Tag Archives: Mumbai

Watch. Listen. Learn. (India 11: Mumbai)

Nov. 16-17, 2011

Sampling a huge city – and The Albatross finally takes wing

There is no way to see Mumbai in 1.5 days. Not even the important bits.

In addition to what I did see (info below. You can skip ahead to that if you like), I wanted to see (and still want to see): the University of Mumbai, the Crawford Market, the Chor Bazaar (“Thieves Market”), the inside of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (“The Taj”), the city’s business district (Nariman Point), the Cuffe Parade (an upscale shopping area), Malabar Hill and the Hanging Gardens. I wanted to see a cricket match (or at least part of one) at the Oval Maidan, walk at sundown on Chowpatty Beach, and visit a museum and an art gallery. After that, I wanted to start in on all the stuff I should see in Mumbai but didn’t even know I wanted to see.

Our train arrived at Mumbai’s Bandra Station on the morning of Wednesday, November 16, and we left again the next afternoon by plane for Goa. The reason our visit was so short was in part because Mumbai is expensive for a group of frugal travellers which meant, among other things, that our accommodation was fairly basic. However we made the best of the few hours we had – a dinner at a restaurant near the Leopold Café (which is now unfortunately famous for being one of the sites – along with the The Taj and the Oberoi Trident hotels, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and several other buildings – that were targeted in the terrorist attacks in November, 2008, plus it also plays a significant role in the novel Shantaram, which several people have told me I must read) served the tastiest chicken biryani ever, which was a lovely coincidence as on the train I had just read in Arivand Adiga’s new novel about two older men who went out for dinner once a week and always ordered chicken biryani: they were in search of the best rendition in Mumbai. They didn’t know about this place we went to, clearly, or they could have stopped looking.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)

Because I knew we wouldn’t have enough time in Mumbai to see all the places I wanted to see on the tour, I intended to come back after Goa, and had booked a hotel there for my final three nights in India. Unfortunately, a glitch arose with the company with which I had made preliminary plans to do walking tours of the city: after two exchanges of emails, they did not respond again when I attempted to actually book the tours I wanted. My emails to them must have started going into their spam folder, although at the time, when I heard nothing back in response to my increasingly worried messages, I thought maybe they had gone away from their computers for Dawali or were over-booked or something. I did not want to wander Mumbai on my own, and when I could not get hold of the company, I ended up cancelling my plan to return to Mumbai and stayed in Goa (which turned out very well as you will see in my second-to-final post, which is coming soon, believe it or not). But do I need to go back to Mumbai some day to see some of the many things I missed.

A Bit of History

Mumbai (known as Bombay from the mid-1600s until 1996) is a huge city. Originally an archipelago of seven islands, the main section of the metropolis covers 603 sq. km. or 233 sq. mi., and the population is 12 million – fourth largest of any city in the world, and most dense in population. The extended metropolitan area has 20 million residents, and I have read that 500 newcomers arrive in the city daily from other parts of India.

Mumbai is much more Western than the Indian cities we visited to the north—there are more women in western wear, actual adherence to traffic signs and road markings, more English is spoken, and the streets are cleaner and freer of cattle (I don’t think I saw any cattle in Mumbai, in fact). According to the entry at Wikipedia (from which I also got the population and area stats), Mumbai is the richest city in India, but it seems likely that most of each day’s 500 newcomers end up in the city’s extensive and now world-famous slums. Most of the Indian people I asked cannot imagine how the country’s growing prosperity will ever be of real benefit to its poorest citizens.

"public facilities"

The Mumbai region is believed by archeologists to have been occupied by humans since the Stone Age. Like many other parts of India, it has been ruled by invaders from a whole range of different cultures and nations, from Buddhists through various indigenous dynasties and Muslims to the Mughals and the Portuguese. The British had a significant role in the development of Mumbai as it is today (particularly South Mumbai) between the late 1600s when the British East India Company moved its headquarters to Bombay, until Independence in 1947.

How the other half live: The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai

The British influence is clear in the Gothic Revival architecture of many of the buildings in the Colaba district of south Mumbai, including the aforementioned Taj Hotel (which I saw only from the outside, but my friends Naj and Mark went in there for a drink and brought back pictures. It looks extraordinarily opulent. You can take a virtual tour here), and the railway station (long known as Victoria Terminus, it is now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), as well as in many other hotels and other buildings in the downtown area.

What We Did See

Gateway of India

After dropping off our luggage at the hotel and eating breakfast, we went as a group on an “orientation tour” of Mumbai near the Gateway of India (completed in 1924, it is made of basalt and concrete and is a magnificent blend of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles). From there, about six of us set off by ferry for the Elephanta Caves, which I wanted to see, and a few others were interested in checking out as well.

The Elephanta Caves on Elephanta Island (named by the Portuguese for a colossal stone elephant found there that was later moved to the Bhau Daji Lad–formerly Victoria & Albert  – Museum in Mumbai) are about an hour by slow boat, churning through some of the most disgusting-looking sea water imaginable – cloudy and slippery-looking, with garbage and dead fish floating around in it, it resembles very bad soup. There was a marvelous view of the Mumbai skyline and the Gateway as we moved away from shore, and we passed some interesting looking ships and off-shore edifices, but those were about the only things to recommend the voyage to a group of people who were hot, tired, and short-tempered after the train ride the night before.

The walk in the hot sun from the arrival dock at Elephanta Island to the caves was long and tiresome – first along a jetty and then across a low dam (you can take a decorative train/shuttle, but we didn’t: it looked hot as well – and again I was thinking, if this is November, what would India in July be like?), then up a very long set of stone steps roofed in blue tarps. The steps were wide and lined along both sides with dozens of vendors who wanted us to buy buy buy . . .  everything from carved wooden and stone Ganeshis and other gods to t-shirts to jewelry to textiles. In addition to being generally irritable due to heat and weariness, most of us by then had just about had it with hawkers, and to add to the aggravation, the wildlife on Elephanta Island seemed to have turned on us—or at least on one member of our group, which unsettled the rest of us as well.

Mean Monkey

At the first snack vendor we came to after the ferry, most of us had bought water and pop and chips—our usual fare when we didn’t have Abhi with us to warn us what was safe to eat and what was not. Before we had even reached the tarp-shaded stairway, a crow had swooped down on Liam, normally an even-tempered and fun-loving song-writer from London, and taken an entire bag of potato chips he’d just opened right out of his hands and flapped away with it. He was not amused. Then, when we emerged  from the blue shade into an open area at the top of the stairway, a colony of aggressive monkeys came at us and one grabbed Liam’s open bottle of pop, not only “stealing” it but also drenching him, and leaving him with no snacks or fluids. By that point we were all worried about the monkeys (there were signs to warn us that they could be nasty), but we carried on.

Fortunately, the Elephanta Caves are both remarkable and cool – and, best of all, the monkeys seemed disinclined to come inside them. The columns and the carvings of gods and humans and animals within the caves date from between the sixth and seventh century, one group of them carved by Buddhists and another by Hindus. Some were damaged when the Portuguese arrived (a perhaps-apocryphal tale says that they fired a canon into the caves to ensure that the structure was stable and destroyed a lot of the carved columns in the process).

After about half an hour of touring the caves, which did not do them justice, we descended again to the docks and returned to the mainland. It was by now late afternoon, but on the way back to our hotel we took a bit of time to check out the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, which—modelled after St. Pancras Station in London—is magnificent, elaborate and huge. Outside, I ran into Naj and Mark and as the three of us stood snapping photos I thought about how interesting it was that all three of us came from countries that had been “colonized” by the British to various extents (they are from Australia and Ireland respectively, and I’m Canadian), and that there we were in India – which has also had more than its share of British rule. Still, the Brits did know how to build a spectacular building (and railway system, for that matter).

I Bid Adieu (but not Farewell) to The Albatross

The Albatross, on arrival in Toronto (I whited out my street address so no one sends me any other albatrosses)

At the General Post Office (GPO) in Mumbai, I finally got rid of the package that so many of us have now come to know as “The Albatross.” I promise the “big reveal” of photos of its contents in the final installment of this blog. (I’m not being coy. I simply can’t bring myself to open it, even though it has now been sitting in my living room for two weeks.)

As I mentioned several months ago, I had read in my Rough Guide: “Sending a parcel from India can be a performance. First take it to a tailor to have it wrapped in cheap cotton cloth, stitched and sealed with wax. Next, take it to the post office, fill in and attach the necessary customs forms, buy your stamps, see them franked and dispatch it. Surface mail is incredibly cheap and takes an average of six months to arrive – it may take half or two times that, however.”

On the morning of the 17th of November, after being told by the front desk staff at the hotel that the small post office down the street would not be able to handle my big bundle, I took a taxi to the GPO downtown. The taxi driver, a man who has been picking up fares from in front of the Hotel Supreme on Panday Road almost every day for 30 years, he told me, took the personal interest in my welfare that I found so frequently in India. He was very kind: he knew exactly what I needed to do to get the Albatross out of my life for a while, and he was going to make sure I got it done. As a bonus, he pointed out local sights as we drove by them.

When we arrived at the post office – yet another enormous, impressive building  (why did I choose that day to leave my camera at the hotel? The whole experience was fascinating and photo-worthy. Now I need to go back to Mumbai so can I mail something else, and take pictures), my driver led me across the street (St. George, I think) to a row of booths where men were arranging the complex preparation of parcels for shipment for a few hundred rupees per parcel (about $5)  prior to their being taken to the post office.  One of the specialties of these packagers (I shall call them parcel wallahs, although I’m not sure if this term is correct or not) is the sewing of cloth wrappers for parcels to be mailed, and they weren’t impressed that I’d brought my own cloth wrapper, which had been quickly sewn together for me in Jaipur when I bought the things inside it. They felt their cloth would have been superior, and I am sure it would: I promised to use their system next time.

A senior parcel wallah then set to work with a very long needle and thick white thread to sew the package more securely so that the corners did not flap as they had when I handed it to him, when the parcel had been more like a small pillow inside a large closed pillow-case, which made the whole thing easier to carry around India because I could make a knot of the top of it. (I have read online that the sewing of packages is primarily to prevent pilfering, but it also makes them smooth and taut for shipping). After that, the parcel wallah filled out part of a customs form and then got me to fill in the rest of the information. He also gave me a felt pen so I could put my “return” address in India on one side of the package, and my home address on the other.

Then he got up from behind his bench and took me across the street (where my taxi was parked, its driver patiently waiting). He came into the post office with me and led me up to a wicket at the far end of the enormous main foyer of the GPO (25,000 served a day), where we waited together for at least ten minutes for a postal worker’s computer to start working again. (No one ever seems to charge for waiting in India, which is amazing because there is so much of it.) Finally the system came back on-line and the postal worker weighed my package and determined the cost of shipping.

It turned out I did not have enough rupees with me to pay the postage, and the post office took neither American money or VISA. So the parcel wallah patiently led me back out of the post office, back across the busy street, and returned me to the packaging area, where he sent one of his coworkers away with the $50 U.S. I had given him. (Interestingly, I felt no concern – I knew he’d come back with the change, and he did, within a few minutes, having even managed to get a good exchange rate for me.) The parcel wallah then led me back to the postal wicket where, at last, to my utter amazement, the Albatross was taken from me and tossed into a big bin. I actually didn’t care if it took six months to get back to Canada. I gave the parcel wallah a big tip. Well, “big” by Indian standards: another couple of hundred rupees.

My grandson and me with the Albatross - so you can see the size of it

(Note: As it turned out, it was only two weeks after I returned from India before the Albatross came back to me. When it arrived at my apartment, I missed the Canada Post delivery worker because I was in the shower. This meant that I had to walk five blocks to the postal outlet and carry the damned parcel home through the streets of Toronto with my arms wrapped around it. Seemed inevitable somehow that it should end that way.)

Despite the long wait, my taxi driver charged me no more than his original quote to get me back to the hotel (and when we arrived, I gave him a tip as well). As we drove back—with me feeling like I’d been released from some sort of bondage—he explained to me at some length why arranged marriages are a good thing. I thought he made some excellent points.

More photos from Mumbai can be found by clicking here

Watch. Listen. Learn. (India 10: Ranakpur to Mumbai)

Nov. 15-16, 2011

Night Train to Mumbai

The 13-hour journey between Ranakpur and Mumbai comprised the longest and most challenging night of all the nights I spent in India, but in recollection it is a perfect example of why I am happy that I could not afford too many luxuries on that three-week trip. The overnight train ride was an experience I would not have missed for the world – although I will happily go some distance out of my way in future never to have to repeat it.

Just outside the Ranakpur train station

Our group of fifteen arrived by jeep at the train station in Ranakpur at sundown, about ninety minutes before our train was due to depart. We spent most of the intervening time buying food and water and using the bathroom, aware that such activities were going to be more challenging once we had embarked.

The highlight of the wait – and yes, there was at least one highlight for me no matter where I went in India – was that I saw a chai-wallah pushing his cart along the platform and knew what he was called because of all the India-based books I’ve read. Like the moment at the Red Fort in Agra that stirred to life through all my senses Jodha, the favourite (albeit imaginary) wife of Akbar, as Salman Rushdie had created her in The Enchantress of Florence, the sight of the chai-wallah evoked scenes in several other novels: most recently, Aravind Adiga’s Last Man in Tower.


A “wallah” is a person who performs a certain task or is involved in a specific field – so a rickshaw-wallah or an auto-wallah drives an auto rickshaw, a dhobi-wallah is a laundry worker, and a chai-wallah serves chai tea.

We Embark

Our guide Abhi had gathered us together in the area on the platform where our sleeping car would stop. He warned us that our train would be in the station for only ten minutes and we’d need to get ourselves and our luggage on board within that time. Our experience getting onto another train in Delhi and then off again in Agra had taught us to trust his words: we knew we would need to move quickly. I was burdened not only with my short, full backpack and my suitcase (the others just had full-length backpacks, which was an advantage in situations like this, although the wheels on my suitcase were an advantage when we had to walk any distance), plus I was still carrying The Albatross ­­­­­­­­­–– a pillow-sized object that contained a couple of ill-conceived purchases weighing 6.7 kg.

I was near the front of our group and from the moment I stepped aboard the train I was worrying about those at the back. The train car was jam-packed with travellers and their belongings, train attendants, and vendors and their wares, and the aisle was narrow. It was impossible to move forward without literally pushing ahead – and even doing that I feared we would leave someone behind on the platform. But then to my relief I saw that some of our group had gone to the front of the car and were now pressing their way down the aisle toward the bunks between us to which we’d been assigned. Each bunk had a number, and each of us had been told which bunk number would be ours.

I had booked private rooms throughout my stay (one of the few aforementioned luxuries in which I had indulged) but I had known from the beginning that I would not have my own compartment on this train. What I had not known was that there would be no compartments on the train at all. We would have a fold-out bunk in a crowded public car, and that was it.

Let me describe our third-class air-conditioned sleeping car. Down one wall against the windows closest to the platform were eight or ten ten sets of bunks, each three bunks high. The two top bunks in each set were strapped up against the wall, and before bed, all the people from the two bunks that were above the bench seat (which ultimately became the lower bunk) sat together on the seat with the person who would ultimately sleep on it. Many times, more than one person – often a mother and child – were slated to sleep on one of the bunks, which meant that there could be quite a few people sitting on the lower bench pre-bedtime. They passed the time by tapping or talking on cell phones, watching other people – the “locals” found foreigners particularly interesting to watch, probably for good reason – and eating their dinners: the families having brought food from home.

Photo: Antonia and Janine

Across from these bunks set parallel to the tracks on one side of the car, there were crosswise banks of bunks, two per track-parallel set. There were three levels of bunks on each side there as well, facing one another, so that on the lower bunk/bench before bedtime, there could have been three or four or five people on each side, facing one another. Beneath their seats was their luggage and what didn’t fit there, they carried on their laps or jammed down into any available space on the seat.

In summary, each train car accommodated maybe 100 passengers plus their children and belongings, and all of their sleeping quarters, not to mention the attendants and the vendors who wandered up and down the narrow aisle offering food and chai and other merchandise for sale. The system worked perfectly when all the passengers had stowed themselves into their bunks at night, but before the bunks were let down, it was chaotic.

Our Compartment

When I got to my assigned seat—which was a lower bunk—with two others from our group (Antonia and Janine, young Swedish women who were assigned to the lower and middle bunks opposite me), we found an extended family taking up all of the bench space on both sides of the compartment that we were to share with them. They included an older woman (50s?) and a younger woman (30s), both in saris, doling out food, the husband of the younger woman, their two children, and an elderly man in white. I jammed myself as best I could onto the end of the bench that would ultimately be my bed, with my backpack on the floor between my feet and The Albatross jammed between me and the aisle. Antonia and Janine sat down opposite me. There was, however, no room for our luggage, which blocked the aisle between us and the row of bunks along the window opposite. There, a lovely woman with her child watched us with kindness and amusement.

It seemed impossible that we should travel even two hours under such cramped conditions, much less thirteen, but at that point our guide Abhi suddenly appeared and executed one of his magic tricks. He assessed the situation carefully for a long moment, then started asking our seat companions questions in Hindi. They answered him by bending down to indicate certain items of luggage that were stowed beneath our benches. What Abhi was doing was asking them to point out which pieces of luggage belonged to them. Only one stowable item was permitted per bunk and it came to light during Abhi’s investigation that a couple of the baggage items under our bench did not belong to the people on our bunks. Abhi hauled these out and started wandering around the train car until he found their owners, leaving it to them to figure out what they were going to do with them next.

He then helped us stow our luggage underneath our seats. When he was finished, we were all seated where we were supposed to be, our luggage was all stowed where it was supposed to be, and miraculously, there was room for everything. I use the term “room” loosely: I still had my backpack between my knees and my Albatross stowed at my hip and I was jammed up against the young father. But still I was impressed and my heart filled with delight: yet again, India had showed me how it made order out of chaos.

I started to clap at what Abhi had achieved, and Antonia and Janine quickly joined in – and then so did our Indian fellow travellers until all of us in our little corner of the train car were applauding Abhi’s skill, and he was taking bows. I was moved: it was a bonding experience among strangers who spoke different languages. (As I may have said before, most of us in the group agreed that we would have had a whole different – and much worse – experience in India if it had not been for the street-smarts, intelligence, patience and good humour of our G Adventures guide Abhi [Abhishek] Chhetri. We were very lucky to have him, as is his employer).

Photo: Liam O'Brien

Settling In

At that point, across from me, Antonia and Janine sensibly got out their laptop, put on shared headphones, and watched an episode of The OC. I tried to read but it was hard, especially after the young father next to me got his children onto the top bunk (the older man had previously retreated to the opposite top bunk), arranged the women in his life across from him (so there were now four women on the bench across from him and me) and then proceeded to lie down with his stockinged feet pressed up against my left hip. He clearly felt entitled to stretch out — hence the crowded conditions into which he had placed his wife and mother or mother-in-law, as well as Antonia and Janine – and I didn’t want to move because I was determined not to lose another inch or two of what I considered “my” space. The effort not to jockey for position made it hard to get comfortable and read.

Finally, at about 9 p.m., Abhi wandered by on one of his regular patrols and I suggested that he ask my travelling companions if they were ready to go to sleep yet. He did, and everyone seemed agreeable. The straps that held the upper bunks were released, we were each given a sheet, a blanket and a pillow, we sorted ourselves into our bunks, then we went to sleep . . . or at least attempted to do so.

Photo: Mark Allen

I found sleeping almost impossible because the grandmother in our group had gone to bed on the floor between the bottom bunk that I was in and the one containing her son or son-in-law across the narrow opening between us, so there was nowhere to put The Albatross and my over-stuffed backpack except to stow one behind my head and the other under my feet. It was not a comfortable position, especially since the slippery Naugahyde-type bench was not in any kind of sticking relationship with the sheet and blanket. Every which way I turned, it seemed, I rolled onto one of my running shoes or a water bottle, or heard and felt the crunch and crackle of potato chips being squashed into smaller and smaller bits.

Of course, thanks to all the water we were incessantly drinking, I also had to make a coupe of pit stops in the night. This involved extricating myself from my bedclothes, the Albatross, my backpack, my running shoes, water bottles and chip bags while edging my body down the bench and off the end into the aisle where I could get onto my feet, and then making my way either forward or back (past humans sleeping everywhere and in every position including several men upright just outside the bathrooms) to the toilets situated at the rear of each car.

On one side were western toilets; on the other side the Indian toilets, which are essentially flat openings in the floor. By then I had learned that the Indian toilets were usually cleaner than the western ones, so I used them and as usual admired the strength of the upper legs of the people of India, particularly the women who must get from a squatting position to an upright one several times a day. This is an especially challenging maneuver when you are also trying to avoid letting any part of your body or your clothing touch the floor.

Photo: Antonia and Janine


It was during that night that the whole “living close to the ground in India” experience wore a little thin – for the first and almost only time. All I wanted was for there to be enough fewer people that I could stretch out and get to sleep. I could not even bring myself to tell myself that at least I had a reserved bunk to sleep on, that I should be glad there was a bunk at all, and that the car was air-conditioned, that I had not been asked to share the bunk with anyone else, that I had a country like Canada to go home to in a week, or anything else of that nature. But I must eventually have dozed off because when I woke at 5 a.m. to the sound of a man walking down the aisle yelling “Chai,” ”Chai,” “Chai!” the Indian family was gone. Feeling as though I’d just won a lottery of some sort, I put The Albatross on the floor (hoping someone might steal it), hooked my arm through my backpack (so no one would steal it), curled up in a golden light, and sank into a deep, sound sleep.

What seemed a moment later, it was time to get up, get organized, get off the train and walk into fourth largest (pop.: 12 million) and most densely populated (20,640 people per sq km) city in the world – and I found myself restored: both wide awake and eager.

(Check out more photos on Antonia and Janine’s blog. If you speak Swedish, you can check out the text there, too! Thanks also to two other travelling buddies, Liam O’Brien and Mark Allen, for giving me permission to use a few of their photos.)

Mumbai Station, morning

Into India (1)

India has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. When I was given the  incredible opportunity a few months ago to choose the “trip of a lifetime,”  it didn’t take me long to commit to India for my destination. I have now booked a ten-day, small-group excursion in November that begins in Delhi and tours northern India for several days, then takes an overnight train to Mumbai for a quick look at that city before winding down on a beach in Goa.

I know that to say “I am fascinated by India” is simplistic, and sounds naïve. India is not a single thing—it is a blend of cultures, religions, economies, perspectives—and I also know that many of the things it is are likely to repel rather than appeal to me. I realize that India is nothing an outsider like myself can even begin to understand.

Maybe it is my perception of the impossibility of defining the subcontinent that attracts me to it. “I am fascinated by India” is a very different kind of statement than is “I am fascinated by Belgium,” or “I am fascinated by Kenya,” or even (to choose a larger geographical space) “I am fascinated by Australia.”

Being fascinated by India is like being fascinated by garam masala: I have no idea what it’s made of, and even if I did, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be all that familiar with the constituent parts; the mystery of the parts as well as of the whole is a lot of what makes it appealing. I know that India can be a dangerous place to go, and its dark side may be part of the attraction too. It ain’t Switzerland, and I know it.

All in all, I am beside myself with excitement at the prospect of going there.

It has become my goal to conquer in advance as much I can learn about India from books and other media – to gain intellectually what I can before I face the country emotionally and physically. What I already know about India’s cultures and its history I have learned primarily from novels (by Salman Rushdie, Vikram Shandra, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, Arundhati Roy, Rabindranath Tagore, E.M. Forster, and several others) and films (Deepa Mehta and Satyajit Ray, for example), but I have never made any attempt before to gather these bits of knowledge together into any kind of historical framework. After consulting several sources, I decided to start by reading India: A History by John Keay.

So far I have read the introduction and first chapter, and already I have learned some fascinating stuff:

  • Despite evidence left behind since at least 2000 BC by several highly evolved civilizations in the geographical territory encompassing what we now call India (and Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, etc), no one set the history of the area down in writing until about 1200 AD;
  • The story of the flood that is found in both Christian and Jewish scripture may have come from a inundation that entirely wiped out the Sumerian city of Shuruppak, possibly around 3000 BC and/or from another flood or series of floods around 2000 BC that submerged the highly productive and sophisticated Harappan civilization, an agriculture-based society in the region of the Indus river basin;
  • While the Harappan civilization left no written record of its existence, it did leave a legacy of artifacts and ruins that have been uncovered since 1920 in a wide swath extending (in terms of current-day geographical reference points) more than 1800 miles from the southern shores of Pakistan, down the coast of the Arabian Sea towards Mumbai, and west beyond the city of New Delhi;
  • The first and most extensive archeological evidence of the Harappans is located north of Karachi at Mohenjo-Daro. Although this civilization left no written record that can yet be deciphered, it was evidently a sophisticated culture that used imprinted soapstone seals for trade, and created figurines, pottery, tools and jewelry from precious metals such as bronze and silver, and other materials like lapis lazuli and soapstone. Their buildings, including homes, granaries and public buildings, were constructed from brick;
  • The Harappans are conjectured to have been the first civilization in the world to have planned their cities, woven cotton, and used wheeled transportation;
  • Incredibly, at the same time as the Harappan civilization evolved and then disappeared without (apparently) leaving a single written word describing its existence, another whole civilization, the Aryan, was also flourishing, possibly in the same geographical areas and at approximately the same time. The Aryans, by contrast to the Harappans, have been thoroughly described in Sanskrit in the Vedas; also by contrast, there is no physical evidence that they existed.

It appears that the second chapter of India: A History will focus on this Aryan contribution. I’ve been hearing about Sanskrit since I took a course in English etymology in university, and I am looking forward to learning more.