After exiting the Mumbai airport, I was struck by the smell, totally different to all city smells I had known before. Stifling sweetness, incense, spices, dirt and dust, all in a concoction brewing in the hot air.
A moment later I heard the blare of honks which was to accompany me in the days and nights to come. I still have in my mind going by rickshaw to Harry’s place from the airport.
We are going past slums, people lying in the streets, colorful rags are hanged out to dry in the mid of brick-and-plywood heaps resembling houses, someone is cooking on the sidewalk, someone else is selling food in the street, a well-dressed female is walking past, Indian people are peering curiously into the rickshaw where my blonde hair is blowing in the wind (and such blonde hair does attract curiosity in India).
You need to hold on tight to the rickshaw, not only when it takes turns. Someone is cutting in in front of us, must be overtaken quickly, and moving forward seems to be the only driving rule here. Honk, honk, HONK. My senses are going crazy. Rickshaws are darting like mad.
“It’s okay, Ilona… keep calm. You’ll get used to it.”
Harry leaves us the keys to his apartment and he goes on holiday. It looks like it should not be a bad stay. Just the honking and more honking…
In a street of Mumbai, your attention must be highly focused.
At any time, you can collide with a rickshaw or another vehicle.
It was funny in a sense, I felt as if I was playing a game.
Me, the lead character, who has to get from point A to point B unharmed and is assaulted by rickshaws from all sides. The best part was dashing across big crossroads. My reaction time had never been better.
I am awed by Mumbai rickshaw drivers.
They simply drive amid this chaos, overtake others, honk, but none is mumbling complaints, none is swearing. They just accepted the state of affairs as it is and at least they do not dump their negative energy on the customer (as e.g. the whining taxi drivers in Poland do), although they are some slickers. Tomek knows India very well so I immediately got a practical lesson in tough bargaining with rickshaw drivers – they may overcharge you heavily or take a detour pretending they do not hear you, that they took the wrong way by mistake.
Mumbai tired me out, me, who likes bustling cities. Six days is way too much. Commuting is the most cumbersome – to make your way to a meeting, you need to leave 2-3 hours early and take into account that you will be taking a crowded train on the way. Crowded in a sense that will make you melt into a single passenger tissue with the Indians. We did stay in the outskirts, but even the transport in “central” areas is the same. Unless you take a taxi, but that will not protect you from traffic jams and zigzag driving.
Luckily, the Indians are very polite, pleasant, helpful and detached so no weird situations in male-female terms took place in the streets or on the city transport, even when I was the sole woman on a car crammed full of men.
We are not taking a holiday here, but we explore while working.
Accordingly, another challenge apart from surviving was to find places to work in peace. Not an easy task, but not impossible, either.
That is how we set out to discover Mumbai venues and found all sorts of Mumbai.
Our “mobile office” got installed in shabby cafes, where I was afraid to put my hand on the table, as well as in modern restaurants with modern music and a polished counter. We became regulars at the shopping mall, because only there, and only in one restaurant under the name of Blue Mumbai, one could find a decently working Wifi. Interestingly, food in the dingy establishments was often better than at the fancy ones. But food will be covered in a separate note.
Huh, I feel really good in India, especially after leaving Mumbai to roam the green areas of the country.
I will yet write about Mumbai, about the bloggers I met there, about food.
Wait and watch my Instagram account.
Work + travelling + exploring + meeting people + blogging + meeting another culture head on + staying in constant touch with Poland, another world entirely, calls for operating on a high, intense level.
It gets very exhausting at times, but the satisfaction makes it all worthwhile.