We landed in India in the wee hours of the morn, the 5th day of Ganesh Chaturthi, an Indian festival venerating the elephant god that is largely celebrated in Maharashtra, especially in Mumbai. The humidity, pollution, and the insurmountable population was very hard to fathom while I was trying to over come my jet lag and the shock of landing in Mumbai without a return ticket to San Francisco. Where do I begin? Really, there are no words to aptly describe the sadness, frustration, anger, loneliness, and desperation I experience whilst trying to swim in the murky waters of Mumbai. And no pun intended where “murky waters” are concerned. We are still in the monsoon season in Mumbai, though we are in the home stretch. I hear that October will be excruciatingly hot, so I guess I should not be complaining too much about the September humidity.
Again, where do I begin? I shall attempt to describe some of the many things that drive me crazy about living in this city (mind you, I have only completed week 1):
1. While there are a hundred imported brand names, where cars are concerned, the roads in Mumbai are atrocious; filled with potholes and multiple ditches, driving in Mumbai is like grinding teeth. Be prepared to lose your back as you sit in a rickshaw getting from one place to another.
2. Also be prepared to deal with massive traffic and bottle necks at any time of the day. Whilst morning and late afternoon and evening hours are painful where dealing with traffic is concerned, driving in Mumbai at any time of the day is equally stressful. Again, we have all the fancy cars like the Mercedes, BMW, Porche, Lexus, including motorbikes like Ducattis and Aprillas, but no roads good enough to accommodate the likes of these sweet machines.
3. While there are tons of taxis that may be lined up at a particular landmark or outside a train station in Mumbai, you can be assured that 97% of the cab drivers will turn you down. Why? Because they refuse to haul their a**** to another part of the city if it is short distance. Their reasoning? “Kyon ki bada nehi milenga” (I will not get a customer on my return trip). Thus, the very idea of having a taxi service for the denizens in Mumbai is futile. What’s infuriating is the fact that there is no respite for the passenger who depends of the cab drivers of Mumbai to get from point A to point B. Any attempts to reduce one’s carbon footprint and help the environment by not buying a car are furiously thwarted when you are greeted by a nonchalant attitude. How I miss the cab rides in San francisco where I could just get into a cab and tell them where to go – no questions asked.
4. Since the time I landed in Mumbai, I have adopted one word that summarizes most processes and systems that govern every aspect of the city: ARCHAIC. Let’s take, for example, getting internet in your home. MTNL, Mumbai’s only phone company and exchange, and which has been in operation since donkey’s years, is one of thee main providers for the internet in Mumbai. It’s been 6 days since we have initiated the internet application, and we are still waiting to get a router from MTNL. Their reason for not being able to provide the internet: they are out of routers!!! My god! I want to pull my hair and scream on the top of my lungs every time I hear something like this. How can an intent provider be out of routers? How is that even possible? And every transaction needs to be done on the phone, and each person you speak to will pass you on to another person or will give you a handful of numbers to call. Nothing is automated! If i were back home, yes, San Francisco is still home for me, I would have gotten set up within 24-48 hours, hassle free.
I could go on and on…. and I don’t want to. I want to give this city a chance. I need to give this city a chance. There is nothing charming for me about this city anymore. I used to love it once upon a time. Now, the thought of living the rest of my life in a city that is corrupted, saddens me. And I know that this is how I feel now, that change is constant, and that perhaps, I may feel very differently some day. But for now, I beg that the torrents of rain that wash THIS city by the bay, as I write my blog, wash away my sadness and cleanse me so that I may be open, be fully open, to the unknown.