It has been over two months since I arrived in Mumbai, and it’s been quite a rollercoaster. Quitting a comfortable private sector job to pursue a new career in a new city is not easy.
I swing between extreme emotions, as I attempt to embrace the whole new world of NGOs and social enterprises. The best I can do, is try and make sense of it as I go along, while attempting to keep up with the crazy pace of this city. It is maximum on every level — energy, noise, traffic, people, wealth and, of course, poverty.
I have reached a point where I don’t hear the traffic anymore. Living in an apartment building facing a tree full of screeching bats, and a loud whirring fan above me, I have no need for an alarm clock. But I only, very occasionally, beg the city to turn the volume down, since it would not quite be Mumbai without it.
It was during my sister’s visit from the UK that I realised how loud everything actually was. It would be the same as asking someone in London the last time the blare of a police siren kept them up at night. You would get the resounding answer and question —what police siren? The sirens are such a part of the London noise that when living there, one becomes so accustomed and numb to them, that one barely hears it.
The amount of wealth here in Mumbai has stunned me: SUVs, the odd Porsche, even a Rolls Royce parked outside a new luxury building, shiny new malls. Then there are the Indian girls you see sipping expensive champagne, watching the sunset in the latest hot bar.
Justifiably, they are enjoying the immense growth that the city and country has seen over the last few years. Although I cannot help feeling a little hollow when I occupy this space. Has the rich eastern heart of India disappeared in its rush to keep up with the West?
But for most, the city has remained scarce and minimum — those sleeping on pavements, kids begging for money as Mumbaikars sit behind big sunglasses in their taxis and shiny white cars, driving past the slums that house over half of Mumbai’s population.Since I come across very little of this in my suburb, I almost forgot they exist.
But if you seek, you shall find… mazes with narrow lanes hiding multi-million dollar industries, smiling kids playing cricket and families going about their businesses. There are people living in tiny shacks, stacked one on top of the other, ready to burst at the seams. They do have one thing in abundance, that is missing from the little bohemian paradise that I live in (Bandra), and that is a massive overriding sense of community, spirit and solidarity.
The middle path
Two worlds, extremes in every sense, yet I have faith that the space between them can be lessened. A fine balance can one day be reached. But there is still much to be done. I truly believe that this country has the spirit to achieve it and I look forward to being a part of bringing the two worlds a little closer.