... I feel like a "Mumbaian"
Like the sunset in Mumbai that faded away into the waterfront at the end of the days, my time in Mumbai has faded – it's finito. And it ends well. Now I have a lot to ponder over, when I go home and wonder out a loud “What the hell just happened?” In the end, I learned a lot and physically, I accumulated a lot to take home.
Like an artist, the “Mumbai stress” skillfully painted a couple strands of hair on my beard, with white paint. From now on, I will be telling people that I have gotten younger. I am now sporting a tribal tattoo; the “Mumbai heat” stamped its class on my feet. The above 80 degree weather scarred my feet through heat rashes, making me a part of the proud Mumbai’s tribe.
Like a barber, the hustling and bustling “Mumbai lifestyle” shaved off the little body fat that I arrived with; leaving me looking slender. I came looking like a fair, gregarious, easy-going chocolate; now I leave looking like a hard, dark, “tough-going”, pensive chocolate.
In the end, I feel like a "Mumbaian" also because several persons came to me at the train station, asking for direction.
“Is that train going to Dadar?" “Do you know ….. e……?”
Me, smiling broadly, “It’s that way, sir.”
Wow! They must have thought I was Indian. And it did not stop there, because two different times, someone asked me “Where in
When I was moving out of the apartment in which I stayed, the security guard asked me:
“Where are you going?”
“So when will you come back from your vacation.”
“Uh? It’s not a vacation, I am going home.”
“Home? You don’t live in
Geezz… It seemed that, all those time, he thought
Sometimes, when I was riding the train and I noticed people who are not “handicapped” in any way, boarding the "handicapped" section of the train. Without even thinking, I nudged him and gestured "This is the handicap section... Get off!" he left quickly and the passengers who were watching, smiled and waved to me as if to say “Good job! Good job man!"
Some women finally stopped treating me like a foreigner who didn’t know better. I was walking, trying to avoid bouncing in the Indians and accidentally bounced a few women and they looked at me, “*#&#(*#@@!” in Hindi probably. I would interpret their ranting as “Watch it, you moron! Look where you going!” In the beginning, they didn’t do that. They recognized I was a foreigner and didn’t bother to curse me. I no longer say sorry. When I accidentally bumped into someone, like the Indians, I touched the person, touched my chest then hold out my hand – that’s how you say sorry in
My stomach no longer gets upset when I eat street food. I can buy street food and sit beside the Indians on the street and eat and rock my head at them while they rock back showing approval. But that’s only a few, the majority of them, looked at me with wide open eyes and chewed slowly as if they let their guards down, I will do something.
But still, there are moments that reminded everyday me I am not entirely an Indian or probably a foreigner Indian. People still stare at me on the road and my friends or someone I just met, still ask:
"Can I touch your hair?"
"wow! Soft like a pillow!"
Bending my 6'4 frame low enough for them to feel my hair, I nodded "yep".
"Do your mom and dad have the same hair? Is all black people's hair the same? Can you straighten it out like mine? Can you grow it out long?"
As the questions keep coming, I kept nodding "yep" and "nope".
Some people still didn’t bother to curse me when I bumped into them because they looked ready to fight, but as soon as they noticed what I look like, their mood changed.
I have learned to ignore the everlasting sight of people squatting, letting out all the body wastes and I have learn to bear the smell of such body’s wastes – even from miles away. I gave up worrying about space and stopped getting so jumpy when someone gets dangerously close to me from behind. I met a deaf guy one day and we were talking and laughing, at the end of the day, he felt so comfortable around me that he put his hand on my waste from behind, hugging me like couples in love, do. Well, honestly, I still feel uncomfortable but I have learned to ignore it.
I learned how hard working the Indians are; their mind is like a washing machine turning over thoughts, remembering things to do, places to go, staying mental alert at all time and taking advantage of every little opportunities that presented itself each day. It is so crowded; you have to keep trying to think ahead of the others or else... You'd ended up missing a chance to make your day.
They are so hard working, that the poor people don’t really protest a lot and shoot and rob people often. Instead they find little things to do and make money. They sleep on the street, roof top, in or on the roof of their vehicles, and under the bridge – I mean working people like me and you in the informal sectors. People like the cab drivers or rickshaw drivers.
I learned how very collectivism the Indians are. Very family oriented and they look out for their own but at the same time, they are not afraid to discipline their own. I witnessed a guy, almost getting beat to death in the train by 12 strong men, because he was saying something that didn’t sit well with them.
In the end, I might feel like a "Mumbaian", but for how long?
Mumbai was nice and mean to me. You either hate it or love it. All I can say is I do miss Mumbai in some ways.