Art needs no language…

In my internship this week, I felt great privilege for the opportunity, confronted by the harsh living conditions of the communities I work, and grateful to the people of Mandala who have opened their lives and hearts to the organisation and me. Working with the Zahra Hasanaat clinic, I was able to help with the hand-washing camps to teach children and mothers good handwashing techniques. Then thanks to a Doctors for you initiative that collects used soap from hotels and recycles it into new bars, we could give community members bars of soap for their homes. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to help the maternal clinic camp assess baby milestones and development progress. Due to the poor availability of good nutrition in slum and slum-redevelopment areas, these camps must occur so families can access the help they need. One of the fantastic services Doctors for you provides young families is nutritional supplements such as protein powder and calcium. This week has made me feel truly grateful to be from New Zealand, where we have access to clean drinking water, sanitisation, fresh food full of vitamins and nutrients, and a public health system that supports all of us through all stages of life.

The Khala Goda Festival is an arts festival hosted locally where we stay in Colaba. Something that Mumbai excels at is throwing a celebration and this festival is a true celebration of art in all shapes and forms. I had the opportunity to see sustainable art installations, make my own chai drinking cup, and celebrate local and distant art with the community of Mumbai. The more art I saw through the week, the more I realised how beautiful artworks need no language; they are not defined by Hindi or English and yet are enjoyable for all, no matter your country of origin. In my explorations, I met a fantastic gentleman who writes things on grains of rice! Like names, sentences and love hearts, and it’s actually legible to read. I got a few keychains for friends back home because, wow, a grain of rice from India with your name on it! Furthermore, I enjoyed the most beautiful local artist singing in the band rotunda at the local park with an audience who sang along to every word. It was such a sense of community and love.

Lassi update – surprisingly, only some of my experiences this week were good. This week’s lassi game started strong and then took a horrible turn. The first 3 were tasty, tasty, tasty. Berry lassi 8/10 fresh light and yum. Dried fruit lassi 7.5/10, a good breakfast drink. Salted lassi 8/10 tasty, not too sweet, and easy to drink. Then I think I got too confident in my ordering capacity, and it went south. Chocolate lassi 3/10 tastes like cake batter, but not in a good way. Paan lassi 1/10 tastes like a digestive herb, and one sip is enough for anyone. Strawberry lassi 3.5/10 too much syrup and tastes like lip gloss. Banana nougatine 5/10 drinkable but not the best bananas were used the make this particular lassi. Thus, due to bad lassi times, the final drink of the week was not a lassi but instead a Falooda, a rose-creamy dream.

On the weekend, I got to experience a different slum area compared to the internship neighbourhood. Our PMSA family went on a tour of the Dharavi slum, which is the largest slum in the world that is home to over a million people. Dharavi is an economic centre of industry providing extensive recycling services to India and world-class leather goods. In contrast to Govandi, the area of my internship, I found Dharavi was more established and offered more to its community in the sense of jobs and facilities. Despite this, the working conditions were harsh, with many employees in differing industries sitting on the floor all shift, working 7 days a week, and lacking any protective equipment for dangerous jobs. I felt overwhelmed by the bitter reality that faces such a large proportion of the global population, and I find myself still struggling with the unfairness of it all.

Visiting religious sites and places of worship on the weekend showed me that there is beauty and peace in all faiths. The Cathedral of the Holy Name is adorned with beautiful paintings on its ceilings and captivating stained-glass windows, the Haji Ali Dargah Mosque was a place of prayer and peace out on the water, and Babulnath Mandir is a stunning Hindu temple that is full of tranquillity. It felt very special that I was welcome to visit these different places of worship and learn more about people’s faith and worldviews.

The Sassoon docks urban art festival was recommended to me by two different colleagues at my internship, and thus I knew I had to go. Wow, my expectations were superseded.  The celebration of art in this actively functioning fish market must be seen to be known. I found the street art thought-provoking, the installations a selfie wonderland, and the celebration of colour a rainbow to the eyes. The art I have been fortunate enough to see here in Mumbai has been magical, as I can stand next to another person and appreciate a piece’s beauty without exchanging any words.

Top 3 Roses of the week included Kulfi treats at the art festival (FYI Joshh is the best); Sunset on a harbour cruise with the locals of Mumbai (the view was just too good); having the honour to meet and speak with New Zealands Minister of Foreign Affairs

Final notes of the week… it’s baby goat season in Mumbai (I’m guessing as I see them everywhere) and they are the cutest, plus they get themselves into strange locations and can even climb ladders. Also, why leave the train to shop, when the shop can come to you! my new favourite thing is buying cute earings on the trip home from work.

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