Mumbai at a Glance
Living in Mumbai
According to the official 2011 census, about 12.5 million people were then living in Mumbai, making it one of the most populous cities in the world. The official language of Maharashtra State is Marathi. However, local varieties of Hindi, Gujarati, and English, or a mixture thereof, are also among the many languages commonly spoken by urbanites of various backgrounds in Mumbai.
The rich mix of cultures, religions, and languages which makes life in Mumbai so special can be traced back to the city’s long history as the country’s most popular destination for migrants from both India and overseas. The different religions practiced by the various demographic groups living in Mumbai are an important part of cultural life.
Life in Mumbai features countless traditional festivals rooted in the city’s various religious groups and spread throughout the year. Baisakhi, for example, is a harvest festival celebrated by the Sikh population during the month of Vaishakh (April/May). It includes joyful processions, martial arts performances, and acts of charity.
Diwali or Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is very popular with nearly all residents of Mumbai. It falls into the months of October/November, and – since it’s associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth – it also marks the beginning of the new business year in Mumbai. Arguably the most important festival of the cultural life in Mumbai, though, is Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the elephant-headed Lord Ganesha, in August or September.
However, some Zoroastrian festivals as well as Id-Ul-Fitr (the end of the fasting period for Muslims), Christmas, and Good Friday feature large on the festival calendar of Mumbai’s diverse population. The latter are not only part of the Christian year in Mumbai, but are respected by many other Mumbaikar, too.
Arts and Entertainment
Of course, there is a secular side to the cultural life in Mumbai as well. Locals and expats enjoy the lively entertainment offered in the countless theaters, museums, art galleries, music festivals, restaurants, and nightlife venues. The city also has a rich literary tradition, with Salman Rushdie as the representative probably best known among Western expatriates.
As a foreign resident of Mumbai, you will be able to browse the well-stacked, slightly dusty rows of second-hand bookstores or frequent the local branches of the Oxford chain, part of a major Indian book-selling/publishing conglomerate. In fact, bookshops play an important role, often functioning as a sort of library as well as a children’s play-center. Public readings and kids’ activities open to everyone may be hosted there, and customers browsing the books while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee are not frowned upon.
Cinema lovers in Mumbai benefit from a variety of movie theaters that show everything from blockbusters to arthouse pictures. The Eros Cinema opposite Churchgate railway station and the Regal Cinema in Colaba are appreciated for their wonderful Art Deco style. Obviously, one must not forget that Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry, is also based in Mumbai.
Sports and Leisure
Sports, particularly cricket, are an important feature of life in Mumbai and enjoy great popularity among most inhabitants. Everyone is invited to take part, either actively on one of the city’s many cricket grounds or as a passive spectator in the stadium. Business almost comes to a screeching halt on the day of a big cricket match. You should know better than to schedule any important meetings on those days!
One should not forget yoga, a very important part of life in Mumbai and of Indian culture in general. Even if you’ve never done any yoga before, now is the right time to try it. If yoga does not suit your taste, though, check out Mumbai on the net or asklaila, India’s local information service on the Internet, for useful updates on events and leisure activities in Mumbai.