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City life MUMBAI

While its Victorian architecture nods heavily at its past, Mumbai is in the full flush of 21st-century optimism and thriving in its modern incarnation


People on Chowpatty Beach
The Gateway of India; Harbour Bar at the Taj Mahal Palace

As overbearing remnants of British colonial rule go, the Gateway of India is particularly ridiculous. It’s so epic, so pompous, hogging the waterfront on Strand Road, that I have to remind myself it salutes one single second — George V’s first footstep on Indian soil, in 1911. Its selfimportance is amplified by the chiselled inscription which records the sacred year in Roman numerals (MCMXI) — and by the fact that, though the moment was fleeting, the crafting of this triumphal arch was not. It wouldn’t be completed until 1924.

Standing next to it in the slanting 4pm sun, I find myself wondering if the predominantly domestic tourists gathered here in vast numbers know what they’re admiring. I chew at this thought, not as a Brit abroad, fretting patronisingly over a distant shard of his nation’s story, but because the unfailingly gleeful mood — all smiling selfies and family photos — apparently fails to grasp that the monument is effectively a statement of possession, cut in stone by a foreign power. And then it dawns on me. They know. And don’t care. For the Gateway of India has been naturalised. It’s no longer British. It’s a feted landmark in an Indian city, and is celebrated as a local hero — with all the Instagram fervour that requires. You could say the same of Mumbai.

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About National Geographic Traveller (UK)

From ancient villages to stories from the locals, we uncover some of the Aegean Sea’s most gleaming pearls as we island-hop across the paradise idylls of Greece’s Cyclades. Elsewhere, we discover authentic Maori culture in New Zealand; wind our way along the Volga in Russia; and spend a long weekend in Tunis. Our urban highlights this issue include Istanbul, Lisbon, Mumbai and Bordeaux while our photo story introduces the freedivers of Jeju Island in South Korea.