Jump to content

14th Annual SoCal Vintage BMW Meet 2021! “All couped up”

Registration is still open. Rally from NorCal is scheduled for Friday. Post your event photos.

SoCal Vintage is Here! 

Post your photos!

No 02s in Mumbai (Long and Arguably OT)


Recommended Posts

Greetings from Mumbai, India. There are no 02s in Mumbai. In fact, today I must have seen half a million cars - but I only saw two BMWs. Both were at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where security was tight because of the two-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The BMWs appeared to be hotel-owned. But they were not 02s. Not an 02 in sight.

My point, to keep this car-related (albeit not terribly 02-specific), is that more than anything, today made me fully appreciate just exactly how good we US car nuts have it. Most of us (me included) fuss and obsess about our vintage cars - we worry for example whether we have period-correct parts or the best wheels, seats, carpets and paint jobs. My general sense, however, is that this would simply not happen in Mumbai. Cars here in Mumbai are lucky to have four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine. And given the lack of water quality, washing them would probably make them dirtier (if washing cars is even legal). Indeed, here in Mumbai:

1. There are no lanes or highway dividers - just a mass of cars and scooters and motorbikes, 80% moving generally (more or less) in the same general direction, and with the other 20% making sudden u-turns or swerves or simply stopping for no apparent reason. Near misses happen every 10 seconds (if that infrequently).

2. Here, one shares the road with pedestrians/jaywalkers, street vendors, homeless people (the highways are lined with folks living under plastic tarps), and cows, dogs, monkeys, and the occasional person who has decided that the middle of the road is a good place to curl up on a blanket to take a nap (true). And don't forget the ox carts - one must always yield to the ox.

3. The "roads" are mostly a collection of broken asphalt and crater-riddled concrete. There are few (if any) traffic signals (at least, signals that work), no traffic cops (no one gets pulled over), no police cars (all the cops either stand or sit on the sides of the roads), and very few street signs. The highways are not much better - there are very few highways, and they mostly are parking lots (way too much traffic). And where people get gas, I have no idea. This city is huge, but I saw only 3 gas stations ("India Oil" stations).

4. A family of five can indeed travel by 125-cc motorcycle - Mom balances on the back (side-saddled), Dad drives, Baby sits on the handlebars, and Junior and his sister hang off the sides, gestering and yelling to Dad about which way to go (since Dad can't see past Baby). Initially, I thought this was just an oddball occurrence - but I saw at least six scooters loaded with five people, and too-many-to-count of the three-on-a-bike type.

5. There must be 5 zillion public taxis in this city. There are two types of taxis - old, vintage Fiats (all the same make/model/style), or 3-wheeled motorized rickshaws. Although they carry no license plates, the rickshaws travel in traffic like any other vehicle (or animal or person). These vehicles have meters, but fares are a negotiation - regardless what the meter says.

6. Having a nice car in Mumbai seemingly is simply an invitation to be swarmed at an intersection by people looking for handouts, or looking to sell something (anything). I saw one Rolls Royce - he slowed at an intersection and was rushed by about 10 people wth DVDs, book bags, balloons, street food, and other things for sale. It was then that I felt fortunate that I was blendin into the background with a rather nondescript Suzuki.

7. There are no Home Depots in Mumbai - at least, none that I saw (and we went everywhere). If one needs a 4x8 sheet of plywood, then one needs to go to the local market (where there are at least 6 zillion people) and bargain for the sheets. After which, one balances the sheets on his bicycle (pedal bike, not motorized) and pedals out into traffic (without warning). Interesting balancing act.

8. India has very stricts laws/customs. Thus, imagine my surprise at seeing a billboard - "Mom during the day, Pole Dancer by Night." It was a billboard ad for an energy drink. I kid you not.

At sundown, we drove directly through the heart of Dharavi - the Slums made famous in the movie "Slumdog Millionaire." The poverty was staggering - correct that, it was way far beyond stunning, shocking, incredible. It simply is hard to believe that so many human beings could live in those conditions. Everything from the sights to the smells (overwhelming) was surreal. I tried to snap a picture, but even rolling down the window was impossible - first the smell would knock out the strongest person, and second, the local population would quickly overwhelm the car, seeking handouts (or other things - like the car itself). Thus, the only pictures I can share, I had to lift from the Internet (see below) - I was in these exact locations, and (believe it or not), those are some of the better conditions that I saw.

In perhaps the ultimate anomaly, my host stated that "the real estate prices here are very expensive - maybe 1,000,000 rupees for an apartment in the slums." The reason - developers loom, so speculation drives the prices up. Anyway, that last point is definately OT, so I'll stop at that.

I'm sure someone will complain that this should be in OT, and maybe it should - or should be moved. Regardless, when I get home, I'm going to go for a nice, calm, civilized drive - with traffic laws, rolling countryside, paved roads, pedestrians in crosswalks, etc. And, whereas I might dodge a deer or two, I will not have to dodge people, cows, monkeys, panhandlers, trash, potholes the size of elephants, and police with machine guns. After I get done, I'm going to thank the Big Guy Above for allowing me all that He's allowed me. And if I ever think about complaining about anything, ever again, I'm going to remember Dharavi, and the rest of the sights, sounds, and smells of this amazing/shocking/practically unbelievable city. And then never, ever complain - ever again.

In short, we should all give thanks for what we have, IMHO. Some experiences are life-changing, and I can honestly say that today was one, for me. I have other thoughts on today (we are here on not-for-profit work), but to keep this post arguably car-related, comparatively and very humbly speaking, any life that allows us to play with cars, is a very good and fortunate one indeed. Just a thought. Happy motoring, Otis



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 31
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Guest Anonymous

Otis, Thanks for your excellently written observations. You have great skills as a writer to describe the essence of all of Mumbai.

We should all benefit from your experience and really understand and appreciate how great this contry is and how luckly we are to live here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just to be clear to everyone, I am not in any way trying to make light of, or trying to find any humor in, the human suffering here in this city (or any other place, for that matter). In fact, quite the opposite - I am still deeply shaken by what I saw, and I guarantee that I will never forget it. Still, I am keenly aware of the desires to keep the main board 02-related. If my thread belongs elsewhere, I apologize to everyone, and admit to a general purpose of trying to have my "stop and give thanks" message reach more readers than it would on OT.

(All that said, the "mom by day, pole dancer by night" billboard was just plain funny.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome to the "developing" world.

A few years ago, I went to Thailand. Very similar story, except more police - well, at least in Bangkok. Out in the countryside, another story.

It is amazing that a 60 mile drive (from Bangkok to my aunt's house in Pattaya) took 3 hours. I sat in the front seat of the taxi. With my eyes closed.

It's funny - after being in Bangkok, and coming home to New Orleans, I was amazed at how clean New Orleans looked!

Safe travels!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Otis. You are right that this is very arguably OT, but who cares, we all need a good dose of humility every now and then. I spent three months in India exactly 20 years ago, I returned home on Christmas Day of 1990, and I have NEVER been so glad to step foot on American soil as I was that day. India is a remarkable place with amazing history and culture. However, the poverty which is impossible to miss is something I will also never forget, and witnessing this changed me for ever. And to this day I try not to take for granted the luxuries we have in this life. My 02 being one of them...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Very true Otis.

I'm been working in Patratu (near Ranchi) for 6 weeks, only another 3 or 4 months to go!

I've had several contracts at Steel & Aluminium works in India over the past 25 years, even after that time it's difficult not to be amazed every time I visit. A place where 5% of the population has 95% of the wealth I think.

The beer is good though!

On an 02 note - last year, while I was working in China, a guy came round my house in Texas and bought several parts for his 2002 that he said he was taking to India. He had a job somewhere in India and expected to be there a few years.

I have to wonder how long the newer BMWs will last on the roads in India. My Wife's '98 is slowly falling apart on TX roads.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I greatly appreciate the OT-tolerance, because let's face it - this is OT. But, maybe there's a legitimate save here - my host just read my post and said, "Mr. David, you are sadly mistaken - we have vintage cars in Mumbai - and Super Cars as well!" He referred me to these two websites, as examples:



In the second link, scoll down through the exotics, and you'll see Marine Drive, along the sea wall - known as the "Queen's Necklace." Granted, it is one of the sites where the terrorists attacked two years ago; but the area is very nice. I did not see any exotic supercars - just old Fiat taxis and lots of Chevy and Subaru minicars - but my host assures me, "they are there, Mr. David - they are there!"

So, for anyone interested in some India car eye candy, please enjoy the links. As for anyone interested in Dharavi, thanks for the compliments on the writing - but my writing is not nearly as good as this professional journalist's description of the area:


And as I noted, photos were basically impossible for numerous reasons. Here's a pretty good photo compilation of the city, however, which I yanked off the internet for anyone interested. My favorite photo is the elephant loading the log on the truck - sure beats my ASV30 track loader, any day of the week.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nicely written, especially during these holidays. If every American experienced a third world country at least once in their life, they would never complain about taxes, politics, etc. When I came back from the countryside of China in 1992, I literally wanted to kiss the tarmac when we landed. I'm sure India is 1000x poorer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great post Otis. We only went to Mexico and after some reflection, wondered how it was in other places, the mexicans were very friendly, and some of the conditions we saw were not even close to what you described.

The finances of putting a kid thru college and two more soon will not allow us to travel now, but maybe in the future be lucky to see the world as you got to.

Glad I had relatives that were brave enough to hop on a boat and leave for America.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mumbai is a sobering experience. I had a friend who was assignment there (when it was still Bombay) evaluating service partners for the firm I worked for. He was a former Marine avid runner and during his morning 5K he tripped and fell over a dead body and became entangled with it. Nervous breakdown ensued. Our CEO sent me and the company physican to collect him and get him home. I was there less than 48 hrs., but it sure had an effect on me. I have been lucky enough to work and travel in most regions of the world. To see what is out there changes all who experience it. Travel safe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

fantastic writing, well worth a Sunday afternoon read.

As a note, I was fortunate to study automotive design in Italy and as our class started out in English there was quite a few nationalities represented. About half the class were Indians, one had a driver's license but none owned a car. Yet their work ethic and passion for beautiful cars was unbelievable!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...