The Super Whites The ordinary life of a Super Mum

The Super Whites
Mumbai

I mentioned before that Ron and I went to see Slumd0g Millionaire on the weekend. I have long had a fascination with all things Indian and this was raised to new levels in 2005 when I travelled to Mumbai on business. I spent two weeks in the city, working in our offices and living in a hotel. I had a driver and because I was working London hours I had my mornings to myself and so my driver showed me round this incredible city.

I adored the movie. I try and avoid Oscar hype as a rule because often I end up disappointed or underwhelmed by the movies when I eventually get around to watching them. This was not one of those times. Before I went to Mumbai my Mum suggested I get a book called Q&A by an Indian author Vikas Swarup, interestingly enough he is also a diplomat and currently stationed in Johannesburg! I loved the story of a boy from the slums of Bombay/Mumbai who ends up on the tv show Who wants to be a milli0naire.

I didn’t connect the book to the movie until the Oscar nominations came out and Slumd0g was all over the media so when Ron and I had a spare afternoon last weekend I suggested we go and see it. We both loved the whole movie experience but it was especially poignant for me because it brought back such vivid memories of my Mumbai experience.

You might recognise some of the photos in this post and the next if you have seen the movie. When I was there on business I wanted to get a real feel for Mumbai as a city that people live in and my driver was happy enough to show me the sides to the city that most tourists wouldn’t see and probably wouldn’t want to see. Coming from South Africa the scenes of poverty in the slums of Mumbai are heartwrenchingly familiar as was the juxtaposition of the new wealth and old poverty that a city like Mumbai will always have in close proximity. Turn off the main road and you are instantly transported to another era where people still walk to the communal water tap and live in cramped shacks with absolutely no sanitation or electricty.I can understand how this could be very confronting for a business analyst from London who has not travelled further than Europe on a package holiday and so it didn’t suprise me when I had such mixed opinions from people in the office in London when I asked them about their Mumbai experience. For me personally I loved the energy and rawness of the city. I loved the people who were overall very happy to meet me and appreciated my efforts to integrate and assimilate. In particular my colleagues in the office in Mumbai.

Before travelling to India my colleagues in London who had already been over gave me all sorts of advice. “Don’t eat the local food”, “Make sure the hotel prepares all your meals for you to take out with you”, “Don’t drink the water”, “Don’t walk around the city”, “Don’t stray off the beaten track”. The first day I arrived I walked to the department store around the corner from our office and bought myself a couple of Salwar Kameez and Kurtas with the traditional Dupatta scarf for around my shoulders. (photo in next post) Everyday I wore traditional dress and bought my lunch from the little man on the street corner by the office who made the most delicious vegetable samoosas I have ever eaten. I ate with my right hand, scooping up the fiery green chilli sauce. I admit I stuck to drinking mostly bottled water but I also drank chai from the chaiwallah’s tea trolley when he rolled it round in the afternoon and I asked my Indian colleagues to bring in favourite foods and sweets to share with me so I could absorb as much about their culture in the short time I had in their city.

During my hours out of the office I explored the city streets mostly from the comfort of my airconditioned car but often stopping somewhere to walk out with my driver and take a look at the open air laundry (photos at the top of the post) or find my way through the narrow streets to a small temple. My driver didn’t speak much English but like most people in Mumbai was passionate about Bollywood movies and so we listened to movie soundtracks at blistering volumes as he negotiated the crazy road system.

I had a very special time in Mumbai, I was there on my own and missed Ron immensely. We had had a busy year travelling all over the world to weddings, we managed 7 in 6 months in 5 countries and two days after I arrived back from India we got on another plane and flew to Australia to suprise friends on their wedding day. I would love to go back to India and travel around more but sadly its not likely to happen for a long time. Not that I wouldn’t take my children there but just that its the kind of trip you need to do at a grown-ups pace. My parents spent three weeks travelling in Northern India earlier this year so maybe Ron and I can do the same when we are older and the kids are all grown up!
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