First Impressions: Mumbai
November 5th, 2010
07:10 PM ET

First Impressions: Mumbai

Mumbai, India (CNN) - We made it - after only 17-plus hours in the air. The press corps took off from Andrews Air Force Base early Thursday evening and landed here in Mumbai, India Friday evening after a re-fueling stop in Hahn, Germany, for President Obama's 10-day trip to Asia.

Such a long flight, but what an amazing time to be here. Besides the fact that this is the President's first official trip to India, locals here are celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

Mumbai is the second most populous city in the world, home to about 14 million people. It felt like a good many of its inhabitants were celebrating in the streets tonight. As we drove from the airport to the hotel we passed the Worli Seaface, a concrete and brick sea wall on the edge of the Arabian Sea where people gathered to celebrate and launch fireworks. The ground was covered in the detritus of fire crackers – much like the 4th of July in the U.S. Men, women, children, families gathered. Women wearing beaded saris, men in starched white salwar kameez.

Even the most humble homes along the road are decorated with strings of bright, Christmas-type lights. Beautiful garlands of flowers draped the doorways. As our bus made its way through the winding roads of this dusty city I couldn't help but imagine myself in a scene right out of a Bollywood movie - huge traffic jams, loud blaring car horns, and families of four traveling in and out of the traffic on mopeds.

The city is just packed to the gills with the intense contrast of modern glass high-rise buildings with Land Rover dealerships on the ground floor - to concrete skeletons of buildings that are all but rubble yet serve as homes to so many people.

As we entered our hotel there was a Rangoli of flower petals and candles on the ground. We were each greeted with leis of marigolds – what a nice touch! We will work into the night as it is only midday in Washington, DC. By the time I get used to the 9.5 hour time difference - yes a half hour mixed in there! - it will be time to go to New Delhi and I'll start counting on my fingers yet again to figure out what time it is.

Topics: India • The Buzz • The Visuals

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Doreen Laurie

    Love the personal descriptions of this historic trip. I am looking forward to sharing your comments as a "primary source" with my US History students. I especially liked your comment about Bollywood. You have obviously had some Fine Arts performance in your background. All the Best to you and your crew.

    November 6, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • staciacnn

      All thanks to a great high school history teacher in Houston, Texas! Please share the blog!

      November 7, 2010 at 1:12 am |