Wednesday, 18 July 2007

First impressions

Finally! I’m here! Most of you won’t know what its for, but I’ll come to that later.

Should have organised more from home really, like a place to stay on the first night. I did, after all, land past nightfall. With a lost luggage (note to self: never again pack guidebook in checked in luggage) disaster, I didn’t leave the airport till about 2 and was at the mercy of touts, as I had also failed to give Advait my flight details. Ended up in a non-AC’d dorm with a bunch of Indians. Great way to start.

Enough of the nitty gritty, and to the impressions. First is that everything, and I MEAN E V E R Y T H I N G is laid out for numbers. Masses of people. Everywhere. It struck me on the first day after my unfortunate arrival when I thought I’d experiment with the Mumbai train system. Quite aside from the fact that I had to use considerable force against the reluctance of existing passengers to accept me by the side, it’s the design of the haphazard system to deal with the vast human traffic that got me. To cope with it, they don’t only need one bridge in one spot, but, in the case of Goregaon Station, at least 5.

So I have accepted my fate. Here at least I am not an individual, but miniscule fraction of the bigger picture which now adorns my wall. Thus I am happy to live in a residential settlement I would have considered hell in Europe, namely the New Mhady Colony, surrounded by apartment blocks that all look the same. Since we are here about an hour from the centre on the southern tip of peninsular that is now Mumbai (before, apparently, it was several islands), it should not have been this way. But because of the sheer numbers, it is inevitable. By way of consoling my self I climb onto the roof of our bungalow (what a luxury) from where I can see vast areas of shrinking open green. There are ten of us here, and although I am certain that none of us will be here to witness it, I have been assured that in a while none of what is in our site will remain this way.

A quick word on my colocataire’s maybe, before I fall into a light half sleep, the only kind the heat, humidity, and the lack of an A/C permits. They are of the new Indian variety, all my age (+/- 2 years), engineers, driving the 24 hour Western IT economy, and happy to do so. Things are changing though, and Alok, my dinner partner tonight, is working for a French company investing in India. Most are happy to be here and are certain that, after a stint with their companies abroad, they would return home. This is where the music’s playing. They are also living as cheaply as possible (3 to a room, all apart from me – spoilt git!), so that they can send money home – tradition in a modern world.

All said I’m now exceedingly happy. Living with great people, in a great house, with a great, interesting job, in a new country. Let the games begin!