In a city of twenty million: is one consumed in their one, out of twenty million’s, world, or are they absorbed in the twenty million world’s going on around them?
As a tourist in Mumbai, I was in completely taken in by both types of absorption. Let’s start with the fact that Mumbai is gorgeous. I was honestly in love at first sight. Let’s put aside that I had barely just gotten over the nightmare that was the bedbugs at the end of my time in Bangalore, and the horrifying sunburn, acquired in Kerala, covering the front of my body (caused by the Malaria pills I was on that cause sun sensitivity – I forgot) and that my stomach was completely rejecting me (I was spending a grand amount of time in the toilet). I was still in love.
Shantaram was coming to life before my eyes. It was surreal. Sidenote: if you haven’t already caught on that I think this is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read and put it on your list of things to read – well you really should already, you will not regret it. The colonial buildings, the boulevards of trees, the old black and yellow taxis, the ocean breeze, the parks, the churches, the temples, the mosques, the people – all the people everywhere: It was all exactly as he described it.
I went to Leopold’s and had a sprite (I didn’t think my stomach would like me if I had enjoyed the beer I wanted). I walked to India Gate and was swarmed by beggars and street people. I got henna stamped by a woman, who was surrounded by her ten children. I strolled through Colaba, wandered around the University grounds and chatted with a local who wanted to take me for a drink, so he could practice his English….
I wandered emporiums, admired churches and visited my favourite Café Coffee Day for an iced coffee. I was approached by a group of young Indians, they asked if they could video interview me for a school project – I obliged, had my coffee and chatted with them for a while about women’s rights and the differences between them at home in Canada and in India. It was interesting seeing their points of view.
I went to the slums. I walked through where everything for all of Mumbai is made. I strolled past where Slumdog Millionaire was filmed – the railroad tracks and tunnel at the beginning… I watched kids having their morning shit there – just like in the movie.
I had Shantaram and Slumdog Millionaire both coming to life all around me. The two most visual depictions of India that I had encountered, I was in the midst of. It was amazing. You see things and wonder if they are really like that? They were, but in many other ways they were so much more than I could have imagined.
I’ve been home for a while now, am back to work and have started back at University (what am I thinking?!) Life is back to normal, but the kids and people I’ve met and encountered this summer aren’t ever far from my mind and won’t ever be. This trip changed the way I think about lots of things. Indians are survivors. We could all learn a lot from them.
I hope you all enjoyed my emails. Until my next journey…. xx.