Heat and Horns: Impressions from Mumbai
Trip Start May 01, 2010
23Trip End Jul 15, 2010
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We arrived in Bombay safe and sound, and off we went into the sauna that is this immense city on the Arabian Sea.
First off: the heat. I have been working the full-body sweat reminiscent of my days in Taiwan. I sat in a restaurant today and put a napkin to my forehead. It stuck immediately, and when I took it off it was so wet it was nearly transparent. However, I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone, and that everybody is in the same boat. I look at the poor Asian tourist, the one with sweat stained through his shirt, his oversized glasses fogged up from the humidity, his pants rolled up to his knees in a futile attempt to beat the heat and I think "Stay strong my brother, stay strong."
I actually uncovered my old gray hoodie in my luggage today, that thin piece of material that barely kept me from shivering in the London drizzle, except now it seemed so thick, so heavy, so solid, that it might be suitable for a trek up to the North Pole. The thought of ever wearing such a thing seems simply absurd.
Other things are striking, the poor, dirty, shoeless children who follow you, tugging at your sleeve and begging for a “paisa” or a “chapatti.” It really is heartbreaking, and all you can do is try and be polite, say no, and move on. Eventually they stop following, as if there is an invisible barrier after which they can go no farther. How is it that such a thing can exist? And what are we to do? From what we have read, giving money is not the solution, as it often goes to someone else, who may or may not use it for the benefit of the child. We have been advised to donate to a worthy charity that promotes health and education as a more lasting means of helping.
The traffic is mad. I consider myself an astute and experienced jay-walker, an intrepid explorer of asphalt who can cross any great divide, yet, at times, it can be overwhelming here. Honking is the preferred method of communication, and even the most elderly grandmothers are not spared. Traveling at night? Headlights not working? No problem…just honk louder! Traffic lines are ignored, and red lights are mere suggestions to perhaps slow down a little. Compound all of that with everybody driving on the other side of the road and you have a perfect storm. Who needs a coffee in the morning? Just cross the road and that adrenaline rush will be all you need to get your day rolling.
Most people speak a bit of English, one of the national languages of India, and it really is fantastic for us travellers. Although, sometimes it can be confusing, like when we were at a restaurant trying to refill our water bottle from their filtered source. We asked if we could do it, but the person we asked didn't really seem to understand, so he asked for his boss to come over. The boss then asked the first guy to do something, and then a third person came down. All three had a bit of a conversation, and then the boss said, “Sorry, no one has found a water bottle here today.” So close, yet...so far. It reminds me of Canada and how everyone knows a bit of French. Some speak it well, others, not so much. You know who you are.
The architecture is striking as well, a mix of colonial and indigenous styles. Here are some links that can explain it better than I ever could:
But, I have to say I am ready to leave. For all of it’s charms, it’s a busy, dirty, noisy city, and I want some beach time. We leave for Goa soon. Until then…PEACE!