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   One way of spending a holiday in Mumbai is board a BEST bus at its starting point and travel through to the other end. (October 20, 1998)

It is amazing, the number of things you discover en route and places you never thought existed. I did it in Jerusalem once. I was travelling a couple of stops to the town centre, then I decided to carry on to the end. It was a long ride. First, the bus was full of people, ordinary Israelis, the men wearing those knitted caps on their heads, some of the young women in army uniforms, and a few orthodox Jews, who are such a common sight in Jerusalem, black suits, black hats, luxuriant beards and hair. Then, as the bus proceeded, most of the other Israelis disembarked, finally leaving only the orthodox Jews on the bus. Outside, there were the small hills of Judea, the standard limestone houses half way up on them. And coming down the paths of these hills, on the road, in front of the houses, were all orthodox Jews, all in their neat black suits. It was like a mechanically operated dolls' set, I have never seen anything like that.

In Mumbai, the scene does not change so dramatically, but if you take a long ride, you do see the insides of the city. Roadside markets, and areas devoted to different communities, and large patchworks of houses made out of plastic sheets and corrugated iron and advertisement hoardings and cloth once used as banners across the roads. It is amazing how people live, and they live normal lives, the women sitting in the doorways of their dark hovels, cleaning rice, children playing among pet dogs and poultry, unemployed men sleeping on coir beds. The road is made use of to dry gunny sacks, red chillis, a variety of condiments. And there is food being cooked on pump stoves, occasionally wood fires. But that is only a part of the Mumbai you see from the bus. There are other areas with houses of the prosperous middle-class. In Mumbai, it is not so bad, the colours are still sober, but you go to other cities and towns and you find pink and yellow and electric blue. It all depends on which route you select. If you choose with care, you will be going across railway level-crossings, and new fly-overs, and roads so crowded that the bus is the only moving object.

And, finally, depending on which route you have taken, you arrive among salt pans sweating under the sun, or the beach, empty and unspoilt. I haven't taken one of these BEST rides for some time now. So many new routes have been introduced. I would also like to visit Antop Hill. I have heard about it, read about it, met people from it, I have not seen it.

 
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