Even in normal times, Mumbai City is many things to many, many people, but serene is not one of them.
By day, it seems that every one of the city's 19 million people is in motion - on foot, by bicycle, clinging onto overcrowded trains, or on the road in a fleet of battered taxis, venerable Hindustani Ambassador sedans, scooters, ox-carts and the occasional glossy European vehicle - all the drivers making maximum use of their horns.
Among the foot travellers are thousands of the famous dabba wallahs, the meal carriers who balance teetering stacks of food containers as they deliver home-cooked hot lunches to the city's office workers.
Over all this activity hangs a pungent mix of odours - spices, smoke, garbage, open drains.
For a visitor straight off the plane from New Zealand, the intensity of it all is exhilarating and intimidating.
In the middle of the apparent chaos, the Taj Mahal Palace hotel - site of one of yesterday's attacks - really does live up to the tourist-guide cliche that promises an "oasis of calm".
Built 105 years ago, the Taj was the creation of industrialist Jamsetji Tata, supposedly after a "whites only" hotel turned him away and he vowed to create Mumbai's grandest hotel.
It remains one of the city's top hotels, with even the lesser rooms costing more than $500 a night, and many times that if you want something really exclusive.
Outside, it's the domain of the traffic and the tourist touts. Inside, at least until yesterday, it's all grand staircases, palm trees, cool marble, deferential staff - even serenity.