Mumbai sits on the central west coast of India and is home to 22 million residents (depending on who's counting). Each year an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people move to Mumbai in search of a better life. Some of those who come to the city are modern day slaves. 10,000-15,000 women and children (as young as 11 years old) are currently enslaved in the red light areas of Mumbai. Their stories are what took me and my wife to India. For the next nine days we will share photos and captions of what is currently happening in Mumbai with regards to human trafficking, and--more importantly--what is being done to rescue these women and children and restore them to a life of joy. But for today, it's simply time to get to know Mumbai.
Followers of Muhammad trek out to the Haji Ali Darga Mosque before sunset.
Belief Dictates Action so on our first day of exploring India we went to three places of worship to learn about the faith of the people of Mumbai. We began with a worship service at a Christian church in the heart of the financial district. The goal of this church is to help the young professionals of Mumbai impact their city with the love of Jesus Christ. Just 4% of Mumbaikars (the local name for Mumbai residents) are Christians. The pastor believes that if the most influential people of Mumbai have their lives changed by Jesus then they'll use their resources to impact the rest of the population.
68% of Mumbaikars are Hindu. One of the most famous Hindu temples is Mahalaxmi Mandir on the shore of the Arabian Sea. We joined throngs of other visitors as we waited in a line that was several hundred meters long. Eventually we made it inside the temple where worshipers hoped to get close enough to the altar to give their offering of flowers, food, and sweets. Worshipers had a very brief window of time to accomplish this before they were ushered out the door so a new set of people could enter.
To wrap up our cultural immersion we walked to the Haji Ali Dargah Mosque. The path to this popular site is a narrow sea wall just feet above the sea. When it's not covered with water due to high tides tens of thousands of people trek out to the mosque each day. The central feature of the mosque is the tomb of Haji Ali. Due to the mass of people Chris was only able to spend a few seconds inside the shrine before being shoved out the side door by the rush of people trying to get in the front. Nicole was unable to enter the tomb because she is a woman. Muslims represent 19% of Mumbai.
(Random note: Flexibility is key in India! Due to the Mumbai Marathon, our morning taxi ride of about 25 kilometers took 2 hours)
Day one was quite eventful. In addition to being exposed to the variety of religious ceremonies we experienced the notorious Mumbai traffic and saw the very poor residents (beggars on the streets) and the home of the very rich (27 story, $1 Billion USD house), and literally rubbed shoulders with a great variety of Mumbaikars. We didn't take many photos because we were just trying to get used to the culture and weren't sure how appropriate or safe it would be to pull out cameras in the middle of hundreds of people. More photos are sure to come in future days! Check back tomorrow to learn about the women who are being rescued from human trafficking in this city.