Rekha, Our close friend from Austin really supported us and shared in our excitement about our trip. When she knew that we were India-bound, she said that we would we be "taken care of in Mumbai." She could not have been more right :) Her sister's family - Rachel, her husband Joy, and their two sons Caleb and Joshua - looked after us as if we WERE family. From our accommodations to our meals to our emotional and physical well-being, they took serious care of us!
Caleb took us on a day tour into the city, where we hit all of the highlights - from the Taj Hotel and Victoria Station, where the tragic events of 26/11 occurred; to Marine Drive and Malabar Hill where the upper-crust work and reside. We saw a Bollywood movie in the fanciest theater we had even been in - complete with leather recliners and cuddly blankets to keep warm and cosy!
For those who may not know, 26/11 refers to the November 26, 2008 coordinated terrorist attacks that occurred in multiple locations in Mumbai (Bombay), including two high-end hotels, the central train station, and a popular restaurant. The attacks included bombings and shootings, with at least 173 people killed and more than 300 injured. Some consider it to be India's 9/11. A number of the attackers were killed, and one was captured alive. Intelligence showed that the attacks were at least partially planned in Pakistan, and from what I (Chris) have read, the Indian and Pakistani governments seem to have cooperated to some degree on the investigation which followed. Caleb is a really cool 18-year old, and he was kind of animated to give us a play-by-play of the action where some of the events took place.
Bollywood is the nickname of India's movie industry, centered in Bombay (Mumbai). They produce more movies per year than Hollywood, and these too are exported all over the world.
Bombay/Mumbai is a huge city - maybe 18 million people - India's largest. Besides Bollywood, it is the center of India's business community, including the Mumbai stock exchange. There are a lot of old British buildings in the center of town, and there is a large network of trains spreading to the suburban areas. We noticed lots more women in the street, and everyone seems busy and business-like. We also noticed that taxis and auto-rickshaws here used their meters, and it seemed people were too busy to try to hustle and overcharge tourists. Our friends explained that people in Mumbai tend to be fairly tolerant - too busy to worry about ethnic, language, and religious differences.
Navi Mumbai is a really nice suburban community. Here suburban still includes lots of 20+ story buildings, but there are some single-family homes, including the one our friends live in. Traffic is fairly manageable, too!
We had a wonderful time with the Ellis family - eating the best homemade dosas EVER, laughing, talking, sightseeing, and fellowshiping. Those from Austin will understand when we say that the Ellis family is the Littlefield family of Navi Mumbai! Thank you Shashi Akka, Joy, Caleb, and Joshua for a wonderful stay. We can't wait to see you again!