Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Love Mumbai

Namaste readers! Here it is, my last blog post. I will be leaving India in less than 24 hours. This is a sad event, because I have really enjoyed writing these. I could continue blogging during my return to the US, but let’s be honest -- reading about spending my days in my old bedroom back in New Jersey is far less interesting. Luckily for me, and the parentals, I don’t anticipate a long-term stay. Anywho, as I am writing this, there is a man walking around the Spanish chocolateria where I sit using an electric tennis racket to kill mosquitoes. Summer has begun. It’s about 96 degrees but feels closer to 105, thanks to the humidity that just sucks all of the life out of me every time I leave the apartment. Today I had to take a semi-long walk to find a dumpster, since I can’t throw my underwear out in my neighborhood. The ragpickers would find it and know that it belongs to the neighborhood white girls, and I just couldn’t put Ava through it. So I was walking, carrying bags of garbage and underwear, and just sweating profusely. Beyond profusely. My forehead was like the mouth of a waterfall. I’m not going to lie, I think I’m leaving at the right time.

I haven’t experienced anything really new in the last two weeks, but I have been able to think a lot about what it is that keeps me wanting to come back. I mean, I live in a sauna and there is literally something living inside my body, but I’m already thinking of when I might be able to return. Perhaps I’d just try a vacation first, but still, the question of what makes India so magnetic still begs to be asked. On my walk over here, I passed five temples/shrines in the span of 6 minutes. Today, like almost every fourth day here, is a holiday. I don’t know what it is, and it probably wouldn’t make a difference if I knew, because it’s either some god’s birthday, or some obscure new year. Regardless, the streets are glowing with lights and the smell of incense permeates everything. I much prefer it to rotting garbage and feces. It’s really nice living in a place where Christmas is celebrated every other week. I also like the not-knowing what holiday it is part, because it makes figuring it all out so rewarding. As Ava so brilliantly pointed out the other day, part of what makes India so fun is that you never have any idea what’s going on, and no matter how long we’re here, we can never really know. When we get on the train, we just see a lot of women in saris, but the women in the saris can tell where everyone else is from based on how their sari is wrapped, whether or not she’s married based on her jewelry, and if you can catch a last name, to what caste she belongs. I certainly know more than the average foreigner, but I basically walk around here every day knowing nothing. For someone who sometimes thinks she knows everything, it’s very healthy, and refreshing. It's also especially stimulating being in a place like Mumbai. It's like living in New York, with all the diversity and pockets of ethnicity, but add on ten million people. Despite whatever repercussions I might now face thanks to Qaddafi and his friends who are holding out in my stomach, making the insane decision to come here was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I don’t know if it’s the independence, the utter confusion, being able to get involved in meaningful work, the rewards of getting to know people who live here, or having been a part of the best damn cohort WPF has ever seen, but this has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. Part of me is still very disappointed that I have to leave this early, but I think I’ve gotten everything I can out of this experience. I mean sure, summer and monsoon in India will bring its own challenges, but really, I’ve accomplished what I set out to achieve. Now the challenge will be carrying through these learnings, to use my newly acquired Hinglish, to my new American life. As excited as I am to have a big bed,
Not this:

breakfasts on the porch, an afternoon dip in the pool and Dad’s pizza for dinner, I appreciate what it has meant to live here, and never again will I use more than two squares of toilet paper. I urge you all to try it.

I guess this post isn’t as reflective as I had anticipated, but honestly, I have a very quick shift to make. I will be home tomorrow at midnight, and the next day the entire family will be here for Passover. Then Wednesday I get to make my first hospital visit. Yay. So now I will stop thinking about leaving India and more about just getting excited to be in America, because I think a lot of the India reflection will arise organically, like when I go to get on the subway and don’t understand why nobody is pushing me on, or when I say, “I was in Mumbai only” and nobody understands/laughs with me. I will end with some more pictures of my checking off the bucket list over the past two weeks. More reminders of marvelous Mumbai.

This is the chai stand on my street.

Our vegetable lady! Decent prices. Onions don't always look so good.

Stringing lights up for Ambedkar Jayanti

Two of my neighbors and the alley where my apartment is.

Sea Link in a hazy sunset.

Slums on Mahim creek. I wish I could attach an odor.

Pipe over the creek. People live here.

Begging woman in Khar.

Never touch the rickshaw meter.

Cricket on the maidan.

Kate and me in front of the clock tower on the maidan.

Ayurvedic truck.

Shrine in a taxi.

Victoria Terminus, the second most photographed building in India, after the Taj. Also the site of the 2008 terror attack.

Carrying water from Banganga tank.

Napping outside the house.

Super religious Hindus shaving heads.

Bathing in the tank.


Apparently this is the god Rama.

The sun will come outtttttt

1 comment:

  1. We have all loved experiencing this with you and through you. Your writing has really allowed us to see, smell (not always so pretty!) and hear all that India is. What an amazing ride...As you said, you have achieved that which you set out to and now you can come home and focus on health, family, friends, and the future. Know that we are all very proud of you. We can't wait to see you. Love hugs and kisses, Er