Insider's guide to... Mumbai


What's the weather like now? If you want to escape the floods in the UK, the weather is perfect. On sunny days, the temperature is around 30-35C, although it drops to comfortable levels at night - you won't even need air-conditioning.

What's the weather like now? If you want to escape the floods in the UK, the weather is perfect. On sunny days, the temperature is around 30-35C, although it drops to comfortable levels at night - you won't even need air-conditioning.

What are the locals complaining about? As well the city's name being changed to Mumbai, many Raj-era landmarks have been renamed Chatrapati Shivaji after the famous local 17th century ruler, including the Victoria Terminus, the Prince of Wales Museum, both domestic and international airports and a host of imperially named streets. In the case of Victoria Terminus, the locals had already subverted the imperial name by calling it VT, which sounds like a favourite uncle; whereas the new acronym CST (try saying Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus with a mouthful of pan) sounds like a painful medical scan. Locals say that the name changes are the actions of a local government that has run out of real ideas and emptied state coffers without any visibly worthwhile results.

Who's the talk of the town? The lives of Mumbai's mobsters rival anything that Bollywood could come up with. Take underworld don Chhota Rajan's recent escapades. After surviving an assassination bid by his arch-rival Dawood Ibrahim in Bangkok, Rajan drugged his Thai police guards then climbed out of the window using knotted bed-sheets and disappeared into the night. Many papers speculate that Rajan will not be hunted too hard as he may be in the pay of the intelligence agencies.

What's the cool drink? Latin cocktails have started to make their way on to the menus of Mumbai's swankier establishments, with a margarita (frozen or otherwise) costing around £4 - Copa Cobana on Chowpatty Beach make particularly good ones.

What are people eating? Chinese and Oriental restaurants are definitely à la mode, with new ones opening up with wacky names like Wok'n'Roll or Thai Me Up. The quality at the more upmarket places is very good and even when eating seafood, you'd be hard-pressed to spend more than £15 a head.

Any outrageous stuff on TV? Not really, unless you count Kaun Benaga Crorepati (the Indian Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?), which has spawned a host of imitators as well as the usual hand-wringing comment that it fosters a get-rich-quick mentality. Satellite television has also come under criticism for broadcasting foreign channels whose content (pornography, that is) does not comply with India's strict broadcasting standards.

Where wouldn't the locals dream of going? New Delhi, which is seen as a backwater, with no Bollywood glamour, relatively little business (Mumbai generates more than 35 per cent of the nation's tax revenue) and generally not a place where people's dreams can be fulfilled.

Where are the chic people doing their shopping? Bhulabhai Desai Road in the trendy Breach Candy area has become the place to pick up Western designer clothes at around half the European price or the even less expensive locally inspired imitations.

Where's the trendy place to escape for the weekend? London for those with money, or one of the many hill-stations dotted around the Western Ghats for the merely rich - Matheran, where motorised vehicles are banned, is pleasant.

Charles Young is a writer for the 'Rough Guide to India'.

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