Namaste! Welcome to Mumbai, India!
It has been nearly a week since we landed in the sunny state of Maharashtra, and began our journey of six weeks abroad. To say it has been a culture shock would be an understatement. In my first steps out of the airport, a wave of heat and smell hit me. The smog in the air was immediately obvious, and rubbish seemed to be everywhere. As we drove into the heart of the city, the chaos of Mumbai traffic had me gripping my seatbelt for dear life. Road lines seem to be decorative, traffic lights there to look pretty, the speed limit a suggestion only. You can only imagine my surprise when we drove through a 30 km/h zone at 90. And yet I have never felt safer in a car (although I will say that I have yet to see a kaali peeli – yellow & black taxi – that doesn’t have a dent). The drivers here drive like it is in their DNA, and there is a natural ebb and flow to the way they navigate around one another. And that natural ebb and flow extends beyond just the driving in Mumbai.
Mumbai has a real rhythm to it, a heartbeat. And just like a heartbeat Mumbai is always busy, never stopping. There’s a reason it is called the city that never sleeps. Day and night, the sounds of horns fill the air, street vendors selling their wares, cars rumbling along the road. If you fail to march to that beat, to move to that rhythm, Mumbai will not wait for you. Mumbai waits for noone. She is not beholden to me because I am visiting her. And so if there is anything that has coloured my first week here, it is FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out.
Every day brings a new challenge – a new food to try, a new system of transport to conquer, a new experience to pursue. The pressure to try everything all at once, for fear that I may never get that opportunity again is not necessarily bad, but I keep reminding myself that I am here for six weeks. Those food vendors will be there tomorrow, the trains keep to a regular schedule, the market is open day in and day out. I am not missing out on something because I don’t try it the first time around. I am simply giving myself something to look forward to in the coming weeks. This week has been full of experiences, as much as possible crammed into each day to keep that FOMO at bay. And this isn’t without it’s highlights. Riding the trains for the first time, trying sugar cane juice, shopping on Hill Road, a rooftop dinner, a beach cleanup early saturday morning at Dadar Beach, the sunset on Marine Drive to name a few. All of these things are new and exciting, and I didn’t want to miss any of them.
Yet as I sit here with an unfortunate case of Delhi belly (apparently it’s a rite of passage), never have I felt that FOMO more. To be laid up in bed, while a group of interns visit the famous caves on Elephanta Island is frustrating to say the least. So is the fact that I may be away from my work for the next few days. As I reflect back, I find that in only one week I have internalised that rhythm of Mumbai, and I march to its beat. I relish in the constant noise, I find comfort in the constant busyness. I may feel removed from it as I recover, but while Mumbai waits for no one, I refuse to be left behind.