Standing on the cracked tile and concrete of the Tulip Rose hotel’s weed covered terrace I can hear Indian dancebeats being pumped into the night. It’s wedding season in Mumbai and I’m just a few minutes away from inadvertently crashing one. The Tulip Rose is an abandoned five-star property made famous in the film Slumdog Millionaire and I’ve basically broken in to it late at night after a night involving one Kingfisher Beer too many.
Earlier as I wandered through the hotel’s deserted marble foyer with its smashed chandelier, blinking downlights and wires hanging from the ceiling past abandoned luxury goods concessions, I had noticed the lifts still worked. Rather stupidly I stepped in to see if the hotel really was what it seemed – a horror film waiting to happen. I walked in and out of old rooms where everything of value had been taken out except for stained mattresses and beaten wooden bedheads bolted to the walls.
From the abandoned rooms I picked my way along deserted hallways by mobile phone light until I found the exit to the terrace halfway up the hotel tower. In front was Juhu Beach and from below came the pulsating rhythm of dance music.
I take the lift down into the hotel’s basement and the music is even louder but it’s exceedingly dark and my mobile which has been fairly useless as a communication device is fast losing its ability to be of any other use. A stream of light trickles through a couple of doors and I head towards them.
Pushing the doors open I blinkingly confront an extraordinary explosion of colour. A Sikh wedding party has taken up residence in the old ballroom and the unbridled joy of a wedding day coupled with the music and the flood of vivid colour is the sort of pure Indian moment you fly halfway around the world for. Even better, I’m immediately mistaken for a guest and I’m showered with rose petals and handed a drink. This is why I love India.
Mumbai’s vivacity doesn’t come from standout architecture or mind-blowing natural wonders, it comes from its people - swirling, lurching mass of consumers striving 24/7 for a better life. It’s a brutal city but every day it freshly mints 1000s of new western-style consumers.
I’m actually staying just down the road from the Tulip Rose at the Novotel Juhu Beach. They’re comfortable digs made more so by its friendly staff. Manager Xavier Cappelut has helped create one of the city’s more upscale hotels on the beach, popular with Bollywood stars, the young and uber-wealthy.
The Gadda Da Vida bar sitting right on the beachfront is one of Juhu Beach’s best bars and pumps with Mumbai’s smart artistic set nearly every night of the week. In many ways, this part of Juhu Beach is Mumbai’s Malibu – film stars, big houses and it reeks with money. What set it apart from its stateside equivalent is the simple fact that this is India. Extreme poverty and a patina of filth sit cheek by jowl against extreme Croesus-like wealth. It jangles the senses but it also makes for one of the most vibrant metropolises on the globe.
Novotel Juhu Beach
Balraj Sahani Marg
400 049 MUMBAI