When you have the opportunity to take your time through a country and truly ‘be’ there, a whole new world is revealed. Being patient and ‘going with the flow’ is something most of us struggle to do. While many think they are in sync with life, more often than not they’re in a state of resistance.
Earlier this week it was made clear to me that I was in this mindset. I found myself frustrated when things weren’t moving at MY pace and in the way that I considered to be right. The more I tried to control a situation the more resistance I created. As a result, I became completely oblivious to all the wonders that were happening in the moment.
Looking back, I feel Hawaii was a dress-rehearsal for India. That trip was designed so that I would see, and experience, the miracles that surface when one goes with the flow of life. In Hawaii everything –people, places, and resources– came into being at exactly the ‘right’ moment. There was never any fear or concern about a situation since I rested in the knowing that ‘it’ was all being taken care of, and it always was.
In moving to a completely new culture one is faced with new challenges. Yet, it is important to remember that our beliefs are the filters of our reality, and if I chose to see ‘challenges’ as restrictions, then my experience would perpetually be filled with frustration and resistance. Ultimately no matter the experience we are presented with, it needs to be viewed and explored with an open and sensitive mind in order to get the exalted experience of life! Remember, our job isn’t to understand everything or spend our energy trying to make sense of it. Be ‘ok’ with what presently is, choose to live vibrantly in the flow, and I can assure you that miraculous things will occur.
This past week was spent getting “things” in order, observing local-living and learning the ropes. Bharat assisted with all of my requests which included getting a cell phone plan, purchasing a new laptop and learning the transit system. In exchange for his selfless acts of kindness, I have been assisting him with his running. He registered for his first half-marathon race which takes place in a few months. As such, I created a personalized 10 week training program and happily assumed the role as his coach.
Although its winter time the days are hot and humid in Mumbai. Most mornings I rise at 5:30am since beating the sun is the ticket to survival in India. Since I came from Hawaii, I haven’t had too much trouble adjusting to the heat but the humidity …. blah! Some days I come home and Bharat’s family laughs because I have “Mumbai hair”. Despite being a sweaty-mess, people continually request to have their photo taken with me. Throughout my travels I’ve become very familiar with “foreigner fame” – people requesting photos, autographs and sometimes, without warning, they stroke my hair. Earlier this week when I was out exploring caves people began to form a photo line behind me. I had to sternly state that I was only available for 1 group photo otherwise I would charge them 100 rupees ha ha.
While Bharat’s family is at work, I was either at home writing or out exploring. Living with local residents has provided me the opportunity to ease into the culture quickly and easily. After observing and doing things with them for a few days, I then felt confident to go out and do things on my own.
Over the last two weeks I’ve managed to see a lot of Mumbai. I experienced the bazaar and shopping scene, witnessed the lovely colonial architecture, watched sunsets by the sea, saw where many of the Bollywood stars reside, explored historic caves, attended a wedding and a Sangeet (a pre-wedding function), ATE and tried everything that was given to me (one of my favourite street foods is called Pani Puri), did some trekking in the suburbs and the list goes on. Mumbai, and all its commotion, is often compared to New York City. Having been to New York I can confirm it is similar to the energy of NYC, but Mumbai is on steroids! More people, more honking, more traffic, more flavour, more lights, more noise, basically more of everything!
As well, to every westerner who thinks they’ve experienced traffic… I don’t think you understand traffic until you’ve been to Mumbai. The roads make you feel like you’re on a continuous rickety wooden rollercoaster, and as you honk your way through the thousands of motorbikes, people, cars, trucks, cows, buses, etc., you feel as though you’re in a real-life video game! On Thursday I wanted to experience a typical workday commute so I journeyed to work with Bharat’s mom.
First, we had to catch an auto-rickshaw which is easier said than done since you’re competing against every other person on the planet for a ride. If you manage to flag one down, the driver might not want to take you to your desired destination and will move onto the next person. Once in, the bumpy ride to the metro can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Residents don’t measure distance based on kilometres they measure it based on time since 3km could take 2 hours depending on traffic. Once at the metro, we hopped onto the “women’s only” car for about 15 minutes then transferred to the train. NOTE: You have not experienced India until you have experienced the train! Here we stood at the “women’s only” platform and waited for the train. As the train rolled into the station people were hanging outside the cars. Suddenly there was a surge of women all pushing at once to stand at the edge of the platform. The train barely stops at the station. I followed Bharat’s 56 year old mother yelling “let’s go let’s go” and together we chased after the open car door—pushing and shoving our way into the car. There is nothing friendly about this process since in order to survive in India you have to be aggressive! As you push your way into the car, people are pushing their way out. It wouldn’t call it an organized chaos – it is simply chaos! Once in, you squirm your way to the centre. As the train pulls away from the station, everyone calms down and laughs because they know the whole scenario is ridiculous. After unwillingly smelling a few armpits and exchanging a few smiles everyone resumes battle mode—preparing for yet another round of war!
We stood on the train, like pregnant sardines stuffed in a can, for about 30 to 40 minutes. A few stops before getting off, one has to make their way to the open door. You have to endure the aggressive battle of the front line (open doorway) until your stop; otherwise you will continually get pushed back into the car and miss it. It’s basically impossible to bring anything with you – even my small purse was a nuisance and nearly strangled me at one point. Yet somehow the people manage to carry backpacks and most impressively children through the zoo! Once at our stop, we pushed our way off the train, through the crowd and onto the street of insanity! At this point, you’re exhausted but the battle continues. Here we attempted to catch either an overflowing bus or taxi. Again, you’re battling the world for a ride so you have to be aggressive. Bharat’s mom might be sweet in the kitchen, but when in transit she’s a beast! We managed to flag down a taxi and roughly 15 minutes later we arrived at her office. On average the journey takes a minimum of 1.5 hours and can take anywhere up to 3 hours one way. While most people sit and experience traffic every day, the whole process here is not only long and draining from the heat, but physically exhausting! Basically you experience war twice a day on top of working and tending to all your other responsibilities. And imagine doing all that in 50 degree weather?! Some people, like Bharat’s brother-in-law, opt to stay at work late to avoid the traffic. This, however, means he doesn’t get home until 11pm. In any case, the whole experience provided a glimpse into the daily lives of the people here. And it doesn’t matter if you’re travelling 1st, 2nd or 3rd class, it’s all the same – crowded!
Staying with Bharat’s family has provided a very unique outlook and experience; one that I will deeply cherish. I’ve learned a lot during my first two weeks and not only have I gained a new understanding but I have a new level of respect for the people when they say life here is ‘hard’.
Being out of Mumbai I feel like I can breath! I really like the vibe here and have been meeting a ton of fabulous people and getting a lot of writing in. I feel more like a local, and Shashi is well connected so he’s made the transition easy and fun!