Last week I moved to Mumbai. Maybe ‘moved’ is too dramatic a term – last week, I came to Mumbai with the intention of staying for 3 months, maybe more.
Some things I have learned since then:
- The air in monsoon is thicker than water; my nostrils are having trouble catching up.
- Humidity and productivity don’t match.
- There are no words to describe the relief of air conditioning.
- UberPool and rickshaws can cost the same.
- My Hin-glish is passable but not convincing.
- Want to feel privileged? Walk around Mumbai.
- Want to feel privileged? Be from an upper-middle-class highest-caste Marathi family. It is eye-opening to be in this country, under this administration, more aware of the political currents of the world than ever. My family are the WASPs of India: politically moderate, culturally conservative, privileged by generations of post-graduate education, in the religious majority, light-eyed, and light-skinned (oops missed that boat 💁🏾). We skeptically and hopefully watch Prime Minister Modi, a right-wing pro-market and pro-privatization politician in the interest of ‘something different’. But if he fucks up, our lives won’t really change too much.
- Much of my viewpoint of Indian culture, society and politics have been filtered through the above viewpoint.
- I don’t yet know what to do with my now even stronger privilege guilt.
- The local (aka train) isn’t as bad as everyone says, except when it is. If you stand near the door of the train, the crowd will carry you out. Elbows are thrown but only on the train to Virar because it only comes once in a blue moon (so far). Really, it’s not that bad. Don’t let my family scare you.
- The women’s railway car is a blessing. I will not ride in the other car.
- However, the fear of Indian misogyny is stronger than its’ presence (so far).
- Hanging out the door of a train is (a) not as scary as it sounds, and (b) just as filmy as it sounds, and (c) a crucial sweat drier, and (d) quite fun, but (e) I only dared to do it as I slowly pulled in to small-town India.
- Yes the food is good. The home food is better.
- Being cooked for is amazing. Feeling obliged to parental figures is not.
- Living 12.5 hours and many countries away from a partner is hard.
- ^Sharing that is weird, but I’m working on vulnerability.
- I am still the sweatiest person I know, even in a country full of brown people.
- I can and will alter my English accent to suit the company. I can’t and won’t guess how convincing my Indian accent is.
- In the morning, I wake in a 50 year old flat in a room without air conditioning. I take a bath out of a bucket, and put powder on my body, talking only in Marathi with my family. There is decades of urban dirt in the crevices, no matter how much they are scrubbed. Then I will take the women’s car, pressed full of bodies, into a hipper, younger, cleaner part of town. I will sit in air-conditioned cafes with the city’s elite, order black coffee, talk in American English, take calls and fill in spreadsheets, and be called ma’am. Then I’ll go home and eat (and love) simple Marathi food, fail to explain to my family why I go to cafes during the day if I’m here to work, and then I will sleep under a roaring fan, mosquitos buzzing lazily above. Code switching has never been so real.
- Spirits are low and spirits are high.
- I feel like months have passed since LA.
- Week 2 here I come.