Friday, June 20, 2014

Mumbai Greets!

      First 2 weeks in Mumbai greeted me with a warm welcome. The city has many facets and my experience here definitely opened my eyes to a stage where various societies from different economic levels are cohabiting in a rapidly moving city and nation. Prior to coming to Mumbai, I sought out my Indian friends at Ross for some survival tips – transportation (rickshaw), dress-code, areas to stay, temperature etc. I was glad to have done that. This is something which I've treasured being a Rosser, being able to reach out to other Rossers at any time and vice versa. That being said, rickshaw has been my best discovery thus far. It is small, affordable, and gets you to places quickly (15Rs minimum for a little over 1km ride)
A typical scene of Bandra station during peak hours

Gettin' off Ladies Coach, hard to notice but I am in the crowd!
     A visit to Mumbai will not be complete without trying out the local public transport system. My travel to Krishi Star office begins with a rickshaw ride to Bandra station, then a train ride to Sewri, an industrial town 4 stops away. With as little as 1Rs, one can travel on a train. Because it is so affordable to anyone, the train, with its rustic metal design is serving beyond its capacity. I felt lucky to be able to get onto the Ladies Coach, signified by a traditional Indian woman pictorial drawing on the coach’s door. It is almost always less packed and safer. In the men’s coach, especially class II, there is absolutely NO room to breathe and packed like sardines especially during peak hours. Local riders swiftly hop on and off the train, even when it hasn’t come to a full stop. As one local said to me, “you don’t have to use much energy because you will be pushed down by the crowd’. After several rides, I quickly learnt how to hop on and off as well. It’s a good skill to have especially when there is no warning or announcement to signal that the train is starting soon.  
Railway communities

     With the hustle bustle of the evolving city, one can’t help but also notice the poor and unfortunate city dwellers. Along the railways, I observed multiple communities, some large and some small, all depending on the railway and river for their livelihood. In art, one seeks creativity in search for work none like the others. Here, creativity works by helping to fulfill basic needs like shelter, food, and other basic necessities. The more I observe, the more I wonder “how do people in these communities make a living?” Hopefully my journey forward will offer me a glimpse to understand more of the creative ways that allow these communities to flourish.

     One of the highlight of my visit is to the Mount Mary church here in hillock in Bandra overlooking the Arabian Sea. It is over century old but still maintain its architectural beauty. Although I am personally not a Christian devotee, I took the opportunity to pray for the poor and also health of my family members. Best time to visit is sunrise or sunset. A short walk from the church will take you straight to the coast overlooking the sea.

Mount Mary Church
Segue into a different topic:   Temperature...
With an average temperature of 35C (95F) and higher at mid-day, the city is patiently waiting for the arrival of the annual monsoon around this time of the year. Word from the locals is that it is arriving rather later this year, perhaps due to climate change. As a native of the tropics, I expected myself to get acclimated to the weather much easier. And of course, as life always taught me the hard way, the reality always bites. True enough, 2-weeks after my first day here, I had fever and throat infection, and had to go to OPD. But lucky enough, my apartment is 10 minutes walking distance away from Lilavati Hospital (a famous hospital for Bollywood stars, I later learnt) to get help. 
Note to future interns:
In every one of my post, I will try to include one note for future interns. This way I can keep track of them and make sure to pass it on. For this week:
1. Always know where the closest hospital / clinic is
2. Absolute requirement:  Small change (common response from rickshaw to foreigners- No Change!), Cold water(to cool down), Honk resistance (people here honk a lot!)

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