This is Kate's first impression of Bombay, before she and Clara are reunited with their father. Kate, of course, being rather excitable, thinks everything is fabulous. Now, for whatever reason, late 19th century Bombay is proving incredibly difficult to research. I'm working on it - I've got a list of books I need to go ask my librarian to hunt down for me - but if anyone is knowledgeable about that sort of thing and sees any glaring errors, please let me know! I'm trying very hard not to fall back on stereotypes, so, please do correct me.
Other than that, enjoy!
Their arrival in Bombay was accompanied by an enormous amount of confusion. They nearly lost their luggage in the descent from the steam ship to the docks, and Uncle Charles and Frederick nearly vanished into the crowd in their search for a porter. And then there was the strange, bouncing journey in a carriage contraption pulled by a man in an immaculately white turban through the teeming streets that led away from the port. The buildings they passed were mainly European in design, as this was the neighbourhood the Portuguese and the English had taken as their own, but it was certainly dissimilar to England. It was as though someone had turned a bright lamp on the streets of London and splashed at it with brightly coloured paints. Everywhere there were strange items piled upon market stalls or baskets; everywhere there were bizarre smells, some enticing, some repulsive; everywhere there was shouting in languages that were neither remotely familiar or decipherable. Uncle Charles and Frederick were glancing about at the streets with apprehension, already pulling at their cravats in the heat, looking as though they expected to be ambushed by savage natives at any second. Clara watched the whole thing with her usual calm face, although her eyes were wide and excited as she surveyed the scene.
Kate loved every second of it.
She asked a thousand questions, pointing at anything and everything over the edge of the carriage’s open box, and for once she did not care that the answer to her questions was not forthcoming. She tried her best to remember the turns they took from the water’s edge to the Churchgate neighbourhood, tried to remember what they passed in order to take stock of her new city. While the turns were few, however, the streets were so mobbed with people – and Kate’s head buzzing with such excitement – that she could scarce remember anything half a minute later as she exclaimed over the newest thing she caught sight of.
It was an odd place, so unlike London in its cold, rain-washed grey suit. Bombay had the same smell of a large city, which eased as they came further away from the docks, but everything here was baked under the Indian sun, intensified and spread, but while Kate had initially found the smell of overwarm bodies and sun baked fish and refuse lying in the streets unpleasant, the further they were removed from the docks, the more it was masked by spicier scents, strange things she could not name. There were what seemed hundreds of people passing them by every instant – the men’s long shirts bright splashes of white against the dazzling colours of the city. Many wore turbans in many different colours, and some had short caps that sat squarely atop their heads. The women they passed seemed to be wearing every shade of fabric imaginable, and so much of it was so elegantly embroidered that Kate found herself staring at the patterns before their carriage whisked them past.