A Music Video Exploring The Culture And Community Of Mumbai: ‘This City’

Made popular by the cinematic hit “Slumdog Millionaire,” there’s a certain romanticism with the Indian city Mumbai. We’re drawn in by the color, culture and music.

With over 12 million inhabitants, Mumbai is the most populous city in India. The slums of the city are a backdrop to the hectic daily life that’s indicative of a large Indian city. With its infrastructure and inhabitants, it’s the perfect place to think about urban planning, which is why for 2013 the BMW Guggenheim Lab has set up shop in the city’s vibrant streets. The mobile think tank for improving urban life around the world, commissioned a song by the Indian folk-rock band Swarathma.

With snippets of daily life – complete with a group doing dance lessons – “Is Sharar” is an excellent look into the many aspects of the city. The title translates to “This City,” and the music video is not only a look into what living in Mumbai is like, but it’s also an ode to togetherness and unity.

A selection of the lyrics:

Is shahar ki saansein hum (we are the breath of the city)
Is shahar ki aankhein hum (we are the sight of the city)
Is shahar ke honto pe (on the lips of the city)
Khilkhilaati baatein hum (we are the happy conversations)

You can find the full lyrics and translation here.

New budget travel magazine debuts: Off Track Planet moves into print

off track planetOff Track Planet, a Brooklyn-based online budget travel publication, takes its f-bomb dropping idiom into print today with the debut of an eponymous magazine.

Off Track Planet, for the uninitiated, is geared toward the 18-30 set and is particularly focused on undergraduates.

Accordingly, the publication directs its attention to several subjects of primary interest to college kids; among these: partying, volunteering, and hostels. This online article, which claims to have located a Buenos Aires “party hostel” that is also “clean and comfy,” ensnares two of these themes simultaneously.

Sample articles at the Off Track Planet webzine include an overview of Mumbai volunteerships, a guide to culturally-specific insults, a Berlin club primer, and tips for getting stoned in Vancouver.

This is, in other words, one publication that knows its market.

It is a tough time to launch a print magazine, though Off Track Planet sets off into print with a built-in audience and ambition to boot. The Off Track Planet empire is also developing a trip planning mobile web platform to debut later this year.

[Image: Flickr | frontlinefreddie]

Visit Vancouver, BC Canada

Photo of the day – Traveler vs tourist

photo of the day

Ah, the good old tourist vs. traveler debate. Every travel blog has inevitably touched on this non-issue of which is more “authentic” or “real.” Can’t we all just get along? Whether you hit the road to check the big tourist attractions off your list or do as the locals do, you’re traveling and you’re not really local, so who cares which way is better? This photo from Mumbai by Flickr user Chris Hoare captures a small market heavy on the advertising from Indian TV channel Fox History & Traveller and the world’s favorite drink, Coca Cola. While a trip to India should definitely include a sampling of local foods and beverages, you could hardly be called a tourist for drinking the same soda the native population enjoys.

Have any travel photos to capture the traveler or tourist experience? Add them to the Gadling Flickr pool and we may use it for a future Photo of the Day.

New site helps you plan day trips from Mumbai

As someone who lived in Mumbai for two years, I can tell you there were numerous weekends when I just wanted to get away from the blaring car horns, insane traffic, and “go go go” mentality of India‘s most populous city. I relied on guidebooks and word-of-mouth to find out about nearby hill stations, such as Matheran (pictured at right), and beach-side resorts that were suitable for a day trip or weekend excursion. But even with those resources at my disposal, I knew that there had to be scores of other places that my friends didn’t know about or that guidebook writers didn’t have room to cover.

Thankfully, there’s a new website that is trying to take the mystery out of planning a short jaunt from Mumbai. A Break Please (www.abreakplease.com) recommends places to go depending on how much time you have (one, two, or three days), how many travelers are in your group, your budget, and whether or not you have a car (not a given in a country where the per capita income hovers around $1,050). Somewhat akin to Wanderfly, A Break Please also makes travel suggestions based on the type of trip you want to take. Select from beach, hill station, fort, pilgrimage, and four other options.

Having just launched a few weeks ago, A Break Please is very much a work in progress. For example, you can’t book directly from the site and options such as choosing the type of company you will be traveling with (as mentioned on the website’s blog) are not yet available. But even just a quick search on the site returned dozens of accommodations ideas, complete with contact info, nearby activities, and, for the carless, a train schedule detailing fares and departure times.

While A Break Please may not be practical for many travelers to Mumbai, it does appear to be a useful tool for locals and expats who may just need a break from the frenetic pace of Bombay.

Top ten most crowded islands in the world

most crowded islands

From an island microslum in Colombia to a haute enclave in central Paris, the ten most crowded islands in the world bear scant similarities in class or culture. In fact, every entry in the top ten comes from a different country. But being islands, each shares the common thread of scarcity – whether it be land, resources, or housing. In general, these islands are prophetical microcosms for an overcrowded earth – finite spaces where self sufficiency governs and demand pierces supply.

With the world’s population racing higher and higher, and the “megacities club” accepting new members yearly, some day the earth could bear the traits of one of these densely packed islands.

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most crowded islands

10. Vasilyevsky Island
Location: St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Population: 202,650
People per square kilometer: 18,592
Size: 10.9 square kilometers
Story: This island located in St. Pete is a collection of 18th and 19th century buildings with some Soviet built apartment blocks lining the Gulf of Finland on the western shore. The communist housing ethos of the twentieth century called for rows and rows of tight apartments, and this historic island in Russia’s second city was not immune to the sprawl. This created the compact quarters of Vasilyevsky island. Famous for its old school stock exchange and giant Rostral columns, the island is popular with tourists.

most crowded islands

9. Lilla Essingen
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Population: 4,647
People per square kilometer: 20,204
Size: .23 square kilometers
Story: This small island in central Stockholm once served as a hub of industry for Stockholm’s industrial operations. The easy boat access allowed for ease of shipping by boat, and the island factories manufactured an array of goods, from massive lamps for lighthouses to vacuum cleaners. Eventually, as the industrial applications became outmoded, the island became home to several apartment towers. Today, the island is crammed full of smiling Swedes living in apartments with (presumably) tasteful modern furniture.

most crowded islands

8. Île Saint-Louis
Location: Paris, France
Population: 2,465
People per square kilometer: 22,409
Size: .11 square kilometers
Story: Perhaps the most stylish island in the world, Île Saint-Louis is a marvel of 17th century urban architecture and planning. Narrow roads and some of the priciest real estate in the world have allowed the island to remain relatively calm, despite its location in central Paris. While Île Saint-Louis is off of the tourist radar for most, this island in the Seine River embodies the classic Parisian spirit, worthy of an afternoon stroll with a perfect sorbet from Berthillon. The island is named for France’s canonized King, Louis IX.

most crowded islands

7. Manhattan
Location: New York, New York
Population: 1,585,873
People per square kilometer: 26,879
Size: 59.47 square kilometers
Story: In 1626, the Lenape Indians sold Manhattan island to the Dutch for a bag of axes, hoes, iron kettles, duffel cloths and other 17th century garb worth about $24 (roughly $1000 in modern value). It is safe to day the island has grown ambitiously from this humble transaction. The center of the financial universe is now home to many – truly a place where the world lives. The island once known as New Amsterdam, and briefly, New Orange, shadows America’s story, both tragic and triumphant.

most crowded islands

6. Salsette Island
Location: Mumbai, India
Population: 13,175,000
People per square kilometer: 30,217
Size: 436 square kilometers
Story: Salsette, an island off the western coast of India, is home to Mumbai and its sprawling suburbs. As a poster boy for “New India,” Mumbai is as dichotomous as it gets, at once the wealthiest city in south Asia and also home to one of the world’s largest slums – the notorious Dharavi. Dharavi is an island within an island, a super-slum with roughly one million people spread out over an area less than a square mile. At the other end of the spectrum, Salsette Island is also home to extreme wealth. The house known as Antilla is a 400,000 square foot giant that towers with some of Mumbai’s tallest buildings. Truly a contrast from the squalor in Dharavi, the private residence houses six people, can accommodate 168 cars, has 9 elevators, and an ice room with snow flurries.


most crowded islands

5. Ebeye Island
Location: Marshall Islands
Population: 15,000
People per square kilometer: 41,667
Size: .36 square kilometers
Story: When the United States decided to test nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, they chose to do so amongst the atolls of the Marshall Islands. U.S. officials uprooted many residents from Bikini Atoll and Enewetak Atoll to insure that the testing did not directly harm human life. The relocated Marshallese had to move somewhere, and most moved to Ebeye under the assistance of the United States. This forced relocation caused a huge mess, including a severe housing shortage and land owner legality issues that persist today. The combination of factors created an environment of hostility and squalor, creating the slum of the South Pacific.


most crowded islands

4. Malé
Location: The Maldives
Population: 103,693
People per square kilometer: 53,121
Size: 1.952 square kilometers
Story: The Maldives is one of Asia’s top tourist destinations, with 26 atolls and 1,192 islands offering beach perfection. At its center is the capital city – Male. Male is a humbly sized island of just a couple square miles. It is stuffed full of people, hotels, mosques, and office towers that efficiently utilize the scare land resources. While landfills have reclaimed some land from the sea, most progress is made vertically rather than horizontally. The modern downtown island in the middle of the Indian Ocean is a stark aberration from the deserted islands that dot most of the Maldives.

most crowded islands

3. Ap Lei Chau
Location: Hong Kong
Population: 86,782
People per square kilometer: 66,755
Size: 1.32 square kilometers
Story: Hong Kong is the land of a thousand towers, clustered most densely on the island of Ap Lei Chau just southwest of Hong Kong Island. Ap Lei Chau served as the settlement for Hong Kong Village, theorized to be the etymological source for the famous larger territory of Hong Kong. Strangely, Ap Lei Chau translates to Duck Tongue Island, said to be named for the island’s shape. It is filled with high rise residences and even a winery.

most crowded islands

2. Migingo Island
Location: Kenya, though Uganda disputes this
Population: 400
People per square kilometer: 100,000
Size: .004 square kilometers
Story: This bantomslum in the middle of Lake Victoria is a fishing village perched precariously on half a sphere of rock. The residents take in large hauls of the Nile Perch – a poster boy for River Monsters that can grow to a comedically large size. Migingo is famous for a decades-old dispute between Kenya and Uganda over the sovereignty of the small island. There is even a facebook page where individuals can “like” declaring the island Kenyan. (The page has twice as many followers as there are residents on Migingo.) Uganda agrees with this claim, most of the time, though the tiny rock island is not the issue – the fishing rights are.

most crowded islands

1. Santa Cruz del Islote
Location: Colombia
Population: 1,247
People per square kilometer: 124,700
Size: .01 square kilometers
Story: The most densely populated island in the world is a microslum off the coast of Colombia. This tropical island is located in the emerald waters of the idyllic Caribbean, though is packed so tight that most activities are done off island. Schooling, football, graveyards, and work all take place away from Santa Cruz del Islote. The island park is the size of a small tennis court, and fresh water must be shipped in by Colombian Navy ships. Santa Cruz del Islote also does not have electricity. What the island favela does have is people, lots of them. To visit the world’s most packed island, hop on a ferry from Tolu, Colombia. The nearby hotel of Punta Faro can arrange tours of the island.

All unattributed images from wikimedia commons