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Last updated: 08 February, 2007 - Published 15:11 GMT
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My travel log
The Mumbai skyline rises up ahead
The Mumbai skyline rises up ahead
Hello from Mumbai, a city of extremes. Ap ke se he? How are you?

I'm finding that India, most certainly is rising! Its size, its economic liberalisation and the accompanying massive investment into the country, makes it scared only of China.

And Indians are optimistic that their country will overtake their giant neighbour some day soon.

Their conviction stems primarily from the fact that they are a democracy (the world's largest) and that English, which they see as the key to success, is more spoken in this former British colony than in China.

Residents of Mumbai - or Mumbai Kites as they are known locally - are confident that their city will soon be the most cosmopolitan city on earth as nationals from all corners of the globe move in to cash in on the boom.

But Africa is not among the movers and shakers here; I have not met or heard of a single influential African here.

 For the few Indians who have heard of my country, Sierra Leone, it is thanks to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond.

Indians I have met hardly know a thing of my continent. They don't even know about Darfur.

For most people here Africa simply means South Africa. For the few who have heard of my country, Sierra Leone, it is thanks to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond.

The Indian press does not bother much about Africa. I have seen just two Africa-related stories in my time here: one mentioned the visit of Archbishop Tutu to mark the 59th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's death; and the other was about Indian peacekeepers going to Sudan.

It seems that Indians are still enmeshed in the old stereotypes of the continent; wild animals and naked and poor people.

Yet India is not without poor people. 300 million people - about the population of West Africa - live on less than $1 a day.

Unsung heroes

This is a cricket-mad nation but the popularity of the world's most popular sport is growing, I am told.

Musa and Martins footballers at Air India, Mumbai
The Super Eagles and the Black Stars are their ultimate goals

I met two professional African footballers who make their living here in Mumbai.

Ghanaian, Suley Musa and Nigerian, Abiodun Kolawale Martins, both defenders, play for Air India, a premiership club in Indian that last season won the Mumbai cup.

They find the cultural differences hard and they do get bored but, Suley told me that Allah is his guide and that he will play wherever his calling takes him.

Martins dreams of playing in the German or Dutch leagues.

The Super Eagles and the Black Stars are their ultimate goals, they have both tried out at junior level for their national teams, however, they are not oblivious to the obscurity of their league for national selectors.

Bad reputation

A local journalist here told me that Africans have a bad reputation as hustlers here in Mumbai.

African immigrants are generally found in a town called Mohammed Allie, a mostly Muslim suburb about an hour and a half hour's drive from the city centre.

It is a shocking sight to see such poverty on the doorstep of the modern Mumbai metropolis.

Here I met Africans. Mostly from Nigeria and Ghana, there are said to be others from east and southern Africa.

They say they are into "business", but I saw them mostly passing-by or sitting around.

I visitied an African restaurant run by a bold and outspoken Nigerian woman called Omo.

I had my first full taste of food in this country at her Wazobia Kitchens restaurant. A nice stew with white rice.

Omo said she was comfortable in Mumbai, describing her business as "not too bad but not too good". She told me, "Even though I am not a resident of this country, I am surviving thanks to my restaurant".

Climate of fear

Mohammed Allie street scene
Shocking poverty exists side by side with Mumbai's wealth

I interviewed Omo and asked if I could have some photographs of her and the restaurant but she declined.

There is a climate of fear that characterises the stay of Africans here. I was regarded with fear and suspicion when I tried to interview them on the streets.

I saw dozens of them on the streets, so frightened, or maybe paranoid, that most of them would not talk to me on record. Not even anonymously.

Once the tape was off, they complained about discrimination and racism, they alleged racist taunts from some Indians and they claim that many people refuse to rent them rooms and apartments or even allow them into their hotels.

"It is hell here for Africans!" one fumed. Another added; "In Africa we accommodate them and provide them the enabling environment to do business freely", adding that here is a "nightmare".

Some say they would like to return home, but they are uncertain of what may face them there.

"Back home in Africa my wife and children fell ill and I could not take care of them," one Nigerian said to me.

"I'd rather be killed here alone than go back home and see my family suffer when I cannot help them" the young Nigerian sobbed to me, keeping an eye out over his shoulder.

African tourists

There is a South African Indian family of five staying in my hotel, they told me that they are not impressed by what they have seen of their country of origin.

Visiting for the first time, the Adup family say that the reality of India does not live up to the impression that they have maintained back home in Durban.

For Nasha, who is in her twenties, the moral standards she expected were shockingly absent in the India she has seen. Her father says he prefers living in South Africa.

In search of Bollywood

I am still chasing the elusive Bollywood story, but I have learnt one thing - I can't supply a photograph!

Rather than being a tangible institution with headquarters in a massive complex as I had imagined, I now know that it is "simply a concept". (Dourgish - writer on Bollywood)

Umaru FofanaMy pictures
See India through Umaru Fofana's camera lens
Rachael in a rickshawCrosstown traffic
Rachael Akidi dodges cars, carts and rickshaws in the Indian capital
My travel log
05 February, 2007 | News
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