Irritated Rochelle!

I was going to title the post as “Irritating Mumbai”, but decided against it. I realize that Mumbai is what it is, and it is I who is getting so irritated and frustrated with this city. I need to take responsibility for my feelings and responses to this city; it cannot be the other way around.

A year and half into living in this city and I have yet to make my peace with the move. Most days are good and I feel comfortable living here. Of course, as of now, this is not home for me. And home is where the heart is. However, the last few days I have been feeling extremely irritated and disturbed by the burdening demands of life in Mumbai. I have been on short fuse and everything about life in Mumbai is getting to me: the noises seem louder, the people on the streets seem to have increased, the winter lasted all of 1 week and the days are still warm, the dust continues to filter in through every crevice of the house, the maid has not been showing up on time, men are still disrespectful of women in this city, there are trashy programs and repeat shows on TV, and I am feeling drained. One of my psychotherapy clients rightly put it: ‘Mumbai is not a concrete jungle. It is junk!” I was shocked that there was someone who felt worse about this city than me, but I could also empathize with his sentiment.

I know that my irritation is heightened, more than usual, and it’s part of the growing pains of adjusting to a new city and culture….yes, I am still adjusting and navigating my way through the chaotic life in Mumbai. It still upsets me no end that no cab is willing to take you where you want to go, if it is a short distance. And the incessant honking??? It’s so hard to get a nap in the afternoon because of all the noise and honking. My god, people in Mumbai have no patience and such little tolerance, where time is concerned. I have now gotten into the habit of telling off the cab driver if he is honking more than required and asking him to knock it off. So far, no driver has protested.

I know that only I can address my irritation and frustration and soothe these extreme feelings that seem to haunt me in every waking and sleeping moment. It is the internal fire that needs to be squelched, although I will let it burn for a little while longer. It is important, I find, to give space to those feelings that rise and fall within you, and to not stuff them away at the first sign of discomfort. I am hoping that, in a few more days, the angst will subside and I will return to a more tranquil state of mind.




While I love, just love, being in my new place and reveling in its charms and comfort, I am in great disdain of the street noise that I just cannot seem to escape from! And it does not feel right, because my paradise should not just be confined to my four walls. I believe I am in a rather precarious situation where I have gotten so used to the silence and demure street noises of San Francisco, that any sound that has a sound decibel of 2 irks me. Even worse, when we moved to our rental apartment where we set camp for 5 months during our recent house renovations, we happened to live on one of the inner most streets in a building that was a sanctuary to my ears and my soul. At the most, I would hear a couple of cars honk or speed by if it got really, really quiet. Otherwise, it was so pleasant living in such peace; the silence was deafening indeed. Moving back to my original place, I am having to come back to the reality of Mumbai, where the incessant honking and chatter of people never seems to end (at all times of the day).

One may think that I am whining, making a big deal about something trivial. Some of my friends may even have the thought cross their mind as they are reading this post, “Such a princess” (you know who you are). But imagine this, every time I am taking a much needed nap or trying to find some time to meditate or focus on y work, there is someone honking his a** off, or some procession going by, or some people having a useless argument on the street because they have nothing better to do…the list goes on. It’s really frustrating when you are trying to create a peaceful surrounding for yourself, especially during nap time, and someone or something is hell bent on making your life miserable. There are days where I have cursed the person to death (in my mind of course) because I am so irritated by the constant noise, noise of all types.

So I have decided that the next phase of house renovations, which I hope will be sooner than later, is to get double glazed windows and soundproof my house as much as possible. I do not care how much it costs or how much my pockets will bleed to cover this expense. But I am sure it will be a small price to pay for the silence and auditory peace that I will be able to obtain in my many more years in Mumbai. One can only hope and pray!

Update on the Driving…

… I hate it! I hate it not so much because I have to go from driving an automatic car to a manual one, but because driving in Mumbai is not a pleasure at all. I previously mentioned how different it is driving in Mumbai when compared to San Francisco, because it had more to do with the way people drive and the lack of road discipline and blah, blah, blah. But as I have completed my 4th driving class, I am realizing that my irritation with driving in Mumbai is not so much to do with how things wok on the roads and with the cars, but with how many people and things you have to dodge when driving in this city!

For one, most pedestrians insist on walking on the roads instead of using the foot path or sidewalks. It’s like a disease. Although we do not have the best footpaths in Mumbai, because there are almost always cracks or crap on them, we still have good enough foot paths for people to utilize. Why people insist on walking on the roads is anybody’s guess. Actually, that is not entirely true. I suspect that the denizens of Mumbai walk on the roads, where cars are meant to be (than on the footpath), is because we have the hawkers who have taken over the sidewalks of Mumbai. And I am not kidding when I say that, because in most parts of Mumbai, the hawkers are like little cockroaches that have bred (and continue breeding), so that anywhere you turn or any sidewalk you are on, you will see them there. They could be selling anything from vegetables to flowers to bed sheets and underwear. You name it, they have it! I can’t say that I am innocent in all this, because I am also one of the gazillion people in Mumbai that depend on these hawkers, especially for my weekly veggies. But come on, can there be another, better way to have them carry out their operations? Can there be a more efficient, smarter way for hawkers to sell their stuff without inconveniencing pedestrians? I do not believe I will live to see that day.

In any case, it could be said that because people are used to walking on the roads instead of the sidewalks due to the hawkers, it has become a perpetual habit for them to now walk on the roads, irrespective if the footpaths are empty or not. So can you imagine trying to drive on the roads and in the by-lanes with people all around you? It is incredible how casually they walk on the fringes of the road, and yet they are in your bloody way, their arms flailing about, people on their cellular, as if they were having a stroll in the park. It frightens me every time I drive because I think I am going to knock someone down. Apart from pedestrians on the road, there are cyclists and motor cyclists that zoom in like meteor showers and it’s so hard to anticipate which side they are coming from, especially when you are too busy managing your time changing gears! Gosh, this driving is killing me and will be the number one cause of my death, I promise you!

In addition to this mayhem, there are men with hand carts and bullock carts that also own the streets and you have to compete with them as well, when trying to drive safely. There are also cats that randomly cross the street, and dogs that just park themselves where they shouldn’t and you have to be careful to not run into any of these creatures either.

I think the worst part of it all, is that I am becoming like, or at least it seems, that kind of driver who I never want to be: the one who always honks! Trust me, I have been and still am so critical and irritated by people who honk. But with every day I am in the driver’s seat, I am becoming more aware of the necessity to honk than anything else. People mostly honk to let people know they need to get out of the freakin way!! I have started doing this myself and it actually gives me great joy, because it is more a catharsis, to honk at them in the hopes that it will scare the living day lights out of them. But who am I kidding? They continue to merrily stroll, and if they move, it will be half an inch and you find yourself back where you started – muttering obscenities to yourself because most pedestrians do not have a brain!

Just this afternoon, as I was driving, some of the neighborhood kids took over half a lane to play India’s favorite sport, India’s most treasured past time – cricket. So I honk and the kids stop playing and make way for the car. A pedestrian is standing on the left corner of the street gazing at the kids and probably very involved in the game. I am about to turn left and almost into him, and so I honk. The man does not move, does not bat an eye, and continues to be enthralled in the game. So there I am making adjustments so that I do not knock him down (even though I so wish I could!).

I do not know. I am just going with it and trying to be patient with this whole “driving in Mumbai’ business. The only thing I can say is, “God help me!”

On a more positive note, I am so enjoying the pleasant and cool weather in Mumbai. Granted, it is not cold like how a “winter” should be, but this is enjoyable and loveable weather all the same. I continue to be amazed at how I can be in a room, hours on end, without the fan, let alone the air conditioner. I know these days are numbered and in the next month the heat will be so bad, it would feel like I was being charred with every bleeding moment. But until then, I thank my lucky starts that my first winter in Mumbai is a benevolent one.