Sunday, September 5, 2010
Okay, so I haven't been diligent about the blogging thing. I have traveled 18 hours by air across oceans and continents, found myself in an entirely new RL social network, spent 1.5 weeks without my husband, and 1.5 in a strange city in a hotel, spent four days wondering if my cats were surviving on an airplane, and started an amazing and busy new job in a completely tangential direction to any that my university studies could have predicted. Hello world! The Harveys are here.
We touched down in Mumbai on July 16th at 2am, from where our "social sponsor" (thank you, Mike!) drove us to beds. That's all we saw at the time--beds. When we woke up at 6 in the morning and headed in to work (what?!), we noticed a few things about our new home: first, it's humongous! We could live comfortably in half of this apartment. Second, the view is, um, interesting, to put it delicately. We were expecting a dirty Mumbai, certainly--even a smelly city; our 12 story building, though is flanked by three story structures that look as if they've been through about thirty monsoon seasons without having any attention paid to the facade. They look sturdy enough--although I'm a bit wary of the wiring going into some of them--they are simply not maintained. Some of them have tarp coverings to serve as a "temporary" roof or outer wall; others are being built upon--as in, the existing structure is going to have another, much taller structure sitting right on top of it. One building even has a tenant who lives, bathes, eats, and sleeps on the roof.
So, our first impressions of India were kind of shock and awe. But, that hasn't dampened our spirits any. Something else that we noticed on that first day in Mumbai was the color, the energy and excitement, and the vibrancy of the people here. The children can be heard outside our building playing cricket from dawn until dark every weekend; the fruit and veggie wallahs sing to one another from the trucks as they set up their stands in the mornings; the rickshaws play their cacophony of beeps as they wend through the cars and bullock carts on the street; when you turn a corner on a side street, you may accidentally step into a religious ceremony, with alien music and beautifully ornate clothing. Living here is like living on another, wonderfully strange, planet. That may sound cliche, but it's only because there is no way in the English language to adequately express this experience.
I do think that I've found a way to understand Mumbai just a touch better, for my own sanity's sake. It's a bit like looking at one of those optical illusions--you know: you look once and it's a chalice, you look again and it's two faces, staring at each other. For the city, you look once and you see this burgeoning metropolis with skyscrapers, a thriving nightlife, amazing shopping, a rich history, and all of the amenities that you can ask for (if you happen to have the means). When you look again you see a country whose infrastructure is still struggling to arise from third world status, homelessness and poverty that few other nations can compare with, traffic with no real system of control, and which struggles to meet basic needs of its populations, such as safe drinking water and clean common areas. It is amazing, and I'm so happy to be living here for the next couple of years, but I also see such need, and hope that I can be of just a little service to this amazing country while I am here.