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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some last notes from India

Still sitting at the airport (the 15th)...

Today I was taking on the street-life of Mumbai. I checked out of the guest house this morning at 9am, I had no choice but to roam the city for the day. And holy smoke, what a city this is! Without any map, or any plans or any lists of what tourist sights I should be seeing, I started roaming and the day turned out to be a long, tiring and oh so revealing one. I stayed in the same neighbourhood of the guest house, just to avoid getting lost, as I didn’t have a map (I’m not even sure what part of the city I was in) By roaming in such a purposeless manner, I was presented with a different side of India. I felt as though I was in another country that just so happened to have the same name as the country I was in only 3 days ago.

I know this city is huge and different areas will have a different feel and will be known for different things. But by plainly wandering, I really got a proper look at how the people of Mumbai live their lives from day to day. And I’m shocked! I thought I’d seen the harshness of life before, meaning beggars, homeless people, dodgy tradesmen, grubby eating joints and general grime and dirt. But before visiting this particular part of Mumbai, this quote reflects my ignorance: ‘you aint seen nothing yet!’ Up until today everything I thought was harsh city life, was only a sample of how rough the lives of some people can be. As for the dirt; before today I’d only seen superficial dirt… now I’ve been the witness to DEEP DIRT…

Man oh man… My compassion came to the surface on fleeting moments for some individuals. My stomach did quite a few summer salts on other occasions, when the mountains of chicken guts on the roadside made me deviate from the unknown path I was following. The sights I was seeing, I couldn’t take them all in at once. I wanted to get my camera and start shooting pics like mad… but I didn’t know where to start! I wanted to record all of these sightings. I felt this area of the city to show me everything most people (who haven’t been to India) believe it to be; poor, dirty, ‘out of this world’… I was too tempted to put all of it on camera, just to show people at home what it’s like. But then something stopped me; violating their privacy? Making their lives out to be something of a spectacle… because it’s so different from the ‘norm’? When really it’s their ‘norm’, so why should it be put on display to the rest of the world? So I only took a few snaps, as if I was the jolly tourist; this made them smile.

It’s definitely one of the craziest places I’ve been. It’s like the city is stuck in the 1940s. Also, it’s as if they’ve taken all the farm animals from outside of the city and placed them amongst the buildings, the dirt and the traffic. Or maybe the animals were there before the city expanded? Or was the city there and then the people moved from the countryside with their chickens, horses and goats? Somehow, I don’t think there was any planning involved… and probably nobody would be able to answer the question: what was there first: the farm animals or the city? In chaotic India it’s anybody’s guess!

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