As he drove me to Dabolim Airport on Friday, the owner of my guest house in Goa told me I'd take one look at the city as the plane was landing and then turn right 'round again. Prati said she hated Mumbai. The guy who took me to dinner in Goa said he'd lived in Mumbai for a couple years, and it sucked.
I haven't seen the infamous slums yet, but the place doesn't seem all that bad. Like the rest of the country, traffic congestion is horrible and drivers are insane. The cityscape is full of gaudy Diwali season light displays at night. There is street shopping, nice shopping, seemingly reliable electricity and a brilliant array of diversity coexisting. There is a slew of last-minute cosmetic work being done in advance of Obama's visit in a couple days and a new toll bridge allowing drivers to avoid much of the traffic when changing neighborhoods.
And like in the rest of the country, I bet I'm mostly getting a favorable impression because there are a multitude of Indias and I am living in the affluent one. Yes, I spent a day visiting grimy tourist sites and got swindled by some street vendors. But, staying with a couple different people these last few days, I've also had exquisite international cuisine, been to a comedy club and lounged at a members-only swimming facility beside the sea whose pool is India shaped. Last night, my hostess got Diet Coke delivered to her apartment because she knew I liked it.
I also spent a day with a family I knew back in New York. We went to a fancy mall (the one that has the comedy club on an upper floor), and their 10 year old and I had a blast being silly in the fancy stores. She would enter, amass an armful of the store's ugliest, clashingest clothing and then dress up in them and pose for photos. Then we went back home to play with their westie. Everyone has been so kind to me in Mumbai, from cabbies on up.