The english news headline read that 50% of the Indian population defecate outside. My initial response was that I thought this headline was odd and something I wasn’t sure I agreed with. Then I arrived in Mumbai, and from the window of the bus the first thing I saw was a man making a pretty runny pooh on the side of the street – a pleasant welcome to city.
I caught an overnight bus from Hampi (well Hospet to be exact) to Mumbai, and booked a single sleeper. It struck me, when I was reading the back of my ticket, how much protection the Indian society tries to put around females and it really made me smile. My ticket read that ‘co-seats of lady passenger to be confirmed to lady passenger, no accommodation given to male passenger’ which basically means that no strange male may sit next to a female passenger. This simply made my night.
My little happy dance was short lived when I woke to a man staring at me from 3 seats away. I cannot begin to describe how uncomfortable this is, especially because no matter what death look you give back to the starer, they simply do not look away. Eminem said “Y’all act like you never seen a white person before. Jaws all on the floor”… I know, I know, quoting Eminem is not really something I do – BUT it honestly is like that.
Driving into Mumbai was a real eye opener. Possible the worst thing I have seen thus far, but you know how people slow down to look a car accidents? That was me, glued to the bus window, taking all of Mumbai in.
Things I wont forget soon:
1. The huge huge city that is Mumbai – it took over an hour from the city outskirts to get near the city centre;
2. The massive slum, which doesn’t seem to end;
3. The stench in the air, the dark brown dirty sea, the dirt that is everywhere, the lack of dirt bins (apparently the poor steal them to try sell them so the city has stopped providing bins); and
4. The poverty so thick you can taste it. Little street children actually get into your space, often tapping you until you notice them (which is incredibly irritating, but sad all at once because you just have to ignore them). We had an unfortunate situation where 2 little girls on the Queens Necklace wouldn’t let go of the car as we were trying to turn into traffic. They finally let go when the car had picked up speed and the bus behind us gave them a cautionary honk. The one thing I’m learning is that India will make you hard.
On a positive note though, the people here have been super friendly and helpful and have helped me regain my confidence that not every rickshaw driver wants to rip off tourists.
While asking people which train to take (while on the train – not the brightest move) – a bunch of excited school girls and an old woman all tried to explain in Hindi that I was on the wrong train. Eventually another woman came to the rescue and explained which train I needed to be on. Female only railway carriages made me smile, and even though they get jam packed, at least you’re not giving some idiot the chance to touch you in places he shouldn’t be.
On 2 more occasions I was helped out:
1. A man outside of the train station hailed a rickshaw for me, then put a local woman in it so that I was charged the local rate and sent me off to the airport – I was soo incredibly grateful for this.
2. Seeing we were lost a woman asked us to share her rickshaw. After dropping us where we needed to be, we tried to give her money and her response was “Please do not embarrass me, you are the guest”.
For all the dirt, poverty and busy-ness I really liked Mumbai. Her energy is good at heart, and even though she suffers from over population – her spirit was fun, exciting and awake.