Mumbai Dilemmas


There are many dilemmas of living in Mumbai; dilemmas and situations that make you want to pull your hair out and wonder if you are losing your mind. There are subtle dilemmas, and then there are not so subtle ones, both of which are infuriating and confusing. The not so subtle and blatant dilemmas include the following: do I pay a bribe or not, do I give money to the beggars on the road or just roll up my window and pretend they do not exist, do I walk past a gaping manhole everyday and not do anything about it, and/or, do I help the old or handicapped person cross the street or do I ignore him/her because I am too busy and need to get somewhere? These are some of the obvious dilemmas that I am constantly faced with over and over again.

And then you have some subtle dilemmas, dilemmas that just blind side you in a very unassuming way. These include situations such as: do i deliberately avoid the lady (daily) who collects the building garbage or give her the money she has been hinting at (due to my new house renovations), do I dress conservatively or just be myself when I am out and about Mumbai, and my most recent dilemma, who do I invite for my house-warming get together?

Living in Mumbai, especially if you are from the city, comes with a lot of baggage – one of them being “family”. Yes, the dearly beloved family whose lineage seems endless and most apparent when it’s time to have people over. Don’t get me wrong,  family is important and an integral part of life, but the idea of family can also be cumbersome when one has a big extended family and has to decide who to invite!

It’s been a few weeks now that I have been consulting my grandmother on who to invite for lunch and what the menu should be and blah, blah, blah. We decided on the guest list, and I thought it wise to follow her advise on inviting those people who have invited my husband and I for meals to their house. So we zoned in on the list and I was pleased with our selection. This afternoon, however, I got a call from grandma, delicately suggesting two more people to my guest list, and I was not pleased with it at all. In all fairness, the two extra guests had invited us for lunch to their place, and I informed grandma that I would invite them at a later time as it would be too many guests to manage in one go. But the old lady was insistent that “adding two more guests would not be a big deal”, when in fact, I know it would. And her reason for inviting them was, really bizarre, at least to me. She informed me, “You never know when you will need these people…” I almost lost it, but kept my cool.

And I thought about this episode for a few minutes and it dawned on me that, back in the USA, I never had to deal with this family business, of whom to invite, and whose feelings will be hurt, and (I quote my grandma) “what people will think and say”, and all that jazz. I didn’t have to bat an eye! It was a relatively hassle free life without having to consider all these social conundrums and implications regarding family. Since it was just my husband and I, it was a relatively simple and uncomplicated life. Now it seems a little more messy than I like.

Just like many other things I am getting accustomed to in Mumbai, co-existing with family and understanding its social and cultural expectations and implications, is also something I need to learn to deal with. The list of lessons and life-tests never end, and I am still trying to keep up with the many lessons that Mumbai so consistently throws my way. Some days I am prepared for them and most days I am not. And life still goes on. I salute the human resiliency that is potent in me and in every other human being.

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