Mumbai in the Eyes of a Foreigner

We touched down before the break of dawn. Upon entering the airport, I was welcomed by the flamboyant colours of the wall, the ceilings and the flooring. The way to the immigration showcased deities; it showed so much of the country’s culture.

Mumbai is not a city, it’s a way of life.

-Subhasis Das

Before I realized where I was, the city’s rush greeted me on day one. With lack of sleep, my lethargic state set in that caused a bolt from the blue. The idea of crossing the road was easy but the moment of it horrified me in ways never imagined. Coming from a very small city, I was only taught to look at the left and the right. In Mumbai, I had to look at all directions; the bustles got me faded from the inside. The vehicles ran as pleased, without sense of space or a virtue of waiting or giving way. The honks didn’t stop, the sound urged me to be on the double, and to be frightened at the same time as I associated it with sirens and emergency affairs. The flow of traffic was too much to understand – where one flow came from nowhere and went somewhere so hard to comprehend. The whole day was more than chaotic, I had to go back to the hotel and soothe my self.

With an auto driver in Bandra

The first day served its impression. It was more than what was expected. The front face has already served its purpose but hold on, day two got into deeper, a more meaningful one. While going from one place to another took time, the travel showed me a glimpse of what the city has and allowed me to contemplate on the following:

It is a secular but peaceful city. People with different religions live together and live along. In time for a Hindu festival, the entire community was lit and filled with lights, flowers, music and sweets – all being shared and celebrated with people inside and outside of the faith. Coming back from my own, we even fought with different sects even when we all come from same umbrella. Why does a small town propagate conflict when a huge metropolis can live in peace? Why do humanity break apart when the goal of faith is to stand united and strong?

The initial judgment of having no patience was quite ironic. Looking further, it is actually having a lot of it. Living in a sedentary lifestyle, I almost died completing over ten thousand steps in an hour to reach a tourist spot or just roaming around the streets of Dadar. I could collapse under a humid and sunny day. How can people survive on such life? The waiting of taxis, the queues, the long walks and hours, the honks which irritated me might mean something else. It might actually be a mutual understanding that time is ticking and wasting a minute means starvation or failure. It might mean getting into a job, trying a university slot or going home to a growing family. It wasn’t the lack of patience that lifts up the feet but of each spirit bearing a lot of tolerance for one’s self, for the family and the country.

Life is hard, yes. We crossed the road along a man on his mid-40’s, pushing a cart of vegetables. Most people thrive to live; from big to small, even juicing sugarcane, that is. Other nations went deaf and blind of their people snatching cell phones and bags in hopes to have money – what a petty and pity! In Mumbai, there was no one to snatch my phone in an open street, people just got to work, sell anything, they just got to do something to eat and live a longer time. Resilience, man! Resilience!

Most people, if not all, carry the city in their hearts (the country even!) Every step says “I’m here and I move forward.” Every presence was always felt. They wear and speak traditions, generations after another. They use what they have, sell what they know and consume what they are abundant of. The world has been distorted of what could be trending but this nation stands strong of who they are from the beginning, passing it on to the next. They go out of the country but they bear its name, loud and proud and never ceasing. They make the city and the country known.

We could see the Gateway of India and The Taj Mahal Palace from the ferry going to Elephanta Caves

Mumbai is like a maze. It is jumbled, most parts are not organised. It is hard to navigate, every road leads to another. When you are naive, you sure will be distracted, be fooled and be lost. You have to live to know and survive. Every step is a race and each tick of time is gold. But just like a maze, a person inside is brave. One enters tensed and comes out bold. After all, the maze is not the only goal. Rather, it houses THE goal and the people, the character, the beauty, the ugly, the authentic – every single thing matters.

“You can take the boy out of Bombay; you can’t take Bombay out of the boy, you know.”

-Salman Rushdie
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Mumbai is a place I cannot show off but it is something everyone should see. My children will know its history, will glorify its presence and learn how it should exist through time.

We took off before the break of dawn. Upon leaving the airport, I was touched by the flamboyant colours of the wall, the ceilings and the flooring. There was so much culture, warmth and love.

Mumbai is never the same, it is now my home. Till next visit. Dhanywaad πŸ™

The Mumbaikar and his foreigner wife ❀️

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