Rude Awakenings


Every morning I wake up, grateful for what I have in my life: a cozy bed to snuggle in, a roof over my head, a job that I love doing, a home that feels like my sanctuary, caring friends, family, and my cat! There is gratitude for all that I have and all that I continue to have. And I wish it were the same for some of the people that surround me.

It’s a tough life, for some folks in this city, especially for the children….I mean the street children. They beg all day, do not get any schooling or education, have to deal with the elements (all types – from human to environmental), and at the end of the day, are not guaranteed a warm meal and cozy home to return to. Yes, these are the street children of Mumbai, who will perhaps never know what a “normal” life is. This thought hits home, every time I see my own child, how he plays in the comfort of his mother’s lap, when he rolls around in his crib at night, and how he will never know what it is like to beg for your own supper.

It gets even tougher in the monsoons, when children are still begging, day in and day out, even in the harsh rains. Some of them do try to make an honest living by selling little trinkets, or books, or even fancy umbrellas. But how many of those can one buy to help these little souls out? Heartbreaking and pathetic.

This evening I was out in the neighborhood and I chanced upon this 4 year old boy, who’s home was clearly the sidewalks of Mumbai. I noticed him kicking something around, and on close inspection, saw that he was trying to play footsie with the branches of a tree (that had probably crashed to the ground because of the heavy rains). I took a picture of him, and as I was leaving, he flashed such a haunting smile, I was almost in tears:

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As I was walking along, I came across another sight that moved me. It was an old, decrepit man, sleeping on the sidewalk, a dog for his companion. Both were in deep slumber, oblivious to the noise and foot traffic during peak hours. What is this man’s story? How did he end up this way? Perhaps he is better of in this situation than in some home?

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It was a tough walk, going back home. These two sights reminded me of the importance of gratitude and appreciation. When it rains, I run into the comfort of my home, shut all the windows, and slip into a hot bath or make myself a warm cup of tea. What do the little boy and old man do when the heavens belt out a storm? What is their comfort? Who is their comfort?

Sometimes I think this city can kill my spirit, when I am faced with these glaring situations and existential challenges. I hope it does not harden me more than I have been, in the last 3 years. I suppose it is only natural that, on some level, you learn to develop a thick skin; you learn to look the other way and thank your stars that you did, because sometimes, it is a cruel city that I live in. And on the other hand, you pray that Mumbai does not kill your humanity and kindness, for what are we if we without them?

So tonight when you go to bed, you may want to give a hug to the person sleeping next to you and be grateful for all the you have.

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Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry


The storms have brought with them a deluge of rain and muck, infiltrating every street, nook, and corner of the city. Heaven has flung her doors open and has poured her heart out, apparent from the continuous rains for the past two weeks. It’s marvelous, it’s wonderful, and it’s dirty.

I love the rains, and how it affects the city. Everything is so much greener and brighter; buildings look cleaner, and people seems more relaxed and at ease. There is a crisp smell in the air, as the beating rain cuts into the smog and aerial filth that envelopes the metropolis we call Mumbai. The sound of the rain, beating against the windows, reminds me of an earlier time; a time of frivolity and carelessness. It reminds me of a time of simple things, where life did not overwhelm you with all its miseries and complaints.

I watch from my window how people huddle around the “chai wala” or the tea stall, sipping their concoction of sugar, milk, tea, watching the rain unleash itself on the city. At the corner of the street, some of the street urchins are taking a shower in the rain, cleansing themselves of all the grime that has accumulated during their time, begging on the streets, in the humid summer. They have not a care in the world. Down the road, people are trying to shelter themselves from the rain, clutching their umbrellas as close to their bodies as possible. It’s a harmony of visuals.

This time around, the Mumbai rains have churned something inside of me. There is a certain restlessness, an existential angst, you may say, that is making me more comfortable with this city. I do not how to explain it. It’s as if the rains are like water to a plant, nurturing the plant in a very rich and significant way. With every drop that hits the ground, I am being asked to stay more grounded and dig my heels deeper into life in Mumbai. And I am graciously learning to do so…

On another note, I am struggling with all the filth that is ever so present, and more so accentuated by the rain. The mosquito population seems to have risen to a gazillion mosquitoes a square foot; and mosquito bites are just not fun!! The number of houseflies that invade every inch of the road, and eventually enter your home (when you keep the windows open to enjoy that nice, cool, wind) have quadrupled. Tree branches and other debris scatter the city, piled up for ages, before the municipality can get to them. Check out the few pictures I took:

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It’s tough to be walking down a street with all this debris, being attacked my mosquitoes and what not. But the good news is, unlike last year, these things do not bother me so much. I guess I am beginning to accept these annoyances as the shadow side of the rain. I suppose with every positive, there is also a negative, an unpleasant side. And we all have our shadows, and the more they are explored and embraced, the brighter we can shine and emerge.

It’s a Maid’s World


Ever since I had the baby, my life and world have been transformed in some very incredible ways! I have had to deal and work with multiple life changes, one of them being dealing with domestic help. Before the baby, I just had one maid who would come in and do the basic cleaning. After the baby, I had to employ another maid who would do the cooking, helping with the baby, and other household chores. And having the second maid, while it’s a major blessing, is also a pain in the you know where!

Now I have to manage the baby, the house, and the two maids! But that’s not the bad part. I have had a rude awakening to the politics and drama of hiring maids in 21st century Mumbai, where the demand for maids are so high and the supply is beginning to dwindle. Beginning to dwindle because a lot more of the older maids are aggressively educating their children, wanting them to not continue in the same line of profession. Dwindling also because, maids are now marrying into families where the husband (even if he is from a lower class), can still put food on the table and a roof over his family’s head. Thus, the generation of maids that I grew up with, who were loyal, faithful, hard working, and ethical, are now only a rarity. The maids of today, are mostly entitled, aloof, arrogant, and sometimes even outright obnoxious. For example, I had a maid, last year, who had the audacity to accuse me of talking on the phone, in my own house, when I called her out on her being on the phone multiple times in the day, because of which her work was suffering. My jaw dropped when she opened her mouth to say that I had no right to tell her off, when I am talking on the phone. I got rid of her, the very same day. Another maid I called, to inquire if she was interested in working for me, outright told me, “I don’t work for Indians, only for foreigner families.”

Finding the right maid, is like finding a diamond in the rough. It’s a process of trial and error, and it’s not an easy process. In the last one month, I have had to look for a maid, after firing the cocky one. It’s been a nightmare. When my grandmother asked me how the interviewing was going with the maids, i retorted with the response, “It does not look like I am interviewing them, they are interviewing me!” And I am not kidding; they want to know what holidays they will get off, what paid time off they have, when can they expect a bonus, what other perks will they get…..it’s amazing how the tables have turned, and how today’s Mumbai maids are calling the shots.

This is one of the sad and painful realities of life in Mumbai. While having two maids may sound glamorous and exciting, the average Mumbaiker is constantly faced with the agony of dealing and managing maids……and if you have more than one, the internal politics is another layer of complexity to deal with…..that story for another day!

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring!!!!


Hoorah, for the rains have finally made their appearance,and in full gusto, may I say. This morning, the city took a beating. And I mean a beating! Around 6 am, I could hear the down pour…at first I thought I was dreaming, because I usually hear the chirpy sparrows talking to each other, welcoming the dawn. But when I opened my eyes, I couldn’t believe my ears!! What I was praying for, had finally manifested itself.

I got out of bed, the baby in my arms, and like a woman who had lost all her senses, I ran from room to room, opening all the windows, as wide as possible. The whiffs of that musky scent that permeates the air, with the first showers, blew me away. I could not believe how excited I was to see and hear the rain; thunderstorms accompanied the showers, setting the stage for the monsoon seasons.

There was also a drop in the temperature, making it feel as if a natural air conditioner was on. It was really cool, and not humid and sultry, as it has been for the last one month.

If there is a god almighty, I thank him/her/it for some compassion and mercy that has been showered on this city. Mucho thank you, and welcome home, Mumbai rains!