sea, which attracted the first inhabitants of Mumbai, the fishermen, thousands of years ago. They still exist and you can see them heading out to the sea every morning in their little, colouful, wooden boats in hope of a good catch.
Other popular occupations include film acting, diamond trading, stock broking and taxi driving.
Our climate is marked by heat and humidity. It is sweaty, sweaty, sweaty by the day, and a little bit cooler and breezier by nights. Naturally, deoderant makers do brisk business in Mumbai.
Hope you will one day visit our crowded Mumbai and enjoy its sea, sweat, slums and other pleasures.
Recession-babble 0verheard in St John's Wood, London: One mink-coated, face-lifted middle aged blonde laments to another - "My outlays are just so huge... ".