Ancient yet modern, fabulously rich yet achingly poor, Mumbai is India in microcosm. Once a sultry tropical archipelago of seven islands, and the Raj's brightest jewel, Mumbai was the dowry of Portuguese Princess Infanta Catherine de Braganza who married Charles II of England in 1661. Today it's a teeming metropolis, commercial hub of an old civilization seeking to find its place in the New World Order.
Forty percent of India's taxes come from this city alone, and half of India's international trade passes through its splendid natural harbour. In fact Mumbai is the very soul of human enterprise. At the city's Stock Exchange, millionaires and paupers are made overnight, and the sidewalks are crowded with vendors hawking everything from ballpoint pens to second hand mixies. Everyday, half of Mumbai's population commutes from far-flung suburbs to downtown offices, banks, factories and mills for a living.
Nearly thirteen million people live here - wealthy industrialists, flashy film stars, internationally acclaimed artists, workers, teachers and clerks - all existing cheek by jowl in soaring skyscrapers and sprawling slums. They come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and speak over a dozen tongues adding colour, flavour and texture to the Great Mumbai Melting Pot.