Mumbai is huge. 12 million people – and all of them seem to mysteriously appear in that one place around you. Getting from one place to another takes hours. Literally hours - not the most pleasant, but definitely a very authentic experience.
Our typical way home (by the slums in proximity of Mumbai international airport) every day would entail exactly the same sequence of steps:
1. Boarding a local train. You have to be very risk-loving or very skillful to survive. After that stares from locals are easy to handle. For a truly local experience – try hanging off the train. This way you might get some fresh air but obviously risk ending your life on the train rails. At least you won’t feel lonely there – the rails here host a bunch of Indian families, vendors and a scarily overwhelming amount of stray dogs.
2. Next step – getting a rickshaw. Spending 10 minutes trying to explain where to go. Maps mysteriously don’t work with local drivers. Half way through, finding yourself moving kilometers away from desired location. Getting off. Getting another one.
3. Spending an hour or two in local traffic. Crazy. It really seems in India there is a fourth dimension that somehow fits in all those vehicles on the road. I don’t know any other way to explain it. Let’s not even talk about the lack of rules, reckless driving and the constant noise. Drivers signal to let other cars know they are approaching, so the sound of a hundreds beeps at once is unstoppable.
4. Finding the way home. A blurred image that one of the 15 slum buildings is yours. Walking by smelly street stalls, the sleepy homeless , staring people, shouting children and a few transgenders. Kicking some rats out of the way. To be fair they are not that bad, even cute sometimes. Definitely better than the scarier swine hiding in the bushes.
Only after getting into the room away from the hot humidity of the streets can we finally breathe. The swift sound of the ceiling fan above our heads. Party-coloured ribbons projecting bizarre shadows on the walls. The dense cloud of smoke and strong smell of hash in the air. The crowd of ten or so people – some sitting, some lying down. Occasional laughter. Royal stag, the cheapest of Indian whisky for 1$ per small bottle. The tune changes – and one of our hosts, Indian Bob Marley Chiku, is already dancing. For today – this is our home.