Following a few bumps in the road, we are finally in Mumbai. To say this city is an assault on the senses would be an understatement. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such sights, sounds, and smells all at once. Though adjusting to being away from loved ones in New Zealand has been difficult at times, there are a few aspects of the past week that have made adapting to this new environment a lot easier.
The 14 other students on this trip who were once strangers to me have grown to become my friends in a very short period of time. The sense of community we’ve built has provided me with a sense of comfort and I think its safe to say we’re all experiencing a little bit of separation anxiety when we’re all away at work during the day! Apart from the group there have also been many other people who have made this new transition as smooth as possible. From the coordinators of our programme in Mumbai to my work colleagues who helps me hail my rickshaw to the train station, everyone has been so welcoming and willing to lend a helping hand.
Finding the Familiar in a New Environment
Though Mumbai has been a completely new and exciting experience, certain parts of the past week haven’t been as foreign as I imagined. On one of our first days here, we were treated to an amazing vegetarian thali meal to celebrate the new harvest that happens once a year (pictured above). In Sri Lankan culture, this celebration is called “pongal” and a holiday that I usually celebrate with my family with a big lunch cooked by my grandma. Though the meal, company, and environment were different to what I am used to, I realised that meaning of ‘comfort’ and ‘home’ is more a feeling rather than a place. It also helps that I’ve now found my new local coffee spot, supermarket, and am on my way to finding the fastest route to work!
Embracing the ‘New’
There is also a lot to look forward to over the next few weeks! Settling in to a new work environment and learning from experts at my NGO is an opportunity that I’m very grateful to take part in. The group is also looking into packing some travel into our weekends to other states in India and I can’t wait for what these new adventures bring!
All in all, this first week in Mumbai has been an incredible experience – stay tuned for further updates as I become a local Mumbaiker over the next few weeks!