Street Life: Every possible combination of shop front and industry appears on the average Mumbai Street, from newspaper stand through light industrial workshops to modern gleaming office blocks. For the most part it is the small ’shop’ that holds sway on the street. I never really appreciated the true meaning of the word ramshackle until I came here. Built almost entirely of scraps or wood, rotting sack cloth and tin, these small one man factories lean against each other as their only visible means of support. It is often difficult to decide if any one of them is in the process of being built or being demolished; their owners oblivious to the piles of concrete rubble and rubbish being picked clean by packs of stray dogs, goats and cattle that almost completely clog some streets.

I cannot imagine how much of what has been cobbled together by the hundreds of thousands of street people could actually survive the first rains of the monsoon. Perhaps it doesn’t. Perhaps they simply head somewhere else and return to shuffle together new homes from anything that was not completely washed away. Maybe, just maybe they stay and the homes they have built for themselves from cardboard, rags and if they are lucky corrugated tin, survive.

Street Food: Today I passed a ‘cafe’ on the corner of a street frequented by what I can only assume where gangs of local construction workers. Those of you old enough to have seen images of miners leaving the pit head, their faces black with coal dust will understand the meaning of dirty but this was just way beyond that. The whole place, including everyone and everything in it, tables, chairs, people, walls, counter top, was coated with a layer of dust and grime thick enough to literally have written your name in it. Let’s stop here for a spot of lunch – NOT. You would never have made it from lunch the ten yards across the road to the small local hospital from where your best hope of survival would be to be airlifted and medevac’d back to the UK. I wonder if it is actually possible for a non-native to build up an immune system powerful enough to survive eating or drinking anything other than that which has been prepared in a 5 star hotel.

Street Animals: So I live slap bang in the middle of a city of 13 million people and I don’t have a garden, does this stop me from keeping a herd of goats or half a dozen cattle, not in Mumbai it doesn’t. Mumbai covers an area of almost 170 square miles and right in the middle there is a man walking an elephant down a busy, and I mean busy, street. Where does he keep it at night, in the spare room perhaps? So what do the cars do to encourage the beast to hurry up a little, yep – they honk their horns. Well I’m no animal expert but to me that would seem a little ill advised. Surely you’re either going to make it mad or worse still panic. The thought of a crazed elephant blundering through the hotchpotch of tumble down shacks and lean-to’s that these people call home scattering children, goats, cattle, the elderly left and right just doesn’t bare thinking about. Anyway driver – just give him another toot, I’m sure he’ll move politely over – either that or let out a trumpeting roar as he stomps us flatter than last night’s garlic naan.

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