I am beginning to process – if only because people I meet keep asking me what my impressions of the city are. But it’s a hard question to answer, because all the words that are in my vocabulary to describe my initial impressions are words which, in the UK, are negative words – and my initial thoughts *aren’t* negative. English fail.
So, Mumbai is… Messy, chaotic, noisy (ohmyGOSH the car horn tuneage is positively symphonic), humid, a bit grubby, full of smells (occasionally nice scents, but more often a waft of something that makes you wish you could turn your nostrils off), quite *insanely* full of people, always moving and never on time. It feels a lot like the city sort of grew up in the jungle, but the jungle never actually went away. I’ve not actually read The Jungle Book – though I listened to the audiobook all the time as a kid – and it’s completely weird how at times I feel a bit like I’ve fallen into it (where Kaa lives in the ruined city in the jungle). Plus it’s full of amazing food (seriously, never getting tired of eating curry for all of the meals) and every other spare patch of ground features people playing cricket.
And yet it’s also simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating , draining and refreshing. All the things that seem to matter so damn much in my life at at home – getting to a point where you live in, possibly (miraculously) even own a nice house, have a decent job you enjoy, get your life relatively organised, be beholden to no one and be the centre of your own little universe (oh,and football) pretty much seem to go out of the window.
My day today has featured big streets, narrow streets, the Gateway of India, museums and miniatures, the Chhatrapati Sivaji train station (where they did all the singing and dancing at the end of Slumdog Millionaire), the bullet holes on the walls of the Cafe Leopold from 2008, and ended up in a short trip through one of the slums for a few minutes at a church service for women living in the red light district. I know that, ‘from the sublime to the ridiculous’ is a horrible cliche, but here they literally coexist side-by-side, hanging gardens-by-slum.
So basically this city, like my brain right now, is a hot mess (but it kinda has something cool going on inside, promise).