Journey to Mumbai

Namaste! Hello, hello!

It’s been a while since we left home and landed in Mumbai, and what time it has been. So let’s get started!!!

Day 1 (14/01/23)

Auckland, New Zealand

What was supposed to be the original day of departure. We all got to the airport only to find out we weren’t leaving that night as our flight had been cancelled and rescheduled for the following afternoon. There was a bit of confusion about the information we were hearing in the overhead announcements (still announcing the flight as delayed) announcements and what we were being told (cancelled and rescheduled). Eventually, we decided to go home and reconvene the following day to start our adventure – BUT not before a few of us decided to use the food vouchers we were given. It was a fun way to get to know some of the people on the trip while we waited in line to order and pick up our food.

Macca’s line, reading the menu and updating everyone on the situation.

Day 2 (15/01/23)

Auckland, New Zealand

The actual day of departure. After a night of minimal sleep, because I stayed up till 3 am (NZT) trying to find more information on new itineraries, now 24hr layover instead of the original 12, and getting an extra legroom seat, I made it to the airport only to wait 2.5 hours to check in, and be told my updated itinerary wasn’t available so I couldn’t check in and my visa isn’t “valid” 🙃. Eventually did get it sorted but had to do quick goodbyes and rush through security because the gates were closing, but I made it.

The team ready to go!

It was the longest flight, most of which I spent sleeping. Although, partway through the flight, I realised I had taken over the armrest between my several rounds of sleep, and the stranger/new friend didn’t get to use it (oops). It’s a sore subject, but from what I can tell, they didn’t need it, thanks to the person in front of them.

Day 3 (16/01/23)

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We made it to Kuala Lumpur late at night, and because of the extended layover, they placed us at the Marriott Hotel, where 14 of us looked somewhat out of place 😂.

The stay at the Marriott was amazing! With individual rooms and an incredible buffet spread for breakfast, I was spoilt for choice. I even had ice cream for breakfast (very appropriate for the weather in Malaysia). I also voluntarily woke up at 5 am, something you won’t ever see me doing back home in Auckland.

We fit right in 😂
Petronas Towers
A Marriott view

We left early in the morning to get a full day of Kuala Lumpur before we had to leave to get our connecting flight to Mumbai. We made it out to the Petronas Towers before the crowds and wandered through the city centre and so many different malls. The Lunar New Year displays were extravagant and everywhere.

Before we knew it, our time in Kuala Lumpur was up, and we were headed back to the airport for our last leg of the journey to Mumbai, India!!!

Cleared customs and immigration with no visa issues 🧐.Best part of this flight, it was fairly empty! So, I moved seats and got two seats to myself (oh, so comfy).

Mumbai, India

We landed late at night in Mumbai (around 11/12 pm?). Made it through with minimal issues, except for the two randomly selected for PCR tests; and the one friend who was pulled aside for having a ‘suspicious’ item in their bag. We then rode the elevators up and down a few times. Why? Because 14 of us with multiple bags were trying to find the right parking floor where our rides to our stay in Mumbai were without being split up 😅.

What felt like an eternity but was probably closer to 15-20 mins, we worked it out, and we were on our way to our ‘home’ (the YWCA in Colaba) for the next six weeks.

Even though we landed late at night and not much was visible outside, I began to pick up on the many subtle and not-subtle differences between Auckland and Mumbai. Some of it was good; others made me realise the immense amounts of privilege and support I and anyone living in Aotearoa/New Zealand have available. 

We did finally make it to our new home by one in the morning, checked in and then crashed. It has been a long and exhausting journey to Mumbai.

Day 4 (17/01/23)

GCC Orientation Day 1:

Today was day one of the GCC orientation with Naveen and Mala, our coordinators and localities here in Mumbai. Today we learnt about the language and culture of Mumbai and how to thrive in this bustling city.

Part of thriving was learning how to cross the roads (so we don’t get run over). Road rules are scarcely followed here!? I think people understand rules to be more of a recommendation than something you follow; despite this, the chaos works, and traffic is free-flowing 🧐.We went out to lunch and learnt how to use the kaali peelis [kha-lee p-lee], (black and yellow) taxis that are everywhere. Lunch was an amazing vegetarian thali [tha-lee] (an Indian-style meal consisting of various dishes served on a platter). I ate waaaayyy too much and didn’t think I would make it down the restaurant’s stairs. Turns out I was so full I could barely eat any dinner.

A traditional vegetarian winter/spring meal (thali)

After lunch, we did a quick walking tour of the neighbourhood we are staying in to get our bearings and learn about the amenities available in our areas. Turns out there is an amazing variety of places/amenities (street markets to high-end stores). Also, they are all within 20 minutes of walking distance!

Once we were done with the tour of our neighbourhood, 13/15 began what was supposed to be a quick process of getting Indian SIM cards. It took five and a half hours in the end 🥲.

Day 5 (18/01/23)

GCC orientation day 2:

Our second day in Mumbai! On today’s agenda: understanding development from an Indian perspective, making the most of our internship, thriving in Mumbai part 2 (transport edition) and shopping in Bandra.

The morning half was spent discussing development (within an Indian context), our experiences so far and our internships (expectations, culture, etc.).

~ lunch break ~

After our lunch break, we split into two groups depending on which train lines we would be taking to work (western or harbour lines). We would meet in Bandra for some exploring of the street markets and shopping. The western line group left from Churchgate station, and the harbour line group left from CST station (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus).

I was in the western line group, and once we arrived at Churchgate and walked in and saw the crowds, I didn’t think I could do the daily commute on the local trains to and from work.

The process for the train was simple, buy your ticket in our case (1st class tickets – not sure we can manage 2nd class/general, just yet). Find which train line and platform, the correct carriage, get on, and off you go!

I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency of the trains. The trains kept to their schedule arrivals and departure (none/minimal delays), 30-second (max) stops at each station, scheduled to run every 5-10 minutes. The local train app also helps with figuring out which platform (there are so many) your train will arrive on and at what time (if there are delays etc.).

The crowds and the quick stops did make me anxious for tomorrow when I have to do the whole process by myself (walk from home -> Churchgate (tickets and trains) -> Santa Cruz -> walking/rickshaw to work). Turns out the trick to making sure you don’t miss your stop is to get up a stop before the one you need to get off at and stay by the doors, to the left when hopping off to avoid getting pushed back in by the people getting on). The rest is up to me to figure out (🤞Google Maps doesn’t let me down).

We got off at Bandra station, which is probably one of the busiest stations along the route. We made our way out of the station to where all the rickshaws were waiting. We broke off into groups of three, took rickshaws to a popular market area, and went on a small shopping spree. The girls had a blast buying so many clothes. The boys were absolute champions and waited out the hour+ the girls spent shopping when they were ready to leave about 5 minutes into the trip. We ended the night with dinner, trying a variety of popular street foods. Then we headed home for a good night’s rest before starting the first day of our internships

Day 6 (19/02/23)

First day of the internship! I am anxious, excited, and a little terrified all at once about so many things.

A small group of us left home at 8:30 am to make sure we all made it to work early. After a quick walk to Churchgate station, we bought our tickets and were on our way to work.

Following google maps’ directions and asking a few locals for directions later, I made it to work! It wasn’t a terrible journey, just slightly confusing. I chose to walk instead of taking a rickshaw from the train station to work so that I could get my bearings, but it was also calming.

It was an uneventful day at work. As it was my first day, I mainly observed, read, and signed through workplace policies and had a chat with my supervisor about the work I would be doing. Then it was home time.

It was great to be able to see everybody at dinner that night and just debrief and find out about what everyone’s day was like. It was really interesting to hear about what everyone else was doing and how they found their journeys to and from work

Morning Commute
Evening Commute

Day 7 (20/02/23)

The second day of the internship was slightly more eventful, as I got a small start on what I will be doing for my internship and met more people in the office. The journey home was frustrating and, in hindsight, a funny memory.

A new friend and I are at the same organisation and, coincidentally, in the same office today. When we left for home, we rushed to the train to get on the train because we were tired and wanted to get home early (first mistake). We got on the wrong train and realised it a bit late (more than halfway into the journey). When we realised, we got off at the next stop, checked the local train app and asked a local about the correct train to take to fix our mistake. So two train switches later and a longer-than-needed train ride later, we got to our intended stop (Churchgate)….

              Alas, this wasn’t the end of our troubles. We ended up taking several wrong turns on our walk home from the train station; by the time we got home, it was (7:30 pm – we left at 5 pm).

It was made up for with the small break we took on the way home, where we had fresh coconut water and the lovely rooftop dinner the group went to later that night

Day 8 (21/02/23)

Ah yes, rest day? Not today; it’s beach clean-up day! The beach was littered with rubbish all over, and there was even more in the water, which we couldn’t reach. Once we were at the clean-up and made a small dent, it felt wonderful to be able to give back to the community and city that is going to be home for the coming weeks. Although, I am now ever so grateful for the beautiful and pristine beaches we have back home. It’s truly a privilege to have clean and swimmable beaches.

These were not the same feelings I had when I had woken up extra early and skipped breakfast this morning and was questioning why I talked myself into an early morning when I knew I was exhausted.

Eventually, when we made our way home, I was so tired. So, I decided to have a nap which had to be postponed because I still had to unpack and stop living out of my suitcase. When I finally did finish unpacking and organising, I couldn’t nap because a new friend was napping on my bed, leaving me no room. A little later, I did manage to get a 20-minute nap.

Post nap, a small group of us wandered around the area we are staying in and explored an art gallery. I did want to buy a couple of pieces; they were so beautiful (but the budget doesn’t allow it). To end our night and the first week in Mumbai, we went to the Marine Drive/Queens Necklace to watch the sunset. Fun fact: you can look directly at the sun here without burning your eyes.

Then I had a new roommate for a couple of hours because they got locked out of their room (because their roommate was out at dinner with the room key).

Quick Selfie at Marine Drive!

Day 9 (22/02/23)

Day 9 and 9/15 are sick (fingers crossed, it’s not C19). And thankfully, it was just a cold/flu.

Today is Sunday, so we decided to go to the Elephanta Caves. We left early enough that we beat the crowds and the mid-day heat. We spent a few hours wandering through the UNESCO world heritage site, taking in the marvel of the remainder of beautifully detailed carvings created thousands of years ago. An incredible amount of detail has been hand-carved out of stone. 

Around lunchtime, we found someone selling kulfi; it was a yum and excellent cooling snack right before lunch. The ingenuity of the storage of all the kulfis was cool to see because the man selling them was there for a few hours, and none of what he sold melted despite how hot it got. As it wasn’t kept in a portable freezer; more of an improvised chilly bin (like an old metal oil container). 

It’s been a long and event-filled nine days, fun but so tiring. So that’s it for now! See you later 👋

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